Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Engineering Track They Don't Talk About at University

My dad was an architect, and quite a few skyscraper office buildings in a major US city incorporate his designs and his work. So I grew up looking at buildings and wondering about those who design and build them, as well as engaging in ruminations about what our modern collection of architecture - that which does not collapse due to shoddy design and materials (think McMansions here) - will tell those who follow us. Will the buildings which survive be architectural masterpieces on par with a Chartre or a Notre Dame, or will they be Olive Trees and Micky D's?

Speaking of which, when I have been inside one I have often wondered about the architects who design fast food restaurants. Are they people who managed the technical principles of architecture, but lacked all sense of aesthetics and design, or are they those that just barely made it through school? Maybe there is a lot of money to be had in designing these plastic representations of uber-America, or maybe there is just some bizarre satisfaction gained in creating big happy face clowns and kitschy roof tops.

Along that same drift of thinking - what about people who design vibrators, such as the Wascally Wabbit (tm) (it's water proof!)?? And how that little bunny gazes adoringly at the robust penis representation. The rabbit - so often referenced in the America sexual vernacular: they screwed like bunnies, the rabbit died, Hugh and his bunnies.... It's hard not to giggle at the Wascally Wabbit; oh Elmer, how did it come to this??

It takes some calculations, not to mention a whole bunch of metal ball bearings, to get that Wascally Wabbit rotating with all the insouciance of a young Lolita twirling a hula-hoop. Not to mention that the bunny ears are designed to flitter at a high rate of speed for extra oooumph.

Behold, the evolved, engineered vibrator, behind which there must be a mechanical engineer. True, one with a sense of humor (and not much color sense - why purple? why not purple?), but an engineer none-the-less, one could imagine. Harder to imagine, though, is the career path which led to such a point. It doesn't seem likely that vibrator design is one of those things that they, well, touch upon in engineering school.

But someone has to do it. And do it with flare. Carved dildos were found in ancient Roman excavations - will Wascally Wabbit and its kin be among our artifacts found by distant descendants? If so, they will perhaps notice the persistent use of sappy happy clown faces (with a twinge of the demonic) memorialized on scales large and small - from Ronald McDonald to the happy little munchkin grinning from under his penis cap on the Wascally Wabbit...

Little Penis Man: with the weirdly truncated arms

Friday, December 10, 2010

Miller's Magical Mystery Tour

Poor Joe. Looks like he is running out of straws to grasp in his efforts to prove that no, really, he did win the senatorial election. Thus, in the spirit of Christmas, I offer a few more that he might want to consider including in his lawsuit(s).

1) It's all Wikileaks' fault: Really Joe, you did get the majority of votes, but Alaska's electronic ballot boxes were commandeered by Julian Assange and his merry band of cyberpunks, who erased votes cast for you (sorta kinda like what you did with your work emails). It's all part of the vast leftist conspiracy to take over the world that you and Sarah are so valiantly battling.

2) Little green men are responsible: As those familiar with Roswell and other alien sightings will tell you, Joe, its gotta be illegal aliens - whether terrestrial or extra. Remember a couple years back, there was that weird light that was seen in the sky near Tok? It must have been a saucer full of little green men who have been in hiding ever since, and somehow used their superior technology to queer the election results. Demand a hand recount, Joe!

3) It's climate change: Don't really know how to work that one into the lawsuit, Joe, but since climate change gets blamed for everything nowadays, how could you let this one pass? And since you obviously have your own unique interpretations of the law, arguing that climate change adversely affected your senatorial chances should present no challenge at all to you.

4) It's the fluoride: We've all been told that fluoridated water strengthens teeth and helps prevent childhood cavities, but it's a front, a sham. In reality, fluoridated water is being used to brainwash us, thereby preventing many, many people from being able to fully comprehend your stellar qualifications for the senate seat. Who knew that your greatest allies in this brave battle might just turn out to be Fluoride Free Fairbanks?

5) It's Obama's fault: Enuff said.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Freezing rain has turned Fairbanks into a NO DRIVE zone

How bad are the roads, you ask? So slick that a Subaru with winter tires going 15 miles per hour can't come to a stop.

My first sign to turn around and not even attempt Ballaine Hill was sliding across Ballaine Road as I  made a low-speed right turn on to it.  But no, I thought driving cautiously and slow might be alright.

My second sign to turn around and not try Ballaine Hill, even slowly, came before the crest of the hill, when I asked a woman pulled over on the should if she needed a lift.  Her car couldn't make it up the hill, she said, so she had called for a lift home.

By the time I noticed and paid attention to the third sign not to attempt Ballaine Hill even at a near crawl -- the third sign being all the other vehicles off the road below me -- I was already sliding downhill, ABS fluttering away, into the opposite lane of traffic, trying to gain some control over my direction and not slide into any of the other cars off the road.  This was all happening very slowly, mind you, but that was little comfort.

Visualize, for a moment, a curling stone.  You know how it comes to a slow, graceful spiral as it nears the end of the lane?  That was my trusty, sure-footed little Soob. By sheer luck and maybe some decent steering, the Soob gently nosed into a mini snow berm on the shoulder. On my side of the road.  Facing downhill. In theory, I could have tried to get down the hill.  Problem was, there was no guarantee I wouldn't hit all the other cars half-in/half-out of the lane.  And there was no guarantee I wouldn't end up spiraling into the opposite lane of traffic again.  Which was a far sight better than most of the other 8-10 vehicles off the road around me.  Most are going to require tow trucks which are going to be hard to come by today.

I managed to get all of the Soob on to the shoulder and walked back home on the snowmachine trail by the side of the road.  As I was walking I watched two cars crest the hill going way too fast, lose control and almost hit the Soob and vehicles coming up from the other side.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Tea Party: Party of the Petulant

Joe reminds me of nothing so much as of a red-faced toddler drumming his heels on the floor and beating his sweaty little fists on the coffee table because he didnt get to eat the whole box of Sugar Bombs. With a poopy diaper to further enrage the lil' tyke.

Palin and Miller (aka Neo-Palin) have got that lower-lip pout down cold. When things don't turn out like the reality TV script said they would (whadda ya mean it takes more than 5" F**K Me heels and an up-do to win the vice-presidency???) , well these two do know how to pitch a royal fit.

Another "P" word: Paranoid. Party of the Paranoid, but we've known that for a long, long time. Voter fraud, conspiracy? Yeah right, Joe, gimme some of what you been smoking.

Because one thing is for sure - Joe's cognitive functions are a bit mussed up. He can't do maths to - well - win a Senate seat. Because, news flash Joe - winning the primary by just a couple of thousand votes when only about 28% (if that) of the electorate actually bothered to vote does not a path to the Senate ensure.

While it doesn't look like Joe is going to find out what moose-hunting along the Beltway is like, he is about to find out what eating crow is like.

And surprise, Miller is going to file yet ANOTHER lawsuit

It appears that the Miller campaign has been turning over a few rocks lately, looking for the worst possible examples of lower life form to add to Miller's Sturmabteilung. Witness the addition of Floyd Brown, the man responsible for one of the worst examples of racebaiting I've yet witnessed.

I'm sure Karl Rove will turn up sometime soon.

But in the meantime, peoples, I highly recommend the political shorts put together by Alaska Robotics. I missed them prior to the election while in my work-induced funk.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Every vote counts, unless of course, your intent was to vote for someone other than Joe Miller

Why are we surprised?  Has not the bar been set, nay, buried beneath a two-foot berm by our own two  million dollar hockey mom?  This is Alaska politics now, like our sad, dysfunctional national scene.

And, clearly, this is all the federal government's fault.

