Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scary stories — Admitting you’ve seen a ghost may be the scariest part of spooky tales

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

It was a dark and scary night.

Dark, because it was winter in Alaska. Scary, because Mayme Ohnemus, of Cooper Landing, and her friends were hearing strange noises outside the Upper Russian Lake cabin they were camping in.

“At one point we were kind of getting spooked. We’d seen a lot of really large bears, and we heard some noises,” she said.

The ladies were enjoying their sojourn to the cabin, which they do nearly every year to play pinochle, eat and enjoy each other’s company.

It was the company of something unknown outside the cabin that they did not enjoy.
“It was pitch black out and we were trying to see what was out there without going outside,” Ohnemus said.

One of the women peered out the window. Ohnemus got up to join her. As she approached the window, her friend screamed.

“I started walking toward the window and someone was looking out the window and she said, ‘Oh man, it’s huge! It’s just huge!’” Ohnemus said.

Fear gripped the occupants of the cabin — until Ohnemus realized she was the “huge” thing approaching the window.

“I had a nightgown on, and I’m fairly large. Anyway, it turns out it was my reflection in the window. The closer I got to the window, the bigger it got,” she said.

“It was scary as heck for us. I kind of hated that I was the big thing coming toward the window.”

Ohnemus was the specter in her own spooky tale. That’s the closest thing to a ghost story the longtime Cooper Landing resident could remember.

In Alaska, hearing things go bump in the night and catching glimpses of something large and hairy in the woods are common occurrences, and often explainable as bears or moose, rather than ghosts or mythical monsters.

In all the years Gary Titus has been tracking history with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, he said he couldn’t think of any reports of monster sightings or unidentified objects, flying or otherwise.

“We’re just not that exciting here in the Kenai,” Titus said.

Or maybe we are, and people just don’t want to talk about it. Investigation of Paranormal in Alaska Web site, www.freewebs.com/iopialaska, lists several reports of eerie phenomena on the central peninsula.

There’s a list of 18 reported UFO sightings from Kenai, Cooper Landing, Sterling, Soldotna and Nikiski, the oldest in 1963 and the most recent in 2005. And there’s one reported sighting of Bigfoot, in the 1980s on Skilak Loop Road.

There also are a few reports of paranormal encounters. One states that a woman’s wailing cries were heard at night outside a cabin in Cooper Landing, and a spirit began to appear in the living room.

An unnamed person from Kenai reports on the site that they picked up a woman hitchhiker and watched her completely disappear when she got out of the car. The next night the reporter says they saw a woman standing in their bedroom, who again disappeared.

Another report at a private residence in Kasilof says there were: “Cold spots, the smell of perfume in the master bedroom, (and) a male presence in the furnace room.”

There are no names, dates, addresses or contact information listed with the reports, so there’s no way to tell whether a ghost was to blame, or if the house was perhaps just poorly insulated and someone didn’t want to admit going overboard with the Chanel No. 5.

The most elaborate report comes from Sterling, where experts purportedly recorded paranormal activity in a residence at 10 p.m. Aug. 28, 2004. The owner of the home, an unnamed woman, reported seeing a shadowy figure crawling toward her at night while she was in bed, and heard a man’s voice whisper, “I want you.”

There are recordings that can be played on the site, where a man’s voice is heard saying things like, “One more bouquet” and, “Get you people in time, Tony.”

And there are word-of-mouth stories. There’s supposedly a house in Soldotna with a reputation of having an unwelcome feel, a ghost that’s appeared near the old Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai, and unexplained disturbances in a Soldotna store where a man was killed.

Details of the stories are difficult to track down and tough to corroborate. It’s even harder to find people willing to talk about them publicly or in print.

That may be the scariest part about ghost stories these days — fear of what others might think if you say you’ve seen, heard of or believe in ghosts.

Alan Boraas, professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, said ghost stories can be very real to those who experience them.

“I personally believe that there are dimensions that science can’t really explain yet. I’m not saying that they can’t be explained or even need to be explained, but there are elements that people sense — and some sense them more than others — that are difficult to explain,” he said. “They are often put into the category of ghosts. So they’re unnerving, but nevertheless real to the person experiencing it.”

Ghost stories can carry cultural significance.

