December 07, 2008

A rainy rock-n-roll weekend

The weather in Homer has taken a turn for the nasty the last few days, with freezing rain replacing the snow we got last week and making the streets (especially the steep side street we live on) slick and dangerous.

So what to do when winter gets oppressive? Well, turn to music, of course. 

I didn't get any pics of Three Legged Mule at the Down East on Thanksgiving weekend, which is probably a good thing as I got a wee bit tipsy with Nova and Uncle Dave, but I did take the camera to the Dan Bern show at Alice's on Thursday. 

I had never seen Dan before. He was great.

My homegirl Shannyn Moore drove down from A-town just for the show. Here she is with Dan and Marhall Crenshaw afterwards.

Saturday night it was Nova and my turn. I fired up the vocal amp and we took turns entertaining Otto and Alice.


For those lucky few who have heard Nova sing, you know she's got wicked pipes and an innovative style. That, and her goulash, is why I married her.

And yes ... that IS duct tape holding the microphone together.

Otto (wearing one sock and no pants) was more interested in playing with Mommy's hair thingy, however. Heathen.

December 04, 2008

Homer News roundup, 12/4

 Hydro project to tap Homer's drinking water

A combination of high energy costs and Homer's unique geography have led city officials to believe the city's main water lines, which descend into town more than 1,000 feet from Bridge Creek Reservoir, should be used to generate hydroelectric power. Now, with $39,000 in local and state funding in hand, engineers can get started on the project, the only one of its kind in Alaska … (read more)

Council may dish up some food tax to balance budget

Faced with a sharp decline in projected revenues, an estimated 68 percent increase in fuel costs and a looming deadline to finalize the Fiscal Year 2009 budget, the Homer City Council held a special meeting Monday to hash out various proposals to mitigate the city's financial challenges.

One idea, supported by council members Dennis Novak, Bryan Zak and Francie Roberts, is to continue at least some taxation of non-prepared foods between Sept. 1 and May 31 … (read more)

Black gunk that fouled heaters, frustrated repairmen identified

Last winter, a mysterious black gunk that clogged up the fuel screens of oil heaters baffled repairmen and fuel companies. After Petro Marine started distributing ultra-low sulfur fuel in early 2008, repairmen saw service calls go from a half-dozen to hundreds.

"I've been basically on the front lines of this," said John Ferrell, "The Toyo Man," who repairs Toyo brand heaters, last winter … (read more)

Homer News, other papers like it, thrive as industry falters

You may have heard the APRN report a couple of weeks ago: "The owner of the Juneau Empire, the Homer News and the Peninsula Clarion is in financial trouble. The papers are all owned by Morris Publishing Group in Georgia. One analyst says there's a greater than a 50 percent chance Morris will have to default on its debts." Since then, concerned readers have called and e-mailed, asking: What does it mean? What's going on? Is everyone OK?

First, thanks for your concern. Life at the Homer News is good -- busy and good … (read more)

A blog by any other name ...

Anchorage radio mouth Dan Fagan has started an Alaska news/politics/opinion website/blog. It's called The Alaska Standard.

Here's what my buddy BJK over at the Press has to say about the new site:

 Alaska Standard’s slogan is “Raising the banner of journalism in Alaska,” of which Fagan says, “that’s in regard to shaking loose some of that bias and giving both sides of the story,” noting “I think we’ve got some great journalists in this state, but I do believe that bias is pretty obvious and injected into a lot of mainstream media outlets.”

In recent days The Alaska Standard’s stories have criticized the Anchorage Assembly’s approval of five-year contracts for labor unions, noted the Permanent Fund’s $10 billion drop in recent months, and taken the Daily News to task for perceived support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s offer of heating oil to rural Alaskans.

While Flashlight doesn’t always agree with the opinions offered on The Alaska Standard, we have to applaud Fagan’s ambition, especially in the wake of the loss of the long-running conservative Voice of the Times website. And we enthusiastically agree with Fagan on one point: “I think the more, the better; everyone’s going to have their own little niche,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”

A cursory glance at The Alaska Standard reveals it to be ... well ... a blog.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It's filled with opinions, many of them unattributed, like the one in their article about the Anchorage Assembly that the  Assembly is an "arrogant, self-absorbed bunch of buffoons." 