If they'd just eradicated any vestigial foreign-ness stemming from the Murkowski family's origins at Ellis Island, back when Lisa's great-grandfather emigrated to this country to something very patriotic and American-sounding like, say, Smith, we wouldn't be in this mess.  I'll bet the Democrats were in charge back then, too, allowing Poles to come over with their difficultly spelled names all willy-nilly taking away those low-paying jobs that our great-grandfathers wouldn't deign to do. 

Try it.


Easy!  Got it on the first go!

As opposed to Murkowsky  Murcowsky  Mirkowski  Murkowski.

Came the news that Miller and that bunch of Outside wackos, aka the Tea Party, are suing to make make any misspelling of 'Murkowski' not count.  From the ADN:
"Miller is asking a judge to stop the state from making a judgment on a voter's intentions if the voter wrote in something other than "Murkowski" or "Lisa Murkowski." State law allows no leeway for other spellings, his lawsuit says."
What if a voter wrote in 'Lisa Ann Murkowski'? Or 'Lisa A. Murkowski'? And how shocking that Joe Miller, lawyer and ex-magistrate -- who made such an enduringly positive impression on his peers that word is that the magistrate's association spurned his campaign's request for an endorsement prior to the election -- has pursued this further.  I'm seriously suprised surprised.

Better yet is Miller's argument that minor misspellings, may, in fact, be 'protest' votes.  Frankly, I think one could make the case that a huge number of voters, hundreds even, intended to vote a protest vote and accidentally spelled the name correctly.

So there I was in the ballot box, so I misspelled it just to make some weird point that I don't understand but sounded really good when I heard it on talk radio... and I -- dang it -- what was that again ? Murkowsky  Murcowsky  Mirkowski  Murkowski. Oh, shit!  I think I voted for Lisa Murkowski!

Really, I am shocked that he hasn't started challenging correctly-spelled versions of the name on the grounds that they were cast, actually, by voters whose intent was to misspell it.   It is entirely possible that 98% of those write in votes were cast by people in protest and they spelled the damned name right!  My god!  How will we ever know? 


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Sayonara, Mike!

The voter booting of the uber-grinch, Mike Kelly, can't go unremarked by this blog, where once, in more optimistic times, we blogged regularly and even posted a pic of Mike being burned in effigy. The near-win of Karl Kassel (losing by only seven votes) the last time Mean Mike was up for re-election was painful, but finally the screw has turned.

I could scarce believe it when I woke to otherwise very dismal election news last Wednesday. Could it be that the district 'Dweller and I live in is finally tipping to the more liberal side? Probably not - since our district has led in Joe Miller votes - both in the primary and in the main election. More likely, the late-in-the-day campaign that highlighted Mike's dismal record against organized labor and domestic violence did the trick. Whatever it was, I am grateful. Enjoy retirement Mike, and please, stay out of politics in the future!

So, yeah, as this country continues slouching on its path to government-as-reality-TV, there has been little to celebrate. Still at least two of the three Sarah Clones got a righteous shellacking (although Bachmann is still alive and kicking and as mentally incontinent as ever) and Alaska didnt wake up to the news that Unsavory Joe is our senator (y-e-t). Of course, he is doing everything he can to totally muck up and delay the ballot-counting process, but then could we expect anything less from such as he?

Criminy. Never did I think that one day I would write on this blog that I miss the days of Ted, Frank ( M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I), and all the rest of the corrupt bastards. True, they were less than forthright with their constituents, but by gawd, at least they were old school politics.

Yeah, even Don Young is looking better and better. Sure, he is still a foul-mouthed ass, but nothing like Tea Partiers and Joe Miller to make him look more like Robert Byrd every day.

They had C street smarts (even if sometimes they were too smart for their own good), they knew their facts and if at times they twisted information to suit their own purposes, at least it was clear that they were doing so for a reason other than pure babbling ignorance.

They were arrogant, but theirs was an arrogance born of ability, intellect (OK, maybe not in the case of Frank or Don) and experience. It was not the insanely annoying petty arrogance of Palin and her spawn who take no care to hide the fact that they just don't give a shit about accuracy, fairness, common decency, or truth, because none of that matters to the Legions of Christ when they are inspired by the Spirit, or mama grizzlies or whatever. Or, more accurately, are engaging in the magical thinking that, as any licensed psychologist will point out, goes along with extreme dysfunction. As in Michele Bachmann's case: if she says it costs 200 million a day for Obama to visit India, then it does, because she said so, and that makes it so (and ain't nobody going to prove her wrong).

On the other hand, her suggestion that Obama and entourage "visit" India via videoconference makes a weird sort of twisted sense. In this digitally-crazed age, people like Bachmann are where they are primarily because they reign within a pixellated realm fabricated by cable TV, Twitter and Facebook.

On a completely unrelated topic - 'Dweller and I have been AWOL due to a combination of anomie (the shrill onslaught of the Palin Pods has put the muscle on us) and too much going on in work and personal life.

Maybe I will start blogging about chickens again: they continue to be a constant source of entertainment and useful instructors in the nuances of human behavior in these dark days (and I am not referring solely to the solar cycle)....

The feng-shui is very very very good

....along with other daily marginalia, like the profound relaxation and enjoyment I have been garnering from my new wood-fired sauna, which I hocked my truck to have built. But it was worth it - a balm for the soul in during bleak times.....maybe Obama should try one.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mike Huckabee Might of Called Me...

But I wouldn't necessarily know if he did this past primary. You see, my cordless phone battery finally gasped its last. Judging from the on-line reviews of my particular Panasonic phone model, I have nothing to complain about (and I am not). I got over five years of charging on that battery - and most of the reviews cited the crap battery performance of no more than two years as their chief plaint.

Nor did the battery over-heat or burst into flames.

But, it finally just wouldn't hold a charge for very long outside of its cradle. So, tired of the incessant little beeping noise it made when I was on a call, I decided to replace it.

Not so easy. Because in this throw-away society, my five-year old Panasonic phone was absolutely Jurassic. I didn't even bother with the store of its original provenance, I went directly to the website. Where it was indeed confirmed that neither my phone model nor its battery still existed.

At this point, the first notion of replacing the thing flitted into my consciousness (what would a new phone cost? About 40$?), but I like the phone and it does its job. So, I called tech help to find a replacement battery. That took roughly 10 minutes, as I was routed first through all the menu options, and then shunted off to a call center that I strongly suspect was in the North Atlantic - like maybe Ireland - aren't call centers there booming the Irish economy?

It took quite a bit longer for the very polite gentleman to discover what battery # would work in my archaic phone - but to his credit he persevered and did not suggest I buy a new Panasonic phone. But, as this was the tech help center, not a purchasing center, the polite man, apologizing profusely, suggested the Panasonic web store.

Beep, beep, beep.

On to the web (now 20 minutes into the enterprise), but among all the various batteries available for web sales (at least 15), the one I needed did not have a little "purchase" radio button; instead I was instructed to call yet another 1-800 #.

Beep, beep, beep.

The wall of phones at Freddie's floated before my eyes.

I fought off the siren call of easy come/easy go, and gamely called the battery supply call center. And reached, I am quite sure, Bengaluru or some other mega-call center city in India. The extremely long relay time between our call and response and the very measured careful English with just a hint of melody of yet another incredibly polite man sort of gave that away.

I then embarked on a 35 minute ordeal of purchasing the battery - all while the beep, beep, beeping of my dying battery became more urgent and more desperately pitched. The suspense was palatable. Would I be able to complete the transaction (in which this very polite gentleman confirmed and reconfirmed each piece of information collected two to five times before completely satisfied) before my battery totally died?

Further, as the mere task of purchasing a replacement battery had now eaten over an hour of my time, with no real guarantee that I would complete the order and my objective, the lure of a new phone was becoming almost too much to ignore any longer. Not more than a few times during the agonizing process did I almost click the disconnect button. That plus the fact that it cost me $35 to get my new battery, by the time the shipping was factored in.