“Culturally, ghosts embody what we fear, so they become a sort of a personification of that fear, or sometimes just an essence that we fear,” he said. “So to confront the ghost is to confront the fear.”

He gave an example of “Nantina,” an evil essence that represents the fear of losing a child, from the Dena’ina culture of the Kenai Peninsula. Children were warned not to wander far at night when fog came in because it was Nantina’s breath and they might disappear.

“So that’s a way to express those fears by personifying them as Nantina, in this case, or whatever else they may be. So what’s loosely expressed as ghosts or spirits in the north will run the gamut as absolute dreaded fear up through neutral entities, up through the absolute good. It all becomes a way of expressing the values we all have,” Boraas said.

A reluctance to acknowledge a belief in ghosts could be an outgrowth of a culture clash.
“Because they can’t be predicted and understood, people are nervous to talk about them for fear of being criticized or fear of being ridiculed or whatever,” he said.

“It’s hard for one belief system to understand another belief system, so that they become satanic or evil in a different sense because they challenge your own values. Some people would believe that those things shouldn’t even be mentioned, because they become part of that thing that undermines our own belief system.” Boraas said.

Boraas didn’t have any firsthand stories to share, but did have a spirit-related story from the pre-World War II era in Kenai to relate.

Kids then, as they do today, tried to prolong bedtime by telling parents they had to go to the bathroom. Indoor plumbing hadn’t arrived in Kenai at that time, so a nighttime potty break meant visiting the outhouse.

“Parents would tell them, ‘OK, but don’t forget about the Outhouse Spirit,’” Boraas said.
As the story goes, parents would tell kids about an Outhouse Spirit that lived under the seat and was particularly active at night. It would reach up from under the seat and pull victims down into the outhouse.

“That cured them of ever having to go to the bathroom to prolong going to bed at night, and to be sure to do what they needed to do during the early hours of evening,” Boraas said. “When you’re a little kid, you know, you’d think, ‘Whoa. No, I don’t want go to the bathroom anymore.”

Now that is frightening.

Conventional wisdom — Nikiski students get political



By Naomi Hagelund
For the Redoubt Reporter

Presidential campaigns took a break from talking about economics and the Iraq War to address such weighty topics as wearing hats in school and reopening the snack bar.

Three hundred and two students acting as delegates from all 50 states had a three-hour, hands-on civics lesson in voting at the 2008 Political Mock Convention at Nikiski Middle-High School on Oct. 22.

Students were allowed to debate on 12 different issues, ranging from high school policies to state politics and federal issues. After voting on the resolutions, the student delegates heard campaign speeches from fellow students representing four different presidential candidates, and voted on the next president. John McCain got the most votes.

Bob Bird, government and U.S. history teacher at the high school, as well as candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in the upcoming election, has been staging a mock convention as part of his curriculum since 1984 in order to teach students the ins and outs of the political process.

“The goal is to let students know that just voting is not being a good citizen,” Bird said. “You have to get involved on a local level. To really be a good citizen you have to pick your party, work within it and bring the ideas to the general public. That’s what a convention does.”

The first three resolutions passed, first with students voting for the freedom to wear hats and coats in school, despite an argument from an Indiana delegate who said, “If you have your hat on and you stay warmer, then you’ll just sweat more and we’ll have to smell it.”

A senior lounge was voted in, and then a resolution reopening the snack bar was passed despite arguments that it would contribute to obesity rates and make students fall asleep in class.

The fourth resolution failed, which would have banned sexual relationships in school, including hand holding and any kind of touching. One Colorado student delegate offered his own awkwardness toward public displays of affection as a reason why the resolution should fail, but a girl representing Massachusetts responded, saying, “If schools are going to start deciding student’s morals, what’s next? Religion?”

The students next decided against lowering the smoking age, and then voted to reopen Nikiski beach access to the public. The next resolution would have required all females from 13 to 18 years of age to use birth control, enforced by the state of Alaska. Some students argued for it, saying it would save some girls from the responsibility of raising a child during their teenage years, but others said the girls should be forced to take responsibility for their own actions, and the resolution failed.

Reflecting on the need for jobs in Alaska during harsh economic times, students decided to build the Denali gas pipeline, despite other students’ protests that wildlife would be adversely affected.

Student delegates then voted against a resolution that would require people under 19 to wear a helmet while riding in a car.

