Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Long before there was an established Alaska blogosphere (still detest that word), when the online opinionating boom was as yet an unconnected variety of rants at any number of local watering holes with no Set O' Tubes to link them all together in cacophony... there was the print version of the Republic. Featuring local op-eds, how-to's, satire, news, some truly awesome cover photography for a small, Alaskan publication, and the marvelous cartoons of Jamie Smith. It typified the do-it-yourself, oddball, lefty sense of Ester, Goldstream, and those of similar tastes unfortunate enough to live elsewhere. It began publication in 1999, a time at which none of us yet knew that Sarah Palin existed.
Named as a nod to an epithet from a thwarted local politician, who referred to the community of Ester as the "People's Independent Republic of Ester", the paper won awards, featured news the Minus missed or wouldn't touch, and just raised hell as a paper should.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
"Fairbanks paid 143 percent more than the typical U.S. household for its utility costs in the third quarter of 2012, according to a national survey of 304 urban areas in the country. Alaska's second-largest city had the distinction of paying the highest utility costs last year, with prices about 112 percent above average."
And there was much wailing about how hard we have it here.
Unfortunately, the News Minus didn't include a link to the the source of the data for the story, the Council for Community and Economic Research.
Has anyone noticed that the News Minus has been harping on this issue repeatedly this year? And yet, reality is a bit more complicated than that.
Yep, we don't have the cheap electricity they do in Anchorage. Neither does most of the rest of the state. And guess what? Most rural areas pay far far more than we do for fuel oil and electricity in places where they use fuel oil to heat homes and diesel to generate electricity. Of those communities, we have it really really good. Want to feel the pinch of energy prices? Live in a place where they have to fly in the stuff that heats people's homes and feeds the electric plant where there aren't any damned trees to burn as firewood.
But the Council for Community and Economic Research doesn't survey those places... however, the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension does, getting a village or two occasionally, and most regional centers pretty often. The most recent couple of data sets don't have all costs broken out, but one thing stands out: this is usually the cheapest place to feed a family of four of ANYWHERE in Alaska.
As I sat in front of the woodstove this morning coaxing a new fire from last night's embers, I remembered how lucky we are to have an adjunct heating source around here that just requires a chainsaw, some gas, and a bit of hard work to take the edge off the cold for those who have the ability to do so.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Big Oil, King Gold, and the usual cast of characters have spent a lot of money to convince Alaskans that the Coastal Zone Management Program will cost jobs. Which is bullshit. And completely ignores the continuing high price of oil, and gold, and copper, and... wait. Oh, that's right, everyone has been making a s*** ton of money in those industries.
The Coastal Zone Management Program worked. It gave communities some control over development on their doorstep -- and given the way the world is rushing to develop the crap out of the Arctic -- we are going to need some control in the coming decades.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
|Above: The best birthday gift I've bought the spouse in several years.|
In many a previous summer, it was the opposite... We were happy grasshoppers, drinking beer, fishing, grilling, and merrily playing with nary a thought to the shortness of the season and the rapid approach of winter.
Deep, dark, long, firewood-requiring winter.
For those of you unfortunate enough to live elsewhere, getting in firewood is a given part of warm months in Alaska, on par with salmon fishing, weeding the garden, and playing out wildly in a bit of seasonally-induced mania. (Granted the first is only true if you live in a place with trees. We do.) Oh, and beer-drinking.
We generally procrastinated on the firewood-getting and focused enthusiastically on the playing outside and beer-drinking.
This translated to a fall spent frantically locating already downed spruce or standing dead trees -- and a real push to cut and split it. It wasn't green wood, mind you, but this was not an optimal situation. If it had rained a lot, getting it dry was kind of a pain in the ass. And some years we hit wood stove season without enough.
But no more! It is June, JUNE, and we've already got quite the stack of split wood in the shed with a pile of rounds waiting to be split. Is it maturity? It is common sense? "What gives this year," you ask?