But, it just stuck in my craw to toss a perfectly good piece of equipment simply because nowadays something that is older than two years is considered fit only for the landfill.

So, I dug my heels in, and two days ago, my new battery arrived. I admit I was pretty much convinced that when I plugged the battery into my phone, it would explode. But it didn't. And my phone works, and it doesn't beep, and if Mike Huckabee calls again, I am ready.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mike Huckabee called last night

He said I really, really ought to vote for Joe Miller.

And I said, "Mike, dude, don't you know you are calling the wrong house?"

But Mike, like many of my Tea Party callers, wasn't interested in me.  Oh no, it was all 'liberal agenda of Barack Obama" this and "serious time for our country" that, and some 'protect life' thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and did you hear?  Joe Miller is bold.  And apparently, Mike called from a place called "Foreign Exchange" with a 402 area code. 

So I went back to watching some mass entertainment put out by the vast liberal conspiracy to corrupt our youth and turn all tweens into sexters, although honestly, I have a hard time seeing the connection between Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and any threat to the as-yet unlabeled generation.  What are they?  Generation Z? Did anyone actually watch "Death Proof?"  

So there I was, back on the couch with a beer watching some pretty mindless violence.  And who should call?  Lt. Governor Loren Leman.  Funny right?   Loren and I don't talk on the phone much.  He prefers things to remain the way they are -- him down in Juneau doing not much other than hop on the wagon of more charismatic candidates and spout some right wing clap trap, and me up here in Goldstream Valley rereading my copy of the liberal agenda to my same sex partner and occasionally writing a check to radical groups like those organic food growing CSAs.  Loren:  Happy.  Me:  Happy.

But no, Loren had to mess with our happy arrangement (see above) and try to convince me to vote for Joe Miller.  Apparently Loren had been talking with Mike and a previous caller with the code name Alaskans for Common Sense.  Loren was very concerned about the Barack Obama's liberal agenda.  (Must remember to see if it is the same version as mine.)

It was impossible to get a word in edgewise. otherwise I might have gently reminded Loren that as an undeclared voter, I'm not allowed to vote in the Republican primary.  (Edited on 8-25 because that just isn't true.  One has to pick which ticket to vote - the Dem or the Republican.)  Sure, after a number of drinks, I have contemplated registering as one just so I could cast a preventative vote before the general election.  I have no illlusions, living as I do in Greater Redneckia, that Republicans won't get elected fairly frequently.  But what a service to help make sure only the less crazy ones make it to the primary.  I confess the concept is still so repugnant that I don't think I have the stomach for it.  I remain unaffiliated.

I did eventually hang up, and would have called back later to apologize for my rudeness, but Mike was calling from a phone number that my caller id could not suss out.  I guess I'll have to wait until he calls back.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Red Gold: Little Flavor Bombs

We've been playing hooky, again, Flic and I.  In our defense, the world is being kooky and appalling enough that surely, how important is it to point that out?  La Palinista Supreme continues to generate headlines, so things are okay at least in Wasilla.  (From the perspective of the Wasillians, obviously.)


When the times get tough, or too annoying, and it is June-August in Alaska, the wise woman goes dipnetting.  Had another lovely time perched on a rock waiting for the bump of a red salmon.  And bonus!  Got there in time ahead of the hordes of people directed to Chitina by the ADN article the week prior.  Spent most of the last week processing:  brining fish, smoking fish, drying fish, drying and smoking fish... and enjoying the delicacy that is red caviar.  It doesn't keep that long and I refuse to try to can it.  It is awesome (particularly on a hot day with a cold beer) and oh-so-fleeting, a once a year treat.  If you're harvesting salmon and don't try to make it at least once, I suspect you are a closet Tea Party member.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hockey Mom

New favorite annoying-ex-Governor related product.
I've come to the conclusion that resistance is futile.

Sure, Flic and I have vowed time and again that we were not going to feed into the crazed, publicity-hungry media frenzy that She Who Will Not Be Named has cultivated. We've tried, but one can't stay abreast of the news without running into some kind of headline, some cringingly embarassingly story, or quote, or description of the latest occurance in the family feud between her grandbaby daddy's family and her own faux-regular middle class

Palin Palin Palin!  There, I've said it.  No more not naming that which ails us.  No more hoping against hope that this will all just go away.  Now, all that's left to do is to document this strange time.  I'm hoping I can find the car sporting that bumper sticker that I saw last week.  It read, "Palin = quitter."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cold (50) Stone(s)* Fatty

They could use a PB&C (TM), or several: Ethiopian famine victims**

Call me old fashioned - but I am still back in the day where being fat, even obese, meant being oh say somewhere north of 250 but south of 500. Anything above that was left to the carny, the Guinness World Book, or that rare individual who went reclusive and ate him/herself to the point where they had to be moved by crane.

I haven't cognitively updated for the PB&C(TM) factor. True, its been banging at my consciousness that more and more, I no longer get my own airplane seat (silly old-fashioned me). Being a person of normal weight, it has now become implicit airline courtesy that I am expected to give up my unused seat portion to the billows of elbow, waist and thigh fat that flow over from the seat of my aisle mate into my unused seat space.

You would think since I am (in) voluntarily giving up my extra space, and thereby saving them having to hork over the price of two seats to accommodate their girth, that at least sometimes there would be an offer of token compensation. Maybe an offer to buy me an on-board burger bomb, or a share in their box o' 12 Cinnabons that they brought on for a snack during take off, but sad to say, I spend my flights squished and wreathed in chemically contrived food smells that waft from the goodie bags jammed all around. Alas, to score a bag of peanuts and obscured by rolls of fat, I am left to wild gesticulations to gain the attention of the flight attendant.

So sure, I have noticed that bigger is well a lot bigger now in the US of Ay. But I didn't fully comprehend how far the scale has tipped up there to the elephantine, until this morning when I was browsing ByrlaneHome Catalog, and encountered its "plus+sizeliving" pages (where I can find "more comfort and convenience"). Here is a sampling of products offered:
  • A talking scale (for those whose belly obscures the read-out) that has a 500# capacity, and if that is not enough for all those baby elephants out there,
  • A 1000# scale with a remote digital readout.
And since maintaining all that weight undoubtedly means more waste removal, why suffer discomfort and concern about accurate aim when there is
  • The "Big John Toilet Seat (TM)": 19" wide from lip to lip with a 1200# capacity (offers 75% more area than a regular toilet seat!), which accessorizes nicely with the
  • Ergonomic Easywipe: a personal 15 & 3/4 inch "wand" that holds toilet paper on its soft silicone end, and which ejects used toilet paper with the click of a button (unfortunately, this item is available only through another catalog).
Then there's all the super-sized camp chairs, benches, step stools and other furniture that have been beefed up substantially to support the members of the 1/4 to 1/2 ton crowd.

Wow, so 500# is the new 200, and 1000 is the new 500. What does define obese these days, if furniture and hardware to support 1000 pounds is commonplace, and scarier still, in demand? Meanwhile, more and more populations in Africa are starving, with African nations poorer now than they were 20 years ago.

This is not an embarrassment of riches, this is criminal robbing of the grainaries by corporate rats, aided and abetted by sheeple drugged by 24/7 reality TV, fast crap food and sugar.

I think I am going to go for a run.

* 50 stones is roughly equivalent to 800 pounds
**Since 1990, coffee retail sales have jumped from $30 billion annually to $80 billion. Four multinationals control the coffee market, with the New York commodity market setting the price. Ethiopia is the biggest producer of coffee in Africa, with Starbucks buying most (if not all) of its African coffee from the Sidama region, Ethiopia. In 2006, the Sidama region experienced prolonged famine. Ever since the commodification of coffee, Ethiopian farmers cannot make enough to feed their families and are dependent on US aid to survive (mostly in the form of cheap wheat).