Loud boos met the announcement of the next resolution, the legalization of homosexual marriage in the United States, and students voted it down.

Finally, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was allowed, and the No Child Left Behind Act was voted to be removed from Alaska.

Students said the convention was a success.

“It’s good to have and it’s fun,” said Nebraska delegate John Phillips, a senior in Bird’s government class.

Co-secretary Tyler Mabrey, who was responsible for reading resolutions and taking roll call, said she thought the convention went well, and that the juniors and seniors took the convention seriously. But she wasn’t sure about the middle school students, she said.

In the middle of the resolutions debate, three local politicians took the stage and gave the students a bit of advice. New Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey told students how they could change the world.

“Never give up your belief in God, in country, in family, in your school,” Carey said. “As long as you believe in these four things, you can believe in yourself. As long as you believe in yourself, you can truly change the world for the better by changing the way people perceive it and respond to it.”

After greeting the students with “What’s up, dogs?” Mike Chenault, Republican candidate for state House District 34, told students it was their duty and right to vote, and to make sure they research candidates and their positions. Dr. Nels Anderson, Democratic candidate for state Senate District Q, wrapped up the guest speaker segment of the convention.

The state delegates took turns announcing each of their delegates’ votes for president following the two-minute campaign speeches given about the candidates by student representatives. McCain took the election with 209 votes, Barack Obama followed with 44, Republican Ron Paul came in third with 26 and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney took 10. “Other” candidates nominated included Sarah Palin, Bob Bird, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan and Optimus Prime.

The convention precedes the upcoming presidential election and was formed as a tool to teach students how the government works.

“It really helps give our kids a chance to express their own opinions and express opinions that they discuss around the dinner table at home,” said David Means, a Nikiski High School teacher. “I think that being involved in the organization of putting the convention together from the ground up under the tutelage of Mr. Bird is an excellent thing that they wouldn’t get anyplace else.”

Gasping for answers — House Judiciary holds hearings to investigate high fuel costs

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Where fuel comes from, and how much is paid, is a question the Alaska attorney general’s office and the Alaska Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee is asking, to determine if Alaska consumers are getting a fair price.

Ed Sniffen, senior assistant attorney general, said the outcome of this investigation should supply the public with an explanation about why gas and fuel prices did not go down in Alaska when they tumbled in the states.

“We get calls every day from people saying, ‘I’m getting gouged by these gas prices,’” Sniffen said.

But Alaska doesn’t have a law regulating the profits a company can make, following the free market system in American ideology, he said.

“Yet, there was a little window of time starting in early June and lasting until early September when the prices of fuel seemed supra-competitively high, a bubble way above those levels for no specific reason,” Sniffen said. At no time in Alaska history, tracing the price of fuel back, did prices track that way.

“Every place in the nation was going down and Alaska stayed the same for a long time,” he said.

That’s when the attorney general’s office decided to start investigating the matter, conducting hearings with fuel retailers and wholesalers to figure out what is going on. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee convened in Anchorage for a second time to hear from the refineries.

“Certainly, we are seeing some weird things that suggest to me something fishy is going on,” Sniffen said.

The House can ask questions of Alaska’s three main petroleum refineries, Petro Star, Tesoro Alaska and FlintHills, but they can’t require them to answer specific cost and price questions because those are protected by confidentiality in a competitive market setting. But the attorney general’s office can subpoena documents, and in turn offers confidentiality, Sniffen said.

He said the judiciary committee has requested documents from Tesoro and information from Crowley and Delta Western, the two shipping companies in Southeastern Alaska that supply fuel.

Smokey Norton, director of marketing for Petro Marine, a fuel distributor on the peninsula, said there are a number of reasons why consumers didn’t see a price dip when the cost of crude dipped to $72 from a long haul of over $100 a barrel.

Right now wholesalers are still holding on to inventory from July when crude remained high.

“If you buy it at $2 a gallon, even though it goes down to $1 a gallon, consumers won’t see that at the pump until they purchase new fuel at the lower price,” she said.

Billiards design racks up accolades — Owner brings pool hall to life after 19 years of planning















By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

An unassuming strip mall with a pockmarked parking lot in Kenai is home to one of the top-10, best-designed new pool halls in the world.