Again ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

I agree with the Press's and Fagan's assessment that there's plenty of room in the marketplace of ideas for a site like this. It may fill the void left by the Voice of the Times (of which I was a big fan and daily reader) and it's always a good thing to have as many ideas and opinions out there as possible. That's the beauty of the "series of tubes" and blogs in particular. 

I love political blogs and read every one that's listed on the left side of this page.

I guess the problem I have is when ambitious sites like this declare their intention to "raise the banner of journalism" and pretend to be something they are not. 

Let me try to be clear on this, as I think I have a special perspective on this as both a journalist and as the former publisher of one of the first politically-oriented websites in Alaska. The argument that many bloggers, AM radio talk show hosts and "citizen journalists" seem to be making is that the mainstream media is so full of biased and political bent, it's up to them to put out information and reporting to counter it. 

And that's just fine. Put out your opinion. Get your thoughts into the marketplace of ideas. But remember one thing: there is, and always will be, a place for trained journalists, folks who spend all of their time chasing the stories that matter to their community and trying to present them in an unfiltered, unbiased way. Sure, journalists have political ideals of their own and sometimes it's difficult to keep those biases from creeping into stories. But every journo I know ALWAYS has that fact in mind and holds close to their heart the true purpose of their profession: to serve their community.

Journalists, unlike bloggers, always have their bylines attached to what they write and face consequences for getting facts wrong or for painting a story in a slanted way.

You are a blog, Alaska Standard, as are the rest of Alaska's political opinion blogs. Go with it. You are not trained journalists, you are sellers of a political idealogy. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

November 23, 2008

@ Mariner Park, 11/22

It was a beautiful evening out at Mariner Park last night, with the setting sun lighting up the bay and the clouds in shades of pink and violet. We weren't out there long - it was pretty cold and we were underdressed - but I got a few photos.

Homer knows how to smile for the camera.

Alice the speed machine.

When little Otto is in the baby backpack, one of his favorite games is to try to take Mommy's hat off.

Nova and Otto head off into the sunset.

Anybody know what this thing is? I'm still learning my sea creatures and I've never seen one of these before.

November 21, 2008

Turkey meets its maker as Palin talks to reporters

This video is going viral today (691,529 views on YouTube as of 12:30 today). In it, Governor Palin talks to reporters at a "turkey pardoning" event in the Valley. Behind her, turkeys are being shoved upside down into some sort of a funnel contraption. I'm not exactly sure what's going on back there because the guy with blood all over his pants is in the way but the turkeys don't come out alive. It gets interesting at the 1:06 mark when the turkey executioner produces a new victim.

I post this not to defend turkeys (I plan to cook one up on Turkey Day just like everyone else) nor to poke fun at the Governor (although I personally maybe would have moved over a few feet for a TV interview).

I post it only because it is truly bizarre. Enjoy.

November 19, 2008

Homer News Roundup, 11/20

Congratulations, Sen.-elect Begich

Congratulations to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, now U.S. Sen.-elect Mark Begich, for his victory over Ted Stevens. It was not an easy race, but Begich won in 25 of Alaska's 40 legislative districts, among them District 35, which includes Homer … (read more)

Gas soon may be flowing to Homer

Homer's long wait for a consistent supply of natural gas may finally be nearing an end as two gas companies -- Armstrong Cook Inlet LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, and Anchorage-based Enstar Natural Gas Co. -- have agreed in principle to build a pipeline to ship the commodity from wells in the North Fork area … (read more)

More questions than answers in Saturday's fire

The victim of a Saturday afternoon fire on Diamond Ridge still had not been identified as of Wednesday afternoon. Firefighters found the badly burned remains of a person inside the cabin, which burned to the ground, at 40495 Misty Ridge Road, a side street on Diamond Ridge Road near the Hickerson Memorial Cemetery … (read more)

Council prepares to move ahead with traffic signal

At its next regular meeting, scheduled for Monday, the Homer City Council will be faced with a choice -- whether or not to officially direct a $2 million state grant toward construction of a traffic signal at the corner of Main Street and the Sterling Highway … (read more)