Photo downloaded from:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Holy Heart Failure, Batman!

Here is what I have been wondering for the past two days: how many pounds do 68 slices of bacon make?

A little research reveals that the answer really depends on how thick the bacon is sliced, but for regular bacon, 16 to 20 slices.

Thus, 68 slices is a little over three pounds of bacon.

68 slices is also the equivalent of the amount of fat contained in one 24-ounce serving of a PB&C shake* from Cold Stone Creamery. That same serving packs a walloping 2,010 calories too: basically the full daily caloric intake for a healthy, active individual (and that is active as in old school active, not like nowadays where people sit around all day watching TV, engaging in social media, and well, uh, blogging).

What are the odds that the people who slurp down a PB&C shake eat nothing else throughout the course of their day? Not so good, I would imagine. And would those same individuals also sit down and consume at one sitting three packages of bacon? Not likely. Because while Americans are getting huger and fatter and more unhealthy with every passing day, most are not, in all likelihood, setting out to eat to become large enough to be buried in a grand piano-sized casket.

But if this shameless, irresponsible marketing of fatty, sugary crap continues, that is where a majority of Americans will end up.

Now, I should note that I am among the first in line to say that people are responsible for their choices, and to recognize that in a capitalist society, markets are driven by consumers. If people werent sucking down those PB&C shakes, well more than likely Cold Stone Creamery wouldnt be making them.

But....wait a minute. Ice cream milkshakes have been around forever. There is nothing wrong with having a sweet, cold treat once in awhile. But at 2,010 calories a pop, this type of drink is not a treat, its a threat. Old fashioned milk shakes, even ice cream made from pure heavy cream, don't pack that sort of caloric punch. So clearly, Cold Stone is adding a lot of something else to its products.

On its website, the company is not entirely forthcoming about what that something else might be. In fact, rather obviously the information about its products (all of which, including PB&C, are trademarked) appears to imply that these milkshakes are leaner and more nutritional than milkshakes of yore. According to the company's ice cream FAQ's, the PB&C (TM) is nothing more than peanut butter, chocolate ice cream and skim milk (there is that masterful stroke to lull those itchy dieters).

And while the company likes to blat about how its ice cream is "made fresh daily" (not obviously trademarked), with only the freshest ingredients, it is darn hard to find out just exactly what those ingredients are - let alone what their nutritional value is.

In fact, it takes following about four links on their web site to finally drill down to the table that reveals the dietary horror that its products truly are. Personally I have never stepped foot in a Cold Stone Creamery but I am willing to bet its even harder to get nutrition information from a server at one of the franchises.

Besides which, that is not the point. The point is that this corporation, like McDonald's and so many other processed, fast food corporations that try to pass as responsible corporate citizens, is packing its products with an excess of sugar and fat, while simultaneously using copy that appears to promote health, responsiblity**, slimness and in some extreme cases, weight loss (even though in reality, their products results in its antithesis).

If this was America in the days before there was a Starbucks on every corner and a Lowe's in every strip mall, this wouldn't be so bad. Sure, there have always been eateries that have promoted severely unhealthy eating. But they were local businesses that had impact only within their own regional reach.

Nowadays, where Anywhere USA clones Olive Gardens, Chilli's, Cold Stone Creamerys in every hamlet, burg and city in this nation (and beyond), their menus reach us all. Their dietary influence is ubiquitous and pernicious, especially as the new breed of fast crap food is re-packaged in ways that lull people into thinking its safer and healthier.

Case in point: Cold Stone Creamery's architecture, internal decor, marketing and packaging plays on people's nostalgia and memories of days when ice cream was ice cream: sweet and a bit fatty, but certainly not three-pounds- of- bacon fatty!

*Named "Worst Beverage in America" by the authors of "Drink This, Not That!", a timely expose of the hidden calories in common and popular beverages like bottled, flavored water, ice teas, energy drinks and coffee and ice cream specialty drinks. Rather than just list calories and grams of sugar and fat, the book does a nice job of putting the #s into equivalents that people can immediately relate to - such as 68 slices of bacon.

** From the company web site comes this gem of meaningless marketing babble: " Despite the general perception that ice cream isn’t as good for you as it tastes, at Cold Stone, we’re all about making people happy – for the long haul! – which requires a balanced and sensible approach to eating fun treats like ice cream. We therefore obsess, far more than most companies, about the nutritional aspects of our products as much as we do their taste. For some people, Cold Stone is a ritualized special treat, for others, a daily must-have."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Still Weathering This Summer of Our Discontent

At right:  the dusty bee wasp graveyard that is my woodstove.

Still out here folks, only occasionally breaking my news/blog fast long enough to realize that the world is still in the handbasket.  If anything, it has picked up speed.

After each foray into paying attention to the larger world, or even statewide Alaskan news, I've been convinced that it is not yet time to once again wax bitchy about things. In my defense, I offer the following linked stories that drove me straight back into willful ignorance:
Nope, not yet time. In the meanwhile, it's been all about the house and yard, Goldstream Valley fixer uppers both.   This being Squarebanks, we can get away with keeping the yard large au natural, occasionally making a mad sweep of things with the weed whacker.  It's been a successful endeavor so far -- I found a missing dog dish and a few tools that had been lost in the knee high vegetation.  I'm telling you, if we could just find a way to explore the possibilities of bird vetch as a biofuel, we could cut heating costs dramatically around here.  An invasive species, this stuff freaking thrives if left unchecked, covering everything in a mat of ... vetch.  I've long since abandoned any illusions of victory in The War on Vetch, it was already well established on my little acre when I bought the property, but I've accepted the idea of a permanent stalemate.

The bees wasps, however, are another matter.  It's been another high bee wasp year at our house, the annoyance punctuated by my discovery that they are probably nesting in the pipe of the woodstove.  Earlier in the week, while finishing up some interior painting (trim, and what a pain in the butt that is), I noticed this extremely loud buzzing sound.  Loud, as in, amplified bees wasps coming to you straight out of a large empty room.  Which they were - that loud empty space being the stove pipe.  I finally figured that out when I kneeled down and peered at the glass of the door of the stove and saw them bumping up against it.  I was too chicken to open it for a few hours and figured I'd find a one or two.  Instead, there was a veritable mass grave, hundreds of them all covered in ash at the bottom of the box.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Off Clamming, Back Later

Stunned into silence?  Astounded by the mushrooming idiocy coming from "The Right?"

Yes and yes.  Things have been dormant here for while, with Flic and I both gone to ground.  Same reasons.  As I've said in many other avenues than FBH, people have lost their g-damn minds.

And ya know what put me round the brink and off to sulk and brood and not even read Harper's Magazine fergodssakes?  It wasn't She Who Shall Not Be Named clearing millions with her Wasilla-based cottage industry shilling for a bunch of fanatical hypocrites.  It wasn't the Gulf tragedy, although that has certainly been on the mind.  It wasn't even that idiot woman walking around here with a loaded handgun in her hand (not holstered) who insisted the cops overreacted when they stopped her and oh-mah-God Obama is coming for our guns

No.   What convinced me that I needed a break from the greater world was a small occurance on the way home from work weeks ago.  Living in some of the best moose growing habitat in the world up here in Interior Alaska, one would think that folks would adjust to the idea that we have a lot of them and adjust their lives (and expectations) accordingly.  Watch out for them on the road, fence the damned garden, and enjoy taking pictures of the calves in the yard. 