Any surprise that statement may evoke disappears after opening the tinted-glass doors of Sharps Billiards and seeing the meticulously designed, mahogany- and nickel-themed interior that was three months of remodeling work, four buildings and 19 years in the making.

Sharps was named one of the Top Ten New Rooms in the 2008 Architecture and Design Awards by Billiard’s Digest magazine. It shares the honor with the likes of a multimillion-dollar, 20,000-square-foot hall in Australia. Sharps is 3,500 square feet and cost about $80,000 to renovate.

What it lacks in size or opulence it makes up for in attention to detail, craftsmanship and nearly two decades of dreaming.

Owner Philip Brower said he’s wanted to build a pool hall since he was 15 and lying about his age so he could get into the 16-and-up pool hall in Grand Rapids, Mich., to shoot pool with his grandfather. He spent five years in that hall, learning a game that takes a lifetime to master, and crafting a vision in his head for how he’d want his own billiards room to look someday.

“I decided about 19 years ago I was going to do this, and basically the way people see it today is how I envisioned it,” he said. “I really wanted to help change the general opinion that pool halls are a place of ill repute. People think they’re dark and dingy and smoky, or there’s drug deals going on. I wanted to prove it could be a family environment and kind of spread my love and appreciation for the game.

“You’re not going to see dogs playing pool on the wall. It’s just not going to happen.”

What patrons are going to see is the design Brower envisioned 19 years ago and has refined since then. It all comes down to the tables — six, 19-foot Brunswick mahogany tables with nickel fixtures. That theme is echoed throughout the hall. The pine wainscoting on all the walls and back counter is stained a mahogany color, as is the facing on the structural posts, the counters around the room and the dividing rail in the center of the space splitting one row of tables from the other. The wood ceiling, structural beams and chairs are stained an even redder color.

The only wood in Sharps that doesn’t carry the mahogany theme is the pool cues, which add a structural element on the walls that look more like art than sports equipment.

Accenting the auburn wood are nickel fixtures, including the electrical outlet coverings and lighting, and a splash of gold wall paint.

Brower and Sharps manager, Tim Adams, spent three months renovating the space in between shifts working on the North Slope. Brower and Adams worked at a billiards room in Anchorage in 1994. Adams saw the promise of Brower’s dream to open his own billiards hall someday, and Brower knew that employees work better if they’ve got a vested interest in what they do, so he wanted to bring Adams in as an investor as well as manager. They did the renovation work themselves — removing the paneling and peg-board walls, hanging Sheetrock, building the workstation in the back, swapping out all the lighting fixtures.

But before they could pick up a hammer, they had to find a space. That alone took four tries.

The first space Brower considered was the old Trustworthy Hardware store in the Peninsula Center Mall parking lot in Soldotna. The design in his head looked like it was ready to become reality — the architectural plans were drawn up, building permit obtained, parking spaces counted, pool tables ordered, and Adams was on his way back to Alaska from Bozeman, Mont., when the deal fell through.

“Phil called and said he was building the pool hall. I sold everything, hit the road and the rug got pulled out from under me,” Adams said.

Brower then investigated the old Gottschalks building next to Beemun’s on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna. The owners seemed amenable to Brower’s intentions for the space, but he couldn’t compete with the price Liquidation World was willing to pay.

His third trip back to square one took him to the old Carr’s store in the Kenai Mall. Things looked promising once again, until the remodeling estimate came in at $350,000.

“Every place I tried to go it looked good until the last minute,” Brower said.

Meanwhile, Adams worked at IGA Country Foods for a while, then took a job on the North Slope. During one of Brower’s weeks home from his Slope job, he pulled up to the strip mall that houses Katina’s Restaurant on the Kenai Spur Highway heading north out of town and peered in one of the windows.

“In my head I saw the pool room. I said, ‘That’ll work. That’ll work.’”

Next thing Adams knew, he was getting a call from Brower asking if he wanted to be part of it.

“He was a little more demanding then asking,” Adams said. “He said, I need to go to the bank and sign the loan paperwork. I said, ‘Hey, I thought this was on the back burner again.’”

After 19 years, Brower was tired of simmering.

“You can’t give up on your dreams. People just lie down and die if you give up your dreams,” he said. “I’m just fortunate I’m one of those people who has dreams that are attainable. It’s not like I want to go to the moon.”