Carey names top administrators

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey has named two long-time borough employees to department head positions in his administration. Their appointments were confirmed by the assembly Tuesday night. Carey tapped Jack Maryott as director of the borough's Solid Waste Department and David Tressler was named director of the borough's Maintenance Department … (read more)

Tibetan abbot returns to Homer this weekend

Floating Leaf Sangha, which means "community," brings Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche to Homer for two days of Buddhist spiritual teaching Saturday and Sunday. This is Rinpoche's sixth visit to Homer, said Ken Bergman, a Floating Leaf member who, along with Debbie Poore, coordinates teacher visits … (read more)

November 18, 2008

Berkowitz concedes

From a Berkowitz campaign press release this afternoon:

Following the apparent counting of most ballots, Democratic candidate Ethan Berkowitz is congratulating Rep. Don Young.  “I called Congressman Young and his wife, Lu, this afternoon to wish them well on what will be their 19th term in Congress,” said Berkowitz.  

“I have been privileged to earn the support of so many Alaskans,” said Berkowitz, who received more votes than any Democratic candidate in state history, prior to this election.  

“I’m proud we ran a race that elevated the quality and tone of a campaign, and one that focused on issues and values.  Though the 2008 campaign has come to an end, the need to solve problems of high energy costs, affordable health care, and economic opportunity endures.  I will continue to fight for Alaska and these goals into the future.”

Begich lead over Stevens grows

"Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich's lead over Sen. Ted Stevens is growing in today's ballot count in the race for U.S. Senate. The latest numbers, issued just before 1 p.m., show Begich up by 2,374 votes.

The Division of Elections expects to release more numbers between 4 and 5 p.m."

November 16, 2008

The Frozen Swamp "Trail" Expedition

So yesterday we decided to take our neighbor's advice and go for a nature walk through the woods into town. Our neighbor, Nantia, lives just down the street from us and has a large spread with a great view of the mountains (we seem to be the only people in Homer who don't have a view of the mountains). Nantia also has several animals on her property, including goats, roosters, a pair of surly geese and a legion of noisy ducks who follow the geese like cult worshippers. 

We put on our boots and warm clothes and loaded Otto, bundled up in his snowsuit, into the baby backpack before we set off on  our adventure. First, we went to Nantia's house, where we ran into her and her son. Nantia gave us general directions on how to take the trail leading away from her house into town.

Maybe we should've taken the "No Trespassing" sign as a ... um ... sign.

The duck zealots and their geese dictators are aggressive and must be warded off with a spruce branch (Nova took care of this while I cowered in fear behind her).

We stopped briefly to say hi to the goats before heading into the unknown.

"Just follow the sewer line trail," said Nantia.

So we did, and learned pretty quickly how swampy the terrain was. It would be impassable in the summer (unless one were to employ hipwaders, maybe) but was frozen enough to have a stable, walkable crust of ice on top of standing water. I would soon find out just how deep the water was.

This abandoned minibike kind of seemed like a bad omen, too.

After following the sewer line path for awhile, it just sort of petered out and we had to start choosing from a selection of game trails. We tried to stick close to the woodline (we were getting closer to Beluga Lake, which we could see in the distance) and maintain a west by northwesterly direction.

Although we weren't carrying a compass, we were never in danger of becoming lost in the thick woods and swampland, as we could see the bright Sun to our left and the Homer bench to our right. When we started to catch glimpses of Beluga Lake, we decided to head in it's direction, with the thought that we could travel more easily on the lake than we could on the increasingly unstable swamp ice.

When we came out of the woods and into the marsh surrounding Beluga Lake (pictured above) the view improved and the footing worsened. Right at the moment I was warning Nova to be careful of thin ice, my right foot broke through and Kersploosh! ... I was in the ice cold water up to my knee.


We decided to turn back and go the way we came, with the hopes of finding an alternate trail into town. My foot was wet but not too cold so I decided I could make it into town and maybe pick up a pair of dry socks at Ulmer's. After about an hour of trying various trails through all kinds of terrain, we ended up at Paul Banks Elementary School.

So we decided to play on the swings for a little while.

And the slide.