So.  Weeks ago, driving back into the Goldstream Valley on Ballaine, as I crested the hill and followed the curve down I noticed a whole line of brake lights before me.  Seven or eight cars were at a complete stop on the back side of the hill, which could be a bit sketchy if you came round the curve and weren't paying attention.  I stopped, curious, and then noticed that the lead car had stopped to let a moose and her newish calf cross the road.  They were taking their time doing it.  But, ya know, no big deal -- it was maybe 20 seconds of delay on all our trips. 

They crossed, the line of cars began to move -- and the idiot in front of me slowed down as we passed the two moose, rolled down his window, and flipped them off.  I can think of no finer illustration of the self-centered, irrational rage that certain members of our society have been wallowing in since Obama got elected than that. 

Hope y'all are coping better than Flic and I.  We'll be back again -- I will after the long drive to the clamming beaches.  

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Brat Pack

It's been awhile since we here in District 7 have been plagued with the rattles of that viper Mike Kelly. Of course it's also been awhile since there has been any action here at the old basket. I have to say, in the interim of our resounding silence, we - as in we of the global world - have been on a rip- roaring ride to that nether region. With the oil Armageddon in the Gulf, the Gaza Strip crisis, the Afghanistan/Iraq mess, and a host of other human-generated calamities (environmental, political, financial, and military), we are no longer in a collective handbasket, rather we are perched on a fiery blazing rocket to Hell.

My reaction has been pretty much to hunker down, watch my chickens and tend to my dogs, garden, and bees. I have been too gobsmacked by it all to gin up commentary on anything. In fact, I might even say that I am looking at the state of the world and wondering if it is at all possible that those fundy wing-nuts might be onto something with their end-times yapping.

Alas, there is no mark of the divine here - it's simply those all too human traits of greed, stupidity and hubris finally catching us up. It will be interesting to see what survives these human times.

In the meantime here we have Mike Kelly and that blank who is our governor - Sean Parnell. I mean, how long now has he been in office? And still, there really is no public sense of the man, other than if he was Lt. Gov. to she-who-shall-not-be-named he must perforce be conservative, non-analytical, and prone to governing through the very narrow and rigid lens of his personal value system. Though he lacks the overt meanness of Kelly, I suspect Parnell is just as hypocritically judgmental and intolerant of others he considers his lessers; perhaps not so much a viper as a guinea worm.

Shoot yer m
outh first, ask questions later

So, first we have Parnell signing HB 186, the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act (oh pul-leese), sponsored by Kelly. This so-called "freedom" act exempts anyone in Alaska manufacturing guns or ammo or firearm accessories from federal regulation. No matter that there aren't any gun manufacturers in Alaska - Parnell & Kelly just want to send a message to Obama not to mess with Alaskans. After all, those durn federales are running roughshod over us: taking away guns, shoving socialism down our throats and paying our wimmin to have abortions. It's ironic hypocritical that the governor and a state representative would be so vocal about keeping the feds out of Alaska when Alaska is so much on the federal tit. In their zeal to put their boots across the throat of the Obama administration, Parnell & Kelly come across like petulant teenagers acting out against their overly-indulgent parents. The Alaskan brat pack indeed.

It's also rather pointless, since the Obama administration has done nothing to indicate our right to bear arms is threatened; quite the opposite. Under this administration, it is now legal to carry loaded firearms in national parks. Predictably, Denali Park has reported its first bear killing (probably since the days of market hunters) by a park visitor just one month into its seasonal opening. I used to spend a lot of time hiking and working in not so remote places with trail access, and my biggest fear was not of bears, but jumpy men with .45s who were uncomfortable in the back country, but were too macho to admit to the fact.

Throw that baby out with the bath water

Pointless and annoying, but the AFFA doesn't much impact our communities (except perhaps our ursine ones), unlike Parnell & Kelly's other little tantrum, which is turning out to be not so little at all. I refer to their shit-canning of the proposed increases to the Denali Kid Care program. Kelly was one of three representatives (Tammie Wilson being another - Fairbanks flops on this one) who opposed the bill, because he felt it encouraged fiscal irresponsibility (more on that in a moment).

Parnell, although supportive throughout, suddenly lost his senses and vetoed the expenditure because of his "recent realization that the program paid for abortions"(yes, Sean, 0.18 of the program funds, as it turns out - which quite likely also included counseling that helped at least some women decide against an abortion, but never mind that little factoid).

In the three or so days since this news broke, its critics have been making headlines, so there is not much new to contribute to the debate. Frankly, Parnell was doing pretty much OK with women and kids with his efforts to bring some exposure to the horrific domestic violence problem in this state, but he just zorched his karma points with this stinker.

Denali Kid Care is not Planned Parenthood; it is not a family-planning program. It's health insurance for low income children - from birth through 18, and for pregnant women that meet certain guidelines. You would think that the "Kid" in Kid Care might have been a tip-off to him that this isn't about women's health, it's about keeping kids healthy so that we have healthy adults.

Denali Kid Care is win-win for everyone: for the relatively low costs of providing health insurance to children of families who can't afford it, our society is saved the greater costs of unhealthy kids and the unhealthy adults they become. Not to mention that it is the mark of a compassionate, caring and intelligent society to help those among us who are the most unable to do so for themselves. I think even the Brat Pack might agree that those would be babies, young children and teens before they are in their majority.

Do as I say, not as I (or my family) do

But as bone-headed as Parnell's statements were (doesn't he employ fact checkers on his staff???) at least he claimed to have some moral compassing going on, even though many might not agree with the direction his compass points. Mike Kelly on the other hand is just arrogant and mean (hardly a new observation for this blog), and rarely misses an opportunity to promote his belief that if people are poor or unable to make ends meet, it must be their own damned fault. And as is often the case with these arrogant blow-hards who wear their moral superiority like a super-weighty crown, he apparently has not done a terribly great job of making sure he and his family pass the sniff test.

Case in point: here is the state representative who votes against subsidized health care insurance for low to low-middle income children because, he believes, this sort of "entitlement" will just encourage all those people to laze around on their sofas and milk the system for all its worth (which is the real subtext behind his statement that middle income families should be encouraged in "financial responsibility").

Then there is one of his family members who, a number of years ago, worked for a local minority-run organization. Not only did she run her own private business out of this organization during business hours (even using her office to meet her personal clients), but she often and loudly stated that she stayed at that job because of the health insurance. At that time this organization had a Cadillac plan: full health coverage for employee, spouse and dependents, with zero employee contributions. She also was fond of informing her co-workers that she was only staying in the job because she wanted that health insurance through her pregnancy and to help cover the costs of her delivery and maternity leave.

Not long after the baby arrived, a golden, healthy baby with all its prenatal care and delivery paid for by the insurance provided by this organization, she packed her personal business and left.

Interesting. A Kelly scion receives totally free health care for a number of years, even while apparently not quite producing the work for which she received compensation, including those yummy free health bennies. Yet Pa Kelly feels strongly that upper lower income families (the majority of whom are undoubtedly working like wage slaves to make even the barest of ends meet) should absolutely under no circumstances receive subsidized health insurance.

Quite the double standard there the Kellys fly. But then, that is what we have come to expect from the Moral Right.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Jersey Barrier...

...Re-purposed and updated

Here they have been morphed into planters, placed strategically to herd sheepeople towards the door with the heat.

Arranged along the downtown streets, the jersey planters stand resolute against terror

Or my personal favorite - the random scattering of jersey planters at one of the now defunct entrances to the FBI - challenging the pinball talents of any would-be terrorist

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Tourism in a Police State

Pulled aside with ID confiscated and put in a holding pen by gun-toting men wearing dark glasses and with little curly wires snaking into their ears. If you think Green Zone check point or a prelim shake down prior to the next flight to Gitmo – think again. It’s what can happen to you on a tour of the East Wing of the White House – and it’s what happened to this blogger today.