Maybe not, but business is taking off. Sharps has been open for five months, its clientele is increasing and Brower said business is right in line with his expectations. He hopes in the future to get more involved in the community by hosting nonprofit tournaments, and has already donated some pool cues to the Boys and Girls Club.

“I knew that this was a pool-playing community, and I knew there was this gaping void of anything nonalcoholic, as well,” he said.

Sharps doesn’t serve alcohol and it’s a no-smoking establishment. Kids under 16 need to have adult supervision. A recent Saturday night saw a middle-aged married couple at one table, a group of teenagers at another and a group of industrial workers at a third.

“It’s a good mix. And it stays clean. People police themselves, pick up their cups. People don’t even write on the bathroom walls — except this one,” Brower said, indicating his 5-year-old daughter, Jaden Hope, who seems to have inherited dad’s penchant for design and likes to express it wherever she can, whether it’s on paper, her clothes or the bathroom wall.

Brower said he went all out with the tables, with $250 pool racks that are accurate to within one-thousandth of an inch, and Sharp’s has the only regulation billiards table around. A pool league recently decided to start meeting there — although Brower said they won’t allocate more than two-thirds of the tables to league play, so other patrons can still shoot pool.

Tables rent for $10 an hour. Hours are 2 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. (or however long people stay there playing) Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 2:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
“Where else can six people go for a couple hours of entertainment and spend two to three dollars each?” Brower said.

Adam Kosydar is a regular from North Kenai. He comes in about three times a week, and will probably play even more with his winter schedule, he said.

“I don’t like going to bars, so this is a good place to play. I think they did a good job building up the establishment. It’s got a clean environment — no alcohol or drugs. It’s a good place for young kids to hang out,” he said.

Brower said the design award came about after a representative from Brunswick encouraged him to apply for it. He procrastinated at first, then decided he had a shot and paid to overnight a CD of photos just before the deadline.

“When I got the news I was elated, obviously. I hoped, and I kind of felt; no, I knew we were going to win,” Brower said.

He also sent photos to the owner of the pool hall in Michigan he grew up playing in. That hall is now remodeling on Brower’s design theme.

“The pool hall that inspired me to build a pool hall is now inspired to remodel with d├ęcor after this pool hall,” Brower said.

“I wanted to make a first-class establishment, and do it right the first time,” he said.

And it only took four tries to get to that first time.

Wired: Don’t pull the plug on computer security

Recent University of California-Berkeley data suggests that somewhere between 95 percent and 98 percent of all business records are originally electronic records produced and stored on personal computers and similar devices, and thus vulnerable to prying.

That statistic, along with concerns about hacking, identity theft, our heavy reliance upon the Internet and the daily bombardment of computer viruses, spyware, and other sneaky malicious software, should scare you about the security of your data. If you’re not a little paranoid about this, then perhaps you’re not being sufficiently careful.

The problem with electronic data security is that it’s usually either too little or too much. Striking the right balance between ease of use and Fort-Knox style security is difficult, particularly with wireless networks and broadband Internet connections. Here are some examples that I’ve run across recently.

Setting up a secure wireless network that authorized users can actually access without difficulty is often frustrating and time-consuming, which is one reason that a lot of wireless network users do not implement whatever security their hardware allows. While having lunch in Anchorage one day, I casually commented to an unknown nearby notebook computer user that I didn’t realize the restaurant had installed an Internet hot spot, only to be told that a nearby business’s wireless network was freely accessible to anyone. That’s far too insecure but very common. It’s also one major reason why I will not use a wireless network connection where business or other confidential data might be silently compromised. The other reason is wireless networking is very slow compared to the sort of fast hard-wired Ethernet connections that are now standard equipment.

A few years ago, I spoke about computer security at the American Bar Association’s annual technology conference in Chicago, placing a $20 bill on the podium and challenging audience members to see whether they could connect to my notebook computer. It took some of the audience members less than three minutes to do so, even though there were no nearby Internet “hot spots.” Most people don’t realize that the wireless connections of a Windows XP computer can silently make direct ad hoc connections to other unsecured XP computers, such that a stranger can read your files and write to them without your knowledge.