And then we said "screw it" and took the road back home, where we took naps and had Hamburger Helper for dinner. 

So we didn't complete our goal of taking the backwoods into town on a Saturday afternoon, but we did see our friend Nantia, played with some goats, walked through a quiet forest and saw some terrific scenery on the shores of Beluga Lake. 

November 14, 2008

BREAKING: Natural gas headed to Homer, says Enstar

This story broke earlier today …

Armstrong, Enstar agree to send North Fork gas to Homer

Homer's long wait for a consistent supply of natural gas may finally be nearing an end as two gas companies - Armstrong Cook Inlet LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, and Anchorage-based Enstar Natural Gas Co. - have agreed in principle to build a pipeline to ship the commodity from wells in the North Fork area.

"They have positive results," said Enstar spokesman Curtis Thayer of Armstrong's two North Fork wells after a Thursday meeting between the two companies. "They have gas they would like to sell and it is commercially viable. From the preliminary discussion, it looks like Homer is the best opportunity for that gas."

Homer businesses and residents who presently rely on heating oil would stand to save a third of their heating expenses with a supply of natural gas, said Thayer, but he cautioned that no formal agreement has yet been reached and many hurdles still stand in the way.

Click here to read the rest and stay tuned to for updates.

November 13, 2008

Legendary drummer Mitch Mitchell dead at 61

Mitch Mitchell, the Afro-sporting skinny little white dude who sat behind the skins for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was found dead yesterday in a Portland, OR hotel room. Not much detail is yet available as to the circumstances of his death, other than he appeared to be in poor health earlier that night at a show.

All three members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience have now passed. Here's an obit from the Guardian UK.

Most people, even a lot of Hendrix fans, probably don't know a whole lot about Mitchell. He was a former child actor turned jazz musician who was selected in 1966, along with bassist Noel Redding, to back up Hendrix. Unlike Redding, he continued to record and perform with Hendrix late into his career, even when Hendrix's style changed from psychedelic pop to a more soul kind of a feel. He was one of Hendrix's closest confidants and most important collaborators. 

He was an awesome drummer and a true innovator. He mixed furious jazz fills around Hendrix's blues and psychedelic songs, playing an "around the beat" style that was the perfect compliment to the genius frontman. I've never heard a drummer quite like Mitch Mitchell. I've always though he was underrated and I think he deserves to be remembered as one of the great rock drummers of all time.

He'll be missed.

November 12, 2008

Homer News roundup, 11/13

In this week's Homer News:

Pioneer Avenue break-ins continue

A string of burglaries of downtown businesses continued as two more Pioneer Avenue businesses were broken into last week -- one for the second time since May. Burglaries were discovered last Friday morning at Bay Realty and the Homer Bookstore, across the street from each other near the intersection of Pioneer Avenue and Svedlund Street … (read more)

Armstrong, Enstar plan well's future

A decades-long desire to secure a consistent natural gas supply to Homer could take an important step forward today when officials from Armstrong Cook Inlet LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Armstrong Oil and Gas, and Anchorage-based Enstar Natural Gas Co. meet to discuss the potential of a newly drilled successful gas well between Homer and Anchor Point … (read more)

Homer's reps get leadership posts in Juneau

Homer will have friends in high places in the upcoming 26th Alaska Legislature, as its two representatives in Juneau, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, have been named to prominent legislative positions … (read more)

Redoubt advisory issued

The Alaska Volcano Observatory last week changed the volcano alert level for Redoubt Volcano to advisory, with an aviation code level of yellow. In a notice issued Nov. 5, AVO said it changed the alert level due to changes in gas emission and heat output from the volcano about 82 miles west of Kenai in Lake Clark National Park on the west side of Cook Inlet … (read more)

Leak closes Haven House shelter

A plumbing breakdown that started with a child's toy clogging a toilet has closed the shelter at South Peninsula Haven House since late October. Several bathrooms, a bedroom and the kitchen were damaged by water overflowing from the broken plumbing … (read more)

Obama's win fulfills dream for all civil rights activists

I am a son of the South, born in Charlottesville, Va., and raised in Tampa, Fla. I also am a son of the segregated South. Growing up in Tampa before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, I remember segregated water fountains, segregated beaches, segregated swimming pools and segregated schools. All over the South in the 1960s, you saw Confederate flags on license plates, flown over homes or incorporated into state flags … (read more)

Carey, Chumley right to quit HEA positions

Those involved in government at all levels are hammered when the public perceives they're doing something wrong. When those same people do something right, it deserves to be noted. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey and his Chief of Staff Hugh Chumley did the right thing by resigning from their seats on the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors earlier this week … (read more)

Begich leads by three votes (UPDATE: Make that 814 votes)

That's right, folks ... three votes.