I was told it was because my DOB didn’t match my SS# on the list of people scheduled to tour*, but when the Secret Service told me that at the final check point, I hadn’t yet given them my Social – only my driver’s license. I could see it on the guard’s face as soon as she looked up my name on the list: I was flagged even before I ever showed up – spit out by some database for some reason. And no, I am not paranoid. While I waited 20 minutes before they moved me into the pen, they asked none of the other tour hopefuls (all of whom had nice, safe Anglo-sounding, from-the-heartland names) for their socials. I also noted out of all of the 100s in line during the three-hour ordeal this turned into, none were obviously Arabic, or Muslim, and certainly there were no women wearing hijab.

Welcome to DC.

For several days now, I have roamed the Mall, the Tidal Basin, and the Memorials. You can’t really see any of these monuments without having to peer beyond the jersey barriers. They snake everywhere, and if it isn’t a jersey barrier, it’s heavy duty metal fences policed by flack-jacketed men. My particular favorite are the pop-up barricades that can be raised and lowered at will in the streets around the Capitol. There are men with police dogs everywhere.

The new DC monument: the jersey barrier

What all of this puts me in mind of is Budapest, circa 1970s. As a small child, I was terrified by the men who boarded the train toting guns to check our papers at the border. I was scared to death throughout our whole trip that at some point my father would be taken away by the police (as a former political refugee from this country, it was only a few years prior to our trip to see my grandparents that my father judged it safe enough for him to return). Like DC, every public place had men with dogs patrolling it – in this case Soviet soldiers. We had to show our papers when demanded to do so, we had to register with the government and we had to report where and when we were going within the country. We were not allowed to stay with any member of our family, and our movements were watched.

This was life behind the Iron Curtain. Although it would take another twenty years before the Soviet Union crumbled and the Soviet Bloc fell apart, already its satellites were challenging its viability. As the Soviet government felt more threatened, the more it tried to control its people: more dogs, more barriers and checkpoints, more random ID checks, more roughing up of people by the police and the military.

And now, here we are, subjected to the very same things in our nation’s Capitol – which for so long has been the symbol of the free world. As a child of a person who fled political oppression, it is extremely disturbing and depressing to see how rapidly our government has stripped away our freedoms and has become what previous US administrations and indeed our founding fathers vigorously denounced: a government governed by and governing through fear.

What it is most disturbing about the jersey barriers and the dogs, though, is not their presence, but that so very few question why they are there. Of all the American tourists that I poll as I wander around, no one thinks at all that this “security” is a sign of something very rotten and troubling about our government, its policies and its current global actions and positions. The standard response is of course that “they” want to harm us, and this is the price of freedom.

WTF??? How do jersey barriers maintain freedom? I don’t feel free at all. You don’t dare take your shoes off and cool your feet in the Reflecting Pool, you don’t find kids running around enjoying the grounds of the Capitol, you don’t dare take a picture of much in case they decide to hassle you. It bothers me at a very deep level that most people do not have the ability or the inclination to discern the profound disconnect, or to see that in fact, it is us, the supposed free citizens of this country, that are contained by the dogs, barriers and police.

It bothers and saddens me, but it does not surprise me. No one in this crowd of tourists of which I am a current member should ever dare disparage (but most almost certainly do) the German nation of 75 years ago or question how its government then terminated six million people, without the general population rising up in protest. Behold, here in our country right now is that very same seedbed that grows mindless acceptance by the masses of the oppression of the different, the singled-out, the faceless “other”. It is sown with the seeds of apathy, ignorance and blind faith watered heavily and well by a cocktail of fear, suspicion and intolerance brewed by a sophisticated and technologically advanced propaganda machine.

Although the Bush-Cheney regime created the police state in eight years – it's been in the works for far longer. I wish I had the belief that Obama can turn it around, but I think it is a juggernaut that is going to run him over as well as all the rest of us.

*To get on a tour of the White House, one must submit a request to a member of their Congressional delegation, or if a foreign tourist, through their embassy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jail Visits for Dummies...

...Or things they don't tell you at the jail

Should you ever find yourself preparing to visit someone in our local hoosegow, the Fairbanks Correctional Center (or the Fairbanks Country Club as some wags in the Native community call it), the following tips might come in handy.

Getting in the Door...

#1 Don't leave home without your jailhouse cryptogram. This is the little schedule chock-full of abbreviations (GP, M, F, Ad Seg, Max/Max, Ad Seg PC) that, when decoded, tells you what times you can visit "your" inmate (FCC has the peculiar habit of using the possessive when referring to the person you want to visit), based on their sex and the nature of their offense. And like any good church potluck list, depending on the first letter of their last name, it also tells you what day you can visit "your" inmate (for example, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays, L-Z).

#2 Don't go with the expectation that you will actually get to visit: Only eight inmates are allowed into the secure area during any one-hour period. Because the jail is so over-crowded that 41 inmates are sleeping in half the gym, eight inmate slots doesn't really cut it. It can be a scrum to get on the visiting list, and if you actually follow the instructions that FCC provides, the chances of you getting a visit are like that proverbial snowball's, leading to tip...

...#3 Be prepared to waste time: Although FCC tells you, for example, that you can show up between 9:10 and 9:20 to get on the list for a 9:30 visit, don't you believe it. You are going to want to be there by 8:30 at the latest, in order to gain one of the coveted eight spots on the "first come, first served" list.

#4 Sunday mornings are the least crowded, BUT, don't drink a lot of coffee beforehand. Unlike week days, there is no one at the front desk in the visiting area. Therefore, visitors must cram inside the little vestibule (heated, complete with camera and microphone, but no amenities) for at least an hour before their desired visiting time. And you dare not leave to go to the bathroom, step outside for a smoke break, or sit in your car and read or listen to the radio, least you lose that spot in line. (NB: its not your fellow visitors who will challenge your place in line should you need to leave, its the guards. Although they likely won't open the door til just a hair before the visiting hour, if they do, and you aren't there to get your place on the list, they may not honor it, no matter what your fellow visitors say. Since the door is just as likely to open at say 8:45 as it is at 9:29.5, no one dares leave the vestibule, even though it really only comfortably fits six.)

5 Week days are best for visiting, because although your odds of landing on the visit list are better on Sunday, during the weekdays you are allowed into the jail to wait - where you have access to a bathroom, water fountain, and a bunch of bad magazines.

#6 Morning are the worst time to visit if your inmate is in general population and is on the list to be moved to the North Star halfway house. Although these are the times you are most likely to get in, visiting can seriously queer their chance to get moved. Even with the over-crowding and a spot on that list (its all about lists), if an inmate is not in GP, and in secure visiting instead, a guard won't come fetch them. Nothing takes the shine off a visit like learning your visit cost your inmate the chance to get over to North Star, the Holy Grail of the Fairbanks correctional system.

Once you are in the door...

#7 Dress like a fundamentalist Mormon: No bare shoulders, V-necks, or skirts or pants above the knee. No hoodies, hats, vests, jackets, or translucent or transparent garments. Zippers are a particular FCC fashion no-no. While one can get rid of a polar fleece vest with a zipper by stashing it in the visitor locker, one can't stash one's pants. I haven't had the nerve to test the zipper thing with pants, thus on possible visitation days, my current favorite pair with zippered pockets stay in the closet.

And through the security screening...

#8 Try and grab one of the phones on either end of the visiting row: Secure visiting is just like what you see in the movies or on TV. You are on one side of the bullet-proof glass, they are on the other and conversation is by phone. The phones have notoriously poor reception, so everyone in this tiny room is screaming. Bedlam, it's like talking to a friend long distance in the village. If you are lucky enough to get a seat at the end, you don't have conversations on both sides of you, which makes it easier to focus and to block out the commotion of jail house visiting.