After years of 'we oughta', I finally bought the S.O. the chainsaw chain sharpening attachment for the Dremel tool. Instead of having to sit there and sharpen the chain(s) by hand, you just plug in the Dremel and go to town. It's quick, easy to angle properly, and the end result is you never keep cutting wood with a somewhat dull chain again because you don't feel like stopping to sharpen the chain and haven't sharpened any of them yet.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Just wrapping up two weeks of squiring dad around Interior. To say that dad is spry would be an understatement of Denali-sized proportions. Although 86, he gets around; not quite up to hiking the tundra, nor scaling down the cliffs at Chitna as we did 11 years ago, but still - there was not much sofa-lounging here.
Yup. He pretty much kept to the same schedule he maintains at home. Within short order, he institutionalized himself at College Coffeehouse, worked out daily at Mary Siah and prided himself on learning all of the short cuts around town (including how to evade the overzealous campus cops).
And while we didn't do all of the tour-bus touristy things around here (to wit: Gold Dredge # 8 and the Riverboat Discovery), we did complete much of the liberalish, Valley-crowd punch list of Must-dos while in town, at least those that can be accomplished without a gun, hiking boots or dip net.
Thusly, the not-quite bucket list:
- The Big Kahuna, of course. The sky was blue-bird blue, the mountain was mostly out, and there were so many grizzlies and Dall sheep grazing along the road (not together, obviously) that soon such sightings became ho-hum. The only drawback was losing the bus lottery and landing on a bus with that bane of the Park trip: the chatty, mis-informed bus driver who has a pathological urge to wow the captive bus audience with ever-escalating Alaskana tales. I actually envied my father's near total deafness on this one, but still the 8-hour round trip to Eielson Visitor Center and back was a trip of a lifetime for my dad as well as close to near perfect as one will ever get in the Park.
- The Lodge at Black Rapids: Alaskan-elegant (if you have to ask, you wouldn't get it), homey, and altogether a great destination. We drove down one rainy afternoon (and what afternoon hasn't been around here lately?), spent the afternoon drinking wine and kibitzing with the caretakers, and had some of the best meatloaf and mac & cheese around (a shout out to Casey). Slept like logs under thick down comforters and enjoyed a sunny morning driving on down the Rich to Fielding Lake.
- Lunch at Lil Richards AKA the Farthest North True Diner. My dad is a diner-freak (he has asked that his memorial service be at Bob's Diner, his hangout at home), so stopping off there on our way home from Black Rapids was a given. Decent (i.e. greasy and salty) diner food, and a good photo op for him (to show the waitresses back at Bob's).
- Chena Hot Springs (naturally). This time I didnt fall off the bar stool, although my dad did nearly succumb to the heat of the rock pool. A veteran of the turkish baths in Budapest, he didnt take the heat quite seriously enough. When he started babbling about the "current" in the rock pool and how he couldn't move against it, I along with a couple of Norwegians hustled him up and out into a lounge chair. No apparent lasting damage that a cold Alaskan Amber didnt later fix.
- The Musk Ox Farm, where we saw the twins.
- Northland Wood - how can a two-storey pile of split wood not be a tourist attraction for anyone burning wood??? - where my dad helped fill my PU truck, managed not to get hit on the head by the occasional logs that bounce down the pile from the log splitter. When I told him I needed four cords stored in the wood shed before August, he commented "no wonder women look sporty here". (Sporty being the adjective he routinely applied to all of us out in the Valley).
- The Farmers Market, where we bought yet more pottery for my house and some cool painted rocks in the shape of chickadees (there is virtually nothing someone cant sell you when you are on vacation).
- Morris Thompson Cultural Center: my dad liked this one so much he went back twice. The one thing that TCC actually has managed not to fuck up.
- The UAF Campus and museum. As an architect, he had sort of a sick fascination with the Museum - trying to figure out just exactly what it reminded him of. None of my suggestions of whale, iceberg, monstrosity, ark, and giant-white-thing resonated, so we just left it alone.