That's with just over half of the absentee/early ballots counted today. The Divisions of Elections is saying they'll have the rest counted in the next week. By law, the have to be done by Nov. 19. After that, a recount is about certain.

Trivia question: what happens if it's a tie? (Hint: this actually happened in a legislative race in 2006)

UPDATE: Begich's lead is now up to 814 votes. Thanks to Liz Villareal for paying attention.

November 11, 2008

Will early voters decide important AK races?

Tomorrow is the day the state Division of Elections will count the majority of early and absentee votes. It's astonishing that so many Alaskans (more than 90,000) voted early or absentee this year. Homer shattered the record for early voting, as did most other communities statewide.  

The big question on most Alaskans' minds tomorrow will be whether or not Mark Begich ends up with a lead over Stevens when the counting is done. With a relatively slim lead of 3,353 votes, the Stevens camp is likely nervous right about now. Although it remains to be seen whether they will outperform the Republicans in turning out early voters, one thing is for sure - the state Democratic Party put on the full court press this year attempting to get their people to vote early. I am not, and have never been, a registered Democrat but I got at least a dozen snazzy, full-color (and expensive) mailers from the ADP throughout the campaign season, imploring me to vote early. We'll see if the effort payed off.  

One question floating around the newsroom today was this: is it even remotely possible for Ethan Berkowitz, who is down by a seemingly insurmountable 8-point margin to Don Young, to make up the difference with early/absentee votes?

Shannyn Moore has a good post on the subject here, describing the scene today of various campaign operatives fretting over the vote-counting. 

"It feels like 2000 Bush-Gore around here," she says.

More tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a link to the division's official count.

November 08, 2008

@ Kachemak Selo, 11/8

One of Homer's nicknames, "The End of the Road," would more aptly apply to the Old Believer community of Kachemak Selo. Situated at the head of Kachemak Bay, about 25 miles from Homer on East End Road, the little village is one of the most picturesque places in Alaska. It would probably get a lot more visitors if it wasn't for the final stretch of road leading in: an extremely steep, winding switchback that tests the bravest of drivers. 

But the Old Believers there, who originally split from those in Nikolaevsk, seem to prefer it that way. There is still a "Private Property" sign posted on the road leading into the village, although we have been there several times and have never felt unwelcome. 

Kachemak Selo has become one of our favorite places in the Homer area. We stayed on the beach just to the east of the village this time (there are vast cattle pastures in the area) and didn't get any photos of the village.

NOTE: The first five of these photos got cropped funny when I uploaded them. I'm still working out some bugs with blogspot getting photos, text and links to format the way I want them to. Bear with me. I'll figure something out.

Kachemak pigeon

The area just past Kechemak Selo is a wetlands.

Alice + wide open spaces = happiness.

My hot wife, Nova.

Think the Subaru corporation might be interested in this photo?

Barbed wire fencing marks the boundary of cattle pastures.

We look cold.

November 06, 2008

Election night wrap-up (with new photos)

OK, I'll admit it ... when I was at Alice's Tuesday night, snapping photos and taking interviews, I had to stop for a moment when MSNBC called the election for Barack Obama. I put my notebook and camera down and just soaked it in for a minute.

It was intense, the feeling that a tide has turned in this country ... that we as Americans have embraced something new and taken a bold step into uncharted territory. It's been said a million times in the last couple of days, but it's true: this was an historic moment. At Alice's, filled to capacity with Obama supporters, there were tears, hugs and yelling and screaming.

It was pretty cool. Here's the full story.

And here are a few photos ...