#9 If they "forget" to bring out your inmate, hope for a nice guard. A nice guard is more likely to take pity on you sitting there forlornly without your inmate. Instead of leaving you there to rot for yet another hour, they may come over, lift up the receiver and ask who you are waiting to see. A really nice guard will actually call for your inmate, instead of simply noting the information.

#10 On weekends, don't expect to be let out of the secure visiting area before the hour is up. Perhaps apocryphal, a story has been recently circulating among the FCC visiting regulars that a very pregnant visitor was left locked up in the visitor's secure area for half an hour while guards on the other side of the door ignored her repeated ringings of the buzzer. Although she really had to use the restroom, they weren't about to man that desk where the visitor door buzzer is located, not until the visiting hour was up and they could buzz all of the visitors out.

#11 If you have claustrophobia, visiting in the tiny locked-from-the-outside secured area is probably not a good idea, especially since at peak visiting times, up to 24 people may be crammed in there with you (up to three people/inmate are allowed on a visit).

And finally, prison sartorial elements explained...

#12 Forget the stripes of old. Modern prison wear is indistinguishable from hospital scrubs, except an inmate doesn't get to choose his/her color. Blue is for misdemeanors, yellow for felons, and orange for the hard-core mean mothers who are in there for a good long time.

#13 What's with the pink? All FCC inmates wear bright pink T-shirts under their prison scrubs. This "pink-in-prison" trend was started by that redneck whack nut Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ , who promotes himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff". As sheriff, he, among other highly questionable acts, forced inmates to wear pink underwear as a way to subdue humiliate them. Although one can't say for sure what the thinking is behind FCC's T-shirt choices, it seems a safe bet that the motivator was not the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Charles Pierce (Idiot America) proffers the thesis that in this country the advent of reality TV, the web*, rant TV & radio has produced a situation where everyone has the potential to be an expert, thus no one is. In other words, because public visibility and the acquisition of an admiring audience requires virtually no effort, credentials or particular smarts, anyone with a drum to beat can be launched into instant expert status.

In fact, expertise has been conflated with celebrity: if one shouts loud enough, acts outrageously enough, and pisses off enough people (whether right or left) well, then not only do they deserve their own TV or radio show, but they should also run for public office to set this country straight. Forget about education, putting in long hours in the trenches to gain experience and wisdom, or working in a job that might prepare one for local, regional or national governance. All of that is just elitist crap promulgated by those East Coast limp-wrist nancys.

This idiot expert trend is gaining momentum in Alaska; perhaps not as much as in states like Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Texas - the latter still the standard bearer for inflicting idiots on America. These are the states which spawn the Minute Men and other militia and attract skin heads, Fundys and neo-nuts like flies to honey. However, on a per capita basis, I suspect Alaska is beginning to catch up.

In addition to Palin and Tammie Wilson (the ugly stepsister who didn't get invited to the ball and had to settle for the state house and no gift bags) we have Shaeffer Cox. Two years ago, at the age of 24, he gained some local exposure by unsuccessfully running for House District 7. Now he is in the news for being arrested twice in as many weeks. First for felony assault (later pled down to reckless endangerment) for hitting and choking his wife, then for the relatively minor offense of failing to disclose to a police officer that he was carrying a firearm.

The first offense is disturbing under any circumstance, in any situation. Mr. Cox apparently has trouble controlling his anger - so much so that he hit his wife in front of their two-year old son while driving the family to Anchorage. Then when called out on his inappropriate behavior, he reached over and grabbed her neck, pinning her against the passenger door. He appears to have an overweening need to be in control, especially of his wife, and gets really gnarly really quickly if he feels he is being thwarted.

Couple this with the circumstances that surrounded his second arrest, and watch the red flags pop.

Wearing a bullet-proof vest (because, Mr. Cox states, he has received "fewer than 12 death threats"), and carrying a knife and concealed gun, Mr. Cox arrived at the scene of a police search to monitor whether or not the subject's rights were being violated by the police. The arresting charge arose from Mr. Cox' s failure to disclose to the police that he was carrying a concealed weapon, as prudence, responsible gun-ownership, and the law require.

Setting aside for the moment the scary implications of having an armed, angry, self-aggrandizing control-freak interfering in legitimate police business, here is a text-book example of Idiot America in action. With virtually no formal education or experience in any of the applicable fields (law, peace-keeping, military, to name a few), Mr. Cox has appointed himself an"expert" in constitutional, civil and criminal law. He clearly believes he has as much right to be involved in a police action, as well, the police, attorneys and courts.

And what are Mr. Cox's credentials for being a Individual Rights Monitor ? Why, membership in the Liberty Bell Network , which according to their website is
a group of Patriots that have joined together to mutually support each other against an out of control Government, it's lust for power, and the ever increasing occurance [sic]of violating our inaliable [sic]rights.

In the tradition of the original "Liberty Bell", this is a public notification network. In the event that you, or one of your neighbors rights are being violated, a call to a member of your local network would spread the word throughout your local network, for people to drop what they were doing and come immediatly [sic], because a fellow patriot needed their support.**
Patriot??? That is not the "P" word that comes to my mind when I look at Mr. Cox's behavior in the past month. Paranoiac, psychopathic,putz and peckerhead, are, however, some that do.

In response to a court order that he not carry a gun for the next two months until his hearing, Mr. Cox had this to say: "Everybody's going to think, 'He's not armed, so let's go get him'." (Fairbanks Daily News Miner, March 20, 2010). Does this punk really think there is anyone who gives enough of a shit to take him out??? If this is not paranoid wing-nuttery I really don't know what is.

In the final analysis, its not these faceless hordes ready to trammel our rights into the ground that we need to fear. Rather it is Mr. Cox and all the other "experts" like him who present a clear and present danger to our free and open society - the one for which the true patriots fought so hard.

*I am well aware of the irony inherent in blogging about this.

Pay no attention to the misspellings, mangled sentences and poor grammar. Proper writing is for socialists and them other goddurn furreigners, not Patriots.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yet More Reasons Why I Live Here

and not there...

1) The dog races. It's hard to find a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than munching ham sandwiches watching the sprint races on a warm, sunny blue-sky day. And where else but Alaska would sled dogs be treated as centerfolds? This morning found my SO pouring over the FDNM's cheesecake photo-spread of Hans Gatt's winning Yukon Quest team as if it were a Playboy magazine he had surreptitiously hidden beneath the bed.

2) Taco King. Yes, my blogmate has already noted this authentic (and authentically cheap) Mexican restaurant. It deserves mention again. Because after a day at the dog races, I then went on to savor a south-of-the-border dinner with a friend, prior to going to...

3) Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater's production of the The Tempest. Not only it is a treat to be able to go to productions in the Empress Theater (one of the very few old buildings still left in strip mall Squarebanks), but it is not hyperbole to say that FST is rare treasure, not just here, but anywhere in the US. Their sets are always minimal, clever and evocative, and their stagings (with one notable exception, at least for me, of Richard the III set unfortunately in Nazi Germany) witty, bright and polished. This run is no exception. Ariel deserves special mention for his fantastic body paint and green contact lenses, as does the incorporation of the band Good Daze to provide both the mood setting for Prospera's island, and some lively musical interludes throughout the play.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Its February, when the light returns, and it is not such a stretch to envision green trees, gardens and near 24-hour daylight. Everything looks good in February - except inside the house, where once again the returning sun illuminates the incredible scrim of wood ash, dog fur, and other detritus I have been nesting in these past four months. But even so, dogs, the Bard and a darn good adobada - how can it be anything but all good?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Alaska, You Can Near Always Find a Coffee Hut

As those of you who are regulars here at FBH might have noticed, coffee and beer are among my two favorite pleasures in life.  Behold then, a sight that made my Grinchy heart grow by two sizes that day:

Ladies and gentlemen, possibly the world's northernmost coffee hut: Aarigaa Java in Barrow.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Modern Proposal: For Preventing the Palins from Being (More of) a Burden to Their Country and Relatives

Clearly, as the strange phenomenon that is the national obsession with She Who Shall Not Be Named shows no signs of abatement, those of us who have not drunk the Kool-Aid should consider more drastic measures than the liberal application of reason, evidence and logic. 