Monday, June 04, 2012
If you've spent any time here out in Goldstream Valley, you'll notice a strange phenomenon that occurs (primarily to college age people) when they move in to our fair neck of the woods. The guys sprout beards and we're not talking neatly groomed ones -- more like a permanent napkin. Carhartt's and ripped lined flannel shirts flourish in the closet. Folks begin to look like they are living in a waterless cabin, or mushing dogs, or both, whether they are doing so or not. I guess you might call it shabby chic. But suddenly, if you're not dressed in our own particular brand of the Alaska Uniform, well, you are just uncool, dude. You probably don't know what biodiesel is. It's a lot like my teenage years, oh so many moons ago, when all the defiantly 'alternative' kids dressed exactly the same way in response to the overwhelming conformity of the suburban mall kids.
I found Andrew Halcro's blog over at Alaska Dispatch the most interesting of the recent bunch, because he was born here, grew up when it was a lot less, well, let's just say civilized, and he doesn't feel the need to conform to the strange idea of what "Real Alaskans" wear. As he points out, marvelously:
The bottom-line: for a state that screams, preaches and promotes individualism, why do we insist on all looking the same?Frankly, it's a good thing that Squarebanks was not one of the cities included in Travel+Leisure poll. When I go to Anchorage, I actually break out my nicer clothes and do what passes for dressing up: The nice, shined pair of Fluevogs, jeans with no stains or rips, and shirts that button up (or at the least t-shirts that don't have a political statement or a liquor logo on them.) If it's a meeting I'm attending, I break out the khakis and the fleece jacket without dog hair on it. Let's call it "Fairbanks Smart Casual." Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. On occasion I see very well-dressed women in makeup, nylons and dresses. They are usually Russian.
All of this, however, brings to mind an old gem featuring stereotypes in Barbie form. It first made its way forwarded through the Series of Tubes and ended up on Alaskan blogs. Originally, it had about five entries, but it has since been adapted, tinkered with, and reposted (without attribution, natch, so I have no idea as to origin or who to credit.) The following differs slightly here and here.
This fit Barbie has a graduate degree in science, resources management, and/or is an environmental lawyer.
Comes with brand new Range Rover with roof rack holding skate skis and a kayak. Accessories include running tights, cross-trainer shoes, a husky named Kobuk, and a cell phone. Boyfriend Ken comes in seasonally employed climbing guide, fishing guide, or Girdwood bartender models. Sold at New Sagaya.
This Barbie comes with big hair, country music CDs, a .44 Magnum and a bible.
Weekender Kit includes snow machine, 4-wheeler, and fishing boat. Brand new duplex dream house and lake cabin are also available (sold separately). Ken comes with a Ford F-350 Diesel pick-u truck with gun rack
and trailer, his own snow machine, 4-wheeler, boat, and .44 Magnum. Ken is available every other two weeks when he is not working on the Slope. Alternative Military Ken available by special order. Sold at Wasilla Wal-Mart.
This graduate school Barbie kit includes a tiny cabin with detached outhouse. This Barbie has hairy legs, hat hair, and a fleece jacket covered with dog fur. Accessories include extra long johns, shower bag, head lamp, case of Ramen noodles, and bug dope. Also available is a beater, 1979 model Subaru, complete with plug-in, ice scraper, shovel, and set of studded tires. Ken is either at the Marlin, the Howling Dog, the Loon, out hunting, doing field work, or is long gone. Sold at Big Rays.
K-town Barbie lives in an old leaky sailboat that is moored down in Thomas Basin -- in a slip that is conveniently located just off the ramp directly below the Potlatch Bar. For basic transport, she runs a beat up old 18' skiff that has a rundown Johnson 30 hp outboard that leaks oil. She can out fish most any old Norwegian bachelor fisherman; can cut down old growth cedars faster than most any drunken old Swede logger; and can shoot and skin black tail deer that foolishly wander down to beach at sunset faster than any alcohol fueled Finn bushwhacker. Her Ken can be found anytime, day or night, on the deck of the Alaskan Bar pontificating -- often with wild, exaggerated arm waiving and finger pointing -- as to exactly where the Bridge to Nowhere is going to land over on Pennock Island
Sitka Barbie has most of the same endearments as K-town Barbie except she recently shot her Ken in what is colloquially known as a Sitka divorce. She took the life insurance money and purchased a brand new 26' Hewescraft "Alaskan" with enclosed heated cabin and a 200 hp Honda outboard. Sold only at a kiosk on the cruise ship dock during June, July & August.