Frani Scheffel makes a few last minute "get out the vote" calls at Democratic Party HQ on Election Day.

Amy Christiansen makes her voice heard across Pioneer Avenue from a McCain/Palin rally.

11-year-old McCain supporter Trevor Luchaco and his buddy Dakota Alward (left) shout, "Don't be insane! Vote for McCain!" at passers-by on Pioneer Avenue.

Alice's was the place to be Tuesday night for Obama supporters. Here they are, waitng ... waiting ... waiting ...

"Barack Obama elected president"

I didn't get these folks' names, but they were pretty representative of what was gong on at Alice's - tears and hugs all around. What a night.

Can you dig it?!!

Remember The Warriors (circa 1979)? Thanks to Neil for turning me on to this little YouTube gem ...

Homer News election roundup, 11/6

In this week's Homer News ...

Obama takes nation; McCain wins Homer

Homer joined the nation Tuesday in becoming part of one of the most exciting election campaigns in American history an election still being pondered as Alaskans weighed the significance of the first African-American president-elect, Sen. Barack Obama, and the elevation of Gov. Sarah Palin to the national scene … (read more)

Seaton wins fourth term

Homer Republican Rep. Paul Seaton was re-elected to a fourth term Tuesday, besting Democratic challenger and political newcomer Philip Alderfer by a wide margin. Of 5,269 votes cast in the race for House District 35, Seaton received 3,656 votes, or 69.4 percent, to Alderfer's 1,601. Those numbers do not include votes cast by absentee ballots, which will be counted by Nov. 14 … (read more)

Homer votes early in record numbers

Following a growing statewide and national trend, hundreds of Homer residents voted early in the 2008 general election. According to the Homer city clerk's office, 1,237 people, or roughly 9 percent of the District 35 electorate, cast their votes early at Homer City Hall, where absentee-in-person voting began Oct. 20 … (read more)

Peninsula re-elects incumbents

Incumbent Republican Sen. Tom Wagoner finished election night with a very healthy lead in the race in Alaska Senate District Q, but there are so many absentee ballots yet to be counted that numerically, at least, it is still possible for him to lose to his Democratic Party opponent Nels Anderson … (read more)

November 04, 2008

Here we go ...

This day has been coming for a long time and it feels as historic as it's been billed.

I'm going to be putting in a long, long day today, covering the Alderfer-Seaton race, local Democrats at their Ocean Drive HQ and the reaction at Alice's Champagne Palace later tonight. I won't be able to blog until tomorrow, probably, but I wanted to at least post a link to the City of Homer's election page, in case some of you need some last-minute election information.

Now get out there and vote.

November 02, 2008

12 reasons to quit Daylight Savings Time in Alaska

Lynn Willis, the guy that runs this site - - used to call in to my show frequently, especially when Daylight Savings Time rolled around. For the most part I agree with him that, in the Land of the Midnight Sun, it's hard to justify a need to change our clocks twice a year. I understand the main argument that it helps us carry on business with Seattle and the rest of the U.S., but it's still silly. Because of DST, sunset in Homer tonight was an hour earlier. Bummer.

Here are Lynn's Top 12 reasons to quit DST in Alaska:

1. Alaskans live in " The land of the Midnight Sun".

2. Instant time change disturbs sleep patterns which creates a state sponsored "jet lag".

3. There is no longer a compelling need to impact every Alaskan twice each year with this law.

4. With creation of the single Alaskan Time Zone in 1983  most of Alaska went  on  permanent DST.

5. When we advance clocks each year, we create" double" DST in most of Alaska which causes a two hour difference between "sun time" and "clock time" in the rail belt region including Fairbanks and Anchorage and three hours in Western Alaska communities and villages.

6. Advances in communication technology now allow business and personal contact 24/7 to anywhere in the nation or world.

7. Alaska will be in a different time zone with or without DST.

8. Alaska now does business with the Pacific Far East where DST is not used.

9. No Alaskan utility claims a savings of energy by use of DST which is why the Federal Government allows its use in those states that opt to use DST (Hawaii and Arizona don't use DST).

10. Changing every time keeping device in homes and businesses, including indoor mechanical heating/cooling/security systems, is expensive and time consuming.