The time has come for those of us Alaskans with a political memory going back far enough to remember the days before that someone swallowed up the reputation and image of this fine place to make sacrifices.  For the good of all of us, even those living in Wasilla, we need to make the ultimate sacrifice:

We must, friends, bring her back to Alaska, even if it means electing or appointing her to something.  We must 'take one for the team.'

In the former case, the only caveat, of course, is that it can't be a national position, i.e., a House or Senate seat.  The idea is to keep her, like that crazy second cousin with who thinks the post office is unconstitutional, occupied and far away from things like the cable news circuit and national political office.

We might form a political action committee, the "Bring Sarah Back" PAC, and begin fundraising immediately.  A movement starts with a few volunteers before it turns into a for-profit venture, and personally, I'd be willing to spend a few bucks and some sign waving afternoons if it meant a person could open up a newspaper or take a look at a online news site without being forced to translate English into English.  We could use the money we raise to pay for her 'speaking fees' (in-state engagements only, please.)

Personally, I favor reappointing her to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  I don't know that there really are any qualifications or requirements to be on it, which is a plus, and it pays very well:  $120,000 a year. And what we are buying, really, is peace of mind.

So what is to be?  State office or state appointment? 

If for no other reason, I urge you to support the BringSarahBackPAC so that when a person admits to being from Alaska, the non-Alaskan can think of only one thing to ask about: 

Polar bears.

Friday, February 05, 2010

You've Got Mail

Coming home from ingesting a Teriyaki cheese steak gut bomb (the second in as many days - the blogmate and I finally got together last night at IJ's for burgers and beer), I caught the tail end of Alaska News Nightly.

That little story about the 1,500 Palin emails finally released to MSNBC by the State, after - what - a good year and 1/2 of foot dragging? Now that was a precious thing to hear. It gave me the tiniest glimmer of hope that maybe this is the tail of the rope that will not so much hang her as finally shut her the hell up.

Although I don't usually surf for news, preferring to get mine in the diluted pabulum form that is the News Miner (because I just can't shake the habit of a morning cuppa with news that I can hold in my hand), I had to go to MSNBC to check it out. The story more than satisfied.

Before I veer off into the outrage that engulfed me despite the fact that I should be totally numb to palinography, let me note the network's stroke of genius: its invite to channel our inner muckraker by combing through an online database of the Palin emails, and to help MSNBC reporters connect the dots of this travesty of governance that was the Palin administration. What a nifty way to recruit eyes to help sift the gold from the dross as more and more of these emails start flowing in.

That the State tried to buffle its way out of this public records request by claiming it would cost $15M didn't raise this blogger's eyebrows. As a veteran of many a public records request battle with the State, I know that little trick. I have had some fairly outrageous price tags thrown at me when I wanted records that weren't going to put a particular State Division in a very good light. I also famously once had a notebook hurled at me by [redacted], then head of the Division of [redacted], who shouted at me that from then on, he was instructing his employees to buy their own notebooks for meeting notes so they couldn't be obtained through a public records request.

Obviously Palin isn't the first state official to have the misbegotten notion that if state officials use "private" media to memorialize and communicate state business this makes them immune from the public right to know.

And that is where my outrage just refuses to be stifled. Are the Palins arrogant or ignorant, or some lethal combination of both? I just don't know, but I fear it is the latter - which is the most dangerous to our civil rights and democracy. Because who really buys (other than the Tea Partiers, the Fundys and other extreme right wing nuts) the Palin camp spin on this: that the emails merely reflect the spousal succor that Todd offered his wife in her tough job as Governor.

How stupid do they think we are? Of course, wives and husbands of people in public office are sounding boards and advisors, and yes, they do have a lot more information about what really happens during the execution of official duties and responsibilities than others outside that private circle. But that sure as hell aint the same thing as being in direct contact with employees of the Governor's Office and essentially conducting business the same as if one was the Governor. Which is how a whole lot of those released emails read.

Truthfully, I find the emails from Sarah trying to hide the fact that we Alaskans paid for electrical upgrades for her tanning bed amusing, and as with the Corrupt Bastards Club, a bit embarrassing. If I have said it once, I have said it a 1000 times: our corrupt politicians are sooo petty and cheap. Free wiring, dry-cleaning and flights for their brood, or maybe an electric massage chair and a large propane barby for the king salmon on the newly remodeled wrap around deck; these guys and gals (don't leave Bev Masek out of the mix) barely think beyond the double-wide.

Nope, I got a feeling these emails are going to be a lot like the Bill Allen secret videos. I suspect when its all digested and analyzed, they will reveal corruption and abuse of power. This time around its not a bunch of good ole boys guzzling beer, scratching their nuts and using potty mouth as they talk about who they are going to buy. But its the same vile brew of venality, self-aggrandizement and parochialism.

Sarah may have racked up a $150K tab on her campaign wardrobe, but all too soon I think its going to be clear the Empress has no clothes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fizzle in the Schizzle?

Some in our audience may be wondering if the Fiery Blazing Handbasket has winked out like the tail end of the Hale Bopp comet (or the Heaven's Gate cult), or sputtered to a quiet sizzle like the occasional dud firework at the New Year's Eve Sparktacular (none this year, it was a great show!).

Nope, I think we are just in the lull of mid-winter, with perhaps a dollop of battle fatigue thrown in. The constant onslaught from the Christian Right crazies (bible verses on gun sights, palinography, Pat Robertson's mouth - need we say more???), the mega-corporations, and the insanely twisted body politic that is running amok has stunned us into blog interrupted.

I can only speak for myself, but I know these winter months, I have been in hermitage. It's one I frequently share with the S.O. (who has come in from the vil to escape for awhile that milieu's own version of crazy). Other times, its only me, the chickens, a few odd tropical fish and the snoring (sometimes greenly farting) dogs.

Unlike some past winters, there's no winter doldrums. I have been out nearly every day enjoying the roseate light that is steadily increasing - snow shoeing, skiing, running or ski-joring. I have cooked up a storm (which has caused the S.O. to imitate a bear and put on a healthy layer of insulation, soon to be worked off as caribou-hunting time nears), and finished many an unfinished sewing project.

And I have been reading up a storm.

My January favorites thus far:
  • Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party; Max Blumenthal
  • The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power; Jeff Sharlet
  • Going Rouge - Sarah Palin, an American Nightmare; edited by Richard Kim & Betsy Reed (and an Xmas present from my blog mate & her S.O.)
  • Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town; Nick Reding
Next on the list is Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

So, I expect that as the days lengthen and we head back up the seasonal bi-polar curve, 'Dweller and I should be revving back up in the blogging department - until then....

It's potluck.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finally Forty

Just last week Flic and I were pondering the unthinkable:  a winter in Squarebanks without a single instance of 40 below.  I went so far as to proclaim that, "Yep.  It ain't gonna happen."  All the while realizing that such behavior was inviting a major jinx.

Sure enough, we had a day yesterday, the first minus forty this winter.  However, unlike years past, this cold snap didn't hang on long here.  It's already up to the minus 20s (ordinarily a warm spell in mid-winter) today.