This Barbie comes with blonde hair with dark roots, kuspuk and parka. Accessories include a 650cc Skidoo snow machine, tiny ulu and baleen carving kit. Ken alternates between being a whaling captain and working
for the North Slope Borough. Available at the northern most KFC store.
This Barbie comes with membership cards for the Alaska Democratic Party, AFSME/AFL-CIO and Alaska Conservation Voters, little red X-tra Tuff boots and an un-used fishing outfit. She lives in tiny apartment above an obscure bar and works as a secretary in the State Office Building. Drives rusty Subaru Forester, but has peeled the "Forester" lettering off because she feels that logging is evil. Ken claims to be a fisherman, but actually he is also a secretary in the State Office Building. Available in gift shop at the Baranof.
This Barbie was not born here, comes with an Alyeska modular or a brand new cookie cutter house by Stan Peterson. This Barbie is best accessorized with an Alyeska husband. She drives a brand new Chevy Suburban, or other large 4x4 vehicle, needs it to get her over Thompson Pass when it has snowed 5' overnight. Has 2.5 children and runs all over town shuttling them from event to event. She typically does not mind the snow or rain, but is always complaining about the weather regardless.Valdez Barbie also spends her weekends shopping in Anchorage although she could get the same thing at the Prospector or so the ad says.
Kenai Barbie is just a weekend Anchorage Barbie that fishes.
Homer Barbie spends summers on the Spit and winters going from protest to protest, also hears voices in her head.
Friday, June 01, 2012
Lest you think I am ungrateful, consider the track record of our would-be saviors:
- Organizing "open carry" events so that everyone could see them prancing about with their guns on their hips
- Cox showing up while police searched a house due to hang up 911 call, armed and wearing a vest, and walking in to the search area without informing the police he was carrying
- Domestic violence
- Convening a 'trial" at the local Denny's
Following the progress of the Schaeffer Cox trial has been fascinating in a "rubber-necking at the sheer nuttery of it all" kind of way. The ideology he and his followers have been spouting, while shocking, has a familiar ring to it, as one of my uncles used to spout similar nonsense years ago. I mean, this crap has been around for years, particularly amongst folks who don't like to pay taxes. More troubling is the link to some of the grandaddies of militant right-wing nuttery, Norm Olson for instance, formerly of the Michigan Militia. And lucky us, he now lives down on the Kenai Peninsula.
But while my uncle believed the U.S. Post Office to be unconstitutional, the IRS to be unconstitutional, and wanted the U.S. to get back on the gold standard, he was a gentle kind of crazy. He didn't stockpile a bunch of weapons (although it was a point of disagreement on our part about whether anyone should be able to own an anti-aircraft gun.) Most of the family just kind of worked around the crazy, cutting off any political talk before it got burdensome for the non-sovereign citizen in the conversation. My aunt surreptiously worked out an arrangement with the postman to get mail delivered to their house.
Once, when I tried to pay him back for buying something we needed at the house, I made the mistake of referring to the amount owed as 50 dollars. This prompted a lengthy bit of exposition on his part on how the cash I was offering was not, in fact, dollars. The conversation did not end well. "Look, just please shut and take these green pieces of paper meant to represent the value of a dollar, already," I asked. He took the cash.
Frankly, I doubt that a group of armed thugs in uniforms with the unintentionally Orwellian moniker of "Peacemakers", and hewing to a particularly rigid interpretation of Christianity, will take too kindly to my liberal, leftie, libertarianish gay self. I don't suspect their impromptu civil government will be very concerned with my rights, property or otherwise. I wonder, in the society they imagine, will they let people like myself who don't agree with them hold on to our guns?
I doubt it.