11. DST doesn't affect the many devices now  using  photoelectric sensors that respond to ambient light,  not the time of day.

12. Thousands of Alaskans signed a petition asking to vote on this issue and polling data from Dittman Research and Hellenthal & Associates shows majority of Alaskans would support ending DST use in Alaska.

Little Red Devil

We had fun at the Halloween celebration at Homer High School Friday night. Appropriately, Otto went as a little devil and Nova and I, because we are lame, didn't dress up at all. Afterward, we waited patiently for trick-or-treaters, but only had three (perhaps because our house is at the bottom of a big hill?).

Here are a couple of photos of little  Satan, Jr.

As usual, you can see more at my Flickr page.

October 31, 2008

The best friend Sarah Palin ever had

 Tony Hopfinger, former Anchorage Press editor and a brilliant Alaskan journalist who now writes for Newsweek and operates the Alaska Dispatch site with Amanda Coyne, has a couple of interesting new Palin tidbits.

First, Hopfinger recounts a source telling him about a visit by Palin to the home of former Veco CEO and convicted felon Bill Allen. The source, a former Veco employee, says the meeting took place in 2001, the summer before Palin’s unsuccessful run for Lt. Governor (she lost to The Undertaker - Loren Leman). Palin received at least $5,000 in campaign contributions from Allen and his employees during that race.

According to Hopfinger’s source, Palin and Allen shared a bottle of wine during the visit. I wonder if she drove home?

Second, Hopfinger poses a question that came up in the newsroom here in Homer as soon as Palin officially called on Ted Stevens to resign.

Is Palin setting herself up to take Ted’s seat?

Such an act, the legalities of which are being pondered by the Department of Law, would be even more arrogant than Frank Murkowski appointing his daughter to fill his own seat in 2002.

Which brings me to a point of my own.

I have stayed out of the Palin fray for the most part since she was chosen as McCain’s running mate - partly because my role at the Homer News has only enough room for me to do stories like this on the subject, but mostly because I didn’t really have anything to add that wasn’t being said by someone else.

I’ve met Palin a few times and interviewed her on my radio program, going back to the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary. She’s a charming person - affable, friendly and a good interview. She did, in 2006, strike me as someone who didn’t know enough about oil and gas issues (particularly the state of gasline negotiations at that time) to be a truly qualified governor, but she also struck me as someone with more than enough charisma to overcome her lack of substance and win – which she did, handily.

And, to be fair, she has come a long way on oil and gas issues in her brief time as governor, proving that she can be a quick study.

There is one thing, however, that I felt – and still feel – the national media is missing when it comes to discussing the enigmatic Sarah Palin:

Frank Murkowski.

Alaskans, regardless of political stripe, know that if there were no Frank Murkowski, there would likely be no Sarah Palin. Murkowski was the most unpopular governor Alaska, or maybe even the country, has ever had – so unpopular, in fact, that he came in a distant third in his own party’s primary in 2006. From the longevity bonus to secret gasline negotiations with the oil companies to the “Bald Ego” state jet, Frank Murkowski’s one term as governor was an unmitigated disaster.

By the end of it, he had approval ratings in the low teens and was almost universally despised. He has since disappeared from public view – save a couple of bizarre appearances – and will likely not return unless he is indicted by the Feds for his associations with Bill Allen and the CBC (his former chief of staff, Jim Clark, has already pled guilty).

It’s crucial to remember, I think, that Sarah Palin rode in on the shattered mess that was the Murkowski administration and was, simply, in the right place at the right time. It’s not that she had nothing to do with her own meteoric rise – she is truly focused and ambitious – but it took very special circumstances for her to get to where she is.

You could say the same thing for Sean Parnell who, if Palin does indeed find a way to take over Stevens’ Senate seat, is my best bet to become our next governor.

