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August 28, 2016

Looking for the Tree of Knowledge in Homer

ZachDRoberts-Cross

Originally published in ADN.com I’m spending a few typical August days with my parents in Homer. There’s lots of catching up to do with old classmates or the random co-worker from my teenage job at the Sourdough Bakery. Lots of fishing and addressing what we refer to as Pop’s “halibut insecurity” when the freezer levels dip below a certain amount. I’m writing this column while mom, a retired primary teacher, is volunteering at the local elementary school to organize backpacks for children who don’t have what they need to start school next week. Pop and I have been discussing what…

Wasilla Republican Threatens Bull With Kitchen Knife For Your Vote

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“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” that was Joni Ernst just months before she become Congresswoman Joni Ernst. America seems to like someone threatening to cut the balls off of livestock. The television ad, titled “Squeal” caused quite a bit of conversation, but that was an election seasons that had soon to be elected officials firing guns at tax code and printed versions of legislation… it wasn’t the worst ad of the 2014 political season. I’m not sure if Alaska State Senate candidate Lynn Gattis was going for…

Instead of Building a Wall, Build a Mirror

Trump8-7

The Republican Party has been passing legislation for years that falls in line with what its nominee Donald Trump says. It’s anti-Muslim, homophobic, misogynistic, racist and rejects science. He’s actually the embodiment of Republican policy. Now Trump has mocked the pain of the parents of Capt. Humayun Kahn, a Muslim soldier who was killed in the Iraq War. He taunted Mrs. Kahn for not speaking from the stage of the Democratic National Convention. She didn’t speak because of her grief, not her religion, as he had not-too-subtlely suggested. Trump wants to ban Muslims from coming to America. He blamed President…

Bird of the Week – Eurasian Bullfinch

Eurasian Bullfinch Female, Fairbanks, 1996

There are some birds that are vagrants, birds that turn up in Alaska but have no business – or anyone to breed with – in the area. Maybe the migration instructions in their brains got wired wrong; maybe they are pioneers trying to expand the range. We’ll be looking at some vagrants intermittently the next few months. This isn’t a very good photo, but it is unique in one way: it’s the one of the first bird photos WC took. In 1996, an Eurasian Bullfinch female turned up at a feeder on Rosie Creek Road, outside of Fairbanks, in the dark…

Bird of the Week – Great Blue Heron

Great Blue fishing the shoreline, Valdez

The Great Blue Heron is visual evidence that birds did indeed evolve from dinosaurs; when you see a Great Blue in flight, you can almost think you are seeing a pterodactyl. Great Blues are found in Alaska throughout Southeast and in Southcentral Alaska as far west as Seward. There are irregular reports from Cook Inlet. While Great Blues are equally at home in marine and freshwater environments, in Alaska they are mostly marine and estuarine.   Although this is primarily a fish eater, wading (often belly deep) along the shoreline of oceans, marshes, lakes, and rivers, it also hunts upland areas for rodents…

Thank You, Johnny Ellis

JohnnyEllis

I was thinking about the retirement of Sen. Johnny Ellis this week. He has served Alaska for more than half the years we’ve been a state. It’s not a secret that I’m one of his most ardent fans and I am considering asking him for an 8-by-10 signed glossy photo to put on my desk to help me get through next year’s “Gavel to Gavel”coverage.  I wasn’t able to attend his retirement party because the sockeye were flooding Tutka Lagoon and they wouldn’t wait or find my fish smoker by themselves. I used to have a standard summer rant. It…

Bird of the Week – Snow Goose

Snow Geese, Creamer's Field, Fairbanks

The Snow Goose is one of the most abundant waterfowl species in North America, maybe in the world. Oddly, it doesn’t occur in great abundance in Alaska. (Bonus points for identifying the four other species in this photo.) But they do range west as far as Interior Alaska during spring migration, although not every year.  There are breeding birds in the northeastern corner of Alaska’s Arctic coast, but generally Snow Geese breed in far northern Canada. Snow Geese have two color morphs – thought to be different species until 1983. The white morph, shown here, is overwhelmingly the more common…

Juneau, Like An Outhouse On Fire

FireOuthouse

I like parables. They were my favorite sermons growing up. Oh, look! A story that has a problem and a lesson in it. What a cool way to make a point. Sometimes life presents its own parables and I try to pay attention. This week my watery cul de sac presented such a story. It has to do with something we don’t like to talk about often, but hold your nose and we’ll get through this together. Rural Alaska has a waste issue. Most people on the road system flush their toilets and – well – who knows – it…

Weekend Off – News You Missed

AKRiver

Alaska KNOM – First Evidence of Ancient Trade With Asia Uncovered in Northwest Alaska There’s new evidence that metal goods from central Asia made their way to Alaska long before contact with Europeans. Juneau Empire – After Legislature quits with work undone, Governor calls them back At 11:46 a.m. Sunday, the Alaska Senate adjourned the fourth special session of the 29th Alaska Legislature. Forty minutes later, Gov. Bill Walker issued a proclamation stating that the fifth special session will begin on July 11. On its agenda will be three items: Using the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay…

Reverse Robin Hood Economics

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I’ve watched a particular boat for the last several years. It’s a 15-and-a-half-foot wooden boat built decades ago by my neighbor Dick Dunn. The little boat sat submerged, tied to a piling, during most tides. Barnacles and blue mussels took up residence and seemed quite happy shacked up from bow to stern. See, another neighbor had acquired the boat and got pretty busy with a million projects. It happens. Every time I drove past that forgotten vessel, it made me a tiny bit sad. The boat had been built for a wonderful woman here on the bay who has since…