Monday, April 30, 2012
For those of you from Outside, (and thanks Immmoral Minority for the traffic!), we here in the locale of the Goldstream Valley trend a bit more left than a lot of Greater Redneckia.
You wouldn't know to look at us, with our typical Alaskana: beards, pickups, carharrts, bunny boots, guns, sled dog yards, etc. But they are matched, in a weird oddball blend, with Subarus and hybrids, tattoos, dreadlocks, nice older folks who lived out here when you could still hunt here a few decades ago, libertarians, grad students, Teamsters, hippies, bluegrass musicians, the new Goths, and a few Ural-driving peeps. Chicken were "in" here long before it became all the rage in Brooklyn.
It's the real Alaska you don't see on the teevee, usually, where the fundamental rule is "live and let live." You can be a raging fundamentalist religious-type out here, again, it's do what you do but don't bother/harm anybody else... unless of course you buy the one local little store out here and then break state labor law and all common sense.
See, it's basically liberals with guns. Ester is not much different, though, perhaps weirder, with a better bar. The two CDPs (census designated places) tend to vote Democrat, though I'd hazard a guess that we are mostly all undeclared voters. (Like most of Alaska. Look it up!) Now that it is time for the redistricting board to redraw the lines, every plan proffered by the Redistricting Board has removed Goldstream and Ester and put us with the gigantic boundary of House District 38.
Nothing wrong with HD 38. It encompasses an awful lot of my favorite part of Alaska. But we don't belong in it. The problem is, how to get each House District to something near (there is a certain amount of deviation allowed) to 17,755 inhabitants as urban areas (the roadbelt in particular) continues to grow.
I can see their point (if by "their", we pay particular note to Jim Holm)... this is an excellent opportunity to rid themselves of some pesky non-Republicans. And gerrymandering has been abused by both politicians since the 1800s.
(to be continued, as I have a day job) But next time:
The Kawasaki finger & Back in the Day
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
...now there is the crotch bump, brought to us courtesy of TSA.
If you haven’t experienced one yet, it’s a sweeping upward motion during the pat down that lands squarely up against one’s genitals. I am thinking the fact that it’s done with the back of the hand isn’t doing much for me.
In fact the whole front/back of hand thing is puzzling. I don’t quite get how the back of a hand is less invasive than the front of the hand. Touch is touch. Someone sweeping the backs of their hands across my boobs is the same to me as someone sweeping the back of their hands. I get that this is a sop to keep the offended amongst us from reaching a fever pitch of protest that they might have to respond to– but still.
A grope is a grope is a grope.
My very first crotch bump occurred here at the ‘Banks – right after they installed Captain Marvel’s magic ray machine (aka the full-body scanner). I figured it was an accident – the result of an over-zealous, slightly clumsy TSA’er unaccustomed to doing full-body pat downs.
But now, having endured crotch bumps at various airports across the US of A, I conclude that, like zip lock baggies and 3-ounce gels, it is here to stay. Yet another development in this whole crazed process that does nothing to enhance our safety, but does everything to keep us in our places.
As a related aside, I routinely opt out of stepping into Captain Marvel’s magic ray machine. I do this because, yes I travel a lot and no, I don’t believe that just because the government gives it its safety imprimatur, it truly is. But mostly I do it because it is the last crumbling vestige of choice or individuality I can exert going through the cattle chute that American air transportation has become.
As it is, I am missing the lovely 60 degrees in the Squarebanks due to work related-travel to chillier climes out on the coast. But the daylight, even without warmth, is hitting me. This will be the year for chicken raising! I will weed the garden! I will again rant and rave for the sake of lefty puppies, kittens, and rainbows... Or something like that.
So, yes, we're not dead yet over here at FBH. Just finally recovered from the whole Palin thing -- Flic and I are back.
Note: Of course, having not even read a blog in months, (months!), I pilfered a title from the Ester Republic without even knowing it. Apologies Deirdre... glad to know you are Not Dead Yet, either.
Note 2: Expect weird formatting to show up as we attempt to update the design of the blog.