October 30, 2008

Homer News roundup, 10/30

In this week’s Homer News …

Friends pay loving tribute to Homer's Julie Cessarini

It seemed like at least 100 people there, and it was a great mix of Homeroids. I haven't seen so many tie-dyed outfits together in one sitting since the 1960s … (read more)

Council looks at options: Instead of rate hike, officials to consider proposal to subsidize water, sewer system

After receiving a mostly negative reaction from members of the public and the Homer City Council about proposed 2009 increases in the city's water and sewer rates, city manager Walt Wrede decided it was time to go back to the drawing board … (read more)

Cirque du Ritz brings magic and mayhem to Pratt

With last week's Wearable Arts show inspiring Homer to dress up, what better time to put on those fancy duds than the Pratt Museum's annual Ritz fund-raiser? Over the decades, the Pratt has had "license to Ritz," "Chez Ritz," "from rags to Ritz" and been "simply black and white," some of the themes to inspire people to go all out for a gala night, Kachemak Bay style … (read more)

Museum fights city proposal to cut funding by 25 percent

If the Homer City Council follows through with a proposed plan to cut 25 percent of city funding -- or about $22,500 -- from the Pratt Museum, the city may have to take over operation of the museum itself, said Heather Beggs, the Pratt's director, to the council at their Monday regular meeting … (read more)

Editorial: Sen. Stevens has served Alaska well, but he needs to step down

Not surprisingly, Alaskans are divided on what should happen. Many continue to stand by him. Others say they can no longer support him. A growing list is calling on him to step down.

And that's exactly what should happen … (read more)

More than volleyball served: Nikolaevsk tourney spotlights sports, community's culture

The Nikolaevsk gym was just like any other for a home volleyball match -- filled with excited, pumped-up fans, homemade signs rooting on the home team and mothers with Camcorders capturing all the action. There was only one noticeable difference between the bleachers there and those of any other small Alaska school -- these fans cheered on their team, the Nikolaevsk Lady Warriors, in Russian ... (read more)

And, of course, there's much more at

October 29, 2008

Don't panic ... it's organic (hair design).

 Nova and I saw this sign next to the rolfing place in the strip mall where the Kachemak Gear Shed is located. I think it's new (the sign, at least), as I don't remember seeing it there before.

So ... um ... I hate to get all Andy Rooney on ya, but what in the heck is this "organic hair design?" Do they put bananas and/or yogurt in your hair? Bee pollen? Goat milk? Is it the hair that's supposed to be organic? (cuz I thought all hair was organic). And what does the "design" in "hair design" mean, anyway? Is there a team of architects in there drawing up blueprints for a new bob cut?

And ... does the macho Gear Shed feel a little weird living in the same strip mall as the froo-froo rolfing center and organic hair design emporium? 

I do love me some K-Bay coffee, though.

October 24, 2008

Volleyball in Nikolaevsk

One of my sports assignments this week was to cover a volleyball tournament in Nikolaevsk, one of the Russian Old Believer villages in the Homer area (it's actually about halfway between Homer and Anchor Point on North Fork Road).

The Old Believers have been in this area for decades and Nikolaevsk is the oldest of their settlements on the Kenai Peninsula. They are a relatively small group of Russian Orthodox adherents who practice a version of their religion that existed before Russian Orthodoxy merged with Greek Orthodoxy in 1652. They have been persecuted ever since, finding only temporary homes in Siberia and South America before settling in the U.S., in Oregon and here on the Kenai. 

Around here, the Old Believers are noticeable primarily because of their appearance - the men wear long beards and the women dress in bonnets and long, homemade dresses. Other than that, they live life pretty much in the 21st Century - they drive cars, shop at the Safeway, go to the movies and have jobs in town (many of the men are commercial fishermen).

They also love volleyball.

The Nikolaevsk School, in fact, fields a volleyball team - the Nikolaevsk Lady Warriors - in their beautiful gym at the school. Below are some photos of their Friday evening match against Tok, which they lost in four games. Every year, they hold a four-day volleyball tournament where teams from all over Alaska come to play. The people of the village put the players up in the school and in their homes, show them around the village and share with them their unique culture.

I have found in my few meetings with Old Believers, that they are a warm and hospitable group of people. They are friendly and gracious and willing to share their stories. I talked with many of the village women Friday and found out they are huge volleyball fans. It was a lot of fun.

There will be a full story on the tournament, including interviews with some of the players and parents, in next week's Homer News. I'll post a link here when it's available.

In the meantime, you can view the full set of photos at my Flickr page.