Indeed, in my own experiments, I’ve seen how a third party computer can even use XP’s network bridging feature to surreptitiously connect from one notebook computer’s wireless card to another wireless-equipped computer, and then use that rogue wireless connection to further connect to a business’ theoretically more secure hard-wired network.

Later that day, while waiting at O’Hare Airport for a flight back to Alaska, I startled a group of traveling Airborne soldiers by simply turning on my notebook computer, watching as it detected and connected to powered-up notebook computers being carried down the concourse. These people, of course, had not implemented even the rudimentary wireless network security available a few years ago.

Personally, I physically turn off all electrical power to my notebook computer’s wireless connection. That’s probably secure enough. By the way, Blue Tooth devices may be even less secure.

Microsoft announced the other day that it was automatically pushing a critical security correction to the tens of millions of Windows XP systems. Generally, when Microsoft automatically installs a security update on the average user’s computer, no questions are asked.

In this case, there should have been. The security release seems to cripple many existing anti-virus programs, which in turn prevent Microsoft’s own e-mail and Internet Explorer programs from even connecting to the Internet. That’s too secure. Thousands of users were affected, myself included.

After a number of phone calls to technical support and a fair bit of experimentation, I found that attempting to simply update security software either failed to solve the problem or became totally impractical because the glitch prevented any contact with the vendor’s Web site in the first place. The only reliable solution I found was to totally uninstall the Internet anti-virus and security program (not very secure there!), go directly to the vendor’s Web site, download the most recent anti-virus program version, and then completely reinstall and reactivate the anti-virus and Internet security software, a time-consuming and irritating exercise, assuming you can even find your old software license key and activation codes.

Not being able to access the Internet is probably the ultimate in network security, but that’s carrying matters rather too far.

Local attorney Joseph Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and has been writing and lecturing about technology throughout the U.S. since 1990 for American Bar Association, Alaska Bar Association and private publications. He also owned a computer store in Soldotna between 1990 and 2000.

On a roll — Peninsula Strikers gets kids bowling for life






























By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Tasha Waterbury hefted her ball Saturday at AlaskaLanes in Kenai and paused for a moment, eyeing the lane in front of her over the shiny, spherical bulk in her hands.

The Soldotna High School junior was a brief moment of motionlessness in the sea of activity around her: waves of bowlers shuffling back and forth from ball returns to lanes, launching their shots in a whirl of limbs and slide of shoes, pins ricocheting into each other, parents retrieving the youngest competitors from whatever diversion caught their attention and depositing them back in their seats to await their turn to bowl.

When Tasha moved it was in one fluid motion, her feet gliding up to the line, arm swinging back then down, ball transferring from fingers to floor without any arc or bounce, just a solid thud of impact giving way to the almost electric-sounding hum of the ball in its near-frictionless slide down the lane toward a crash landing at the end.

It’s taken Tasha nine years to get to that point. She’s been doing youth league bowling since she was in second grade. Her progress was represented in the difference between her lane and the next one over, where 6-year-old Ginni Orth lugged her ball up to the line and chunked it down with all the bend and flex of Frankenstein.

Had she not been tromping forward at the time, it’s questionable what direction the ball would have gone in. As it was, it loped into the gutter, at which point Ginni pirouetted around and skipped back to her friends.

Everybody’s got to start somewhere. With the Peninsula Strikers youth bowling league, the idea is to start a lifelong love of bowling.

“Bowling is one of those things, usually if you do it when you’re young, you do it for the rest of your life,” said Kathy Waterbury, an organizer of youth league bowling on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Waterbury had Tasha start bowling when she was 7.

“It started out to be something to do on a Saturday morning, something fun to get them involved. And it has turned into a passion,” Waterbury said.

Tasha remembers bowling for the first time, and her mom asking if she liked it.

“I thought it was just for the day. I enjoyed it and kept on doing it,” she said.

An interest in basketball and soccer came and went, since Tasha doesn’t like team sports, she said. Now bowling is her sport, and could get her thousands of dollars in scholarships.

“It’s fun and it can be relaxing if you’re stressed,” she said.

“It’s nice for these kids who may not necessarily be able to or want to participate in the footballs or basketballs,” Waterbury said. “It’s nice for them to have a sport they can call their own. Bowling gives them something to do and keeps them off the streets.”

The Peninsula Strikers is a youth league for ages 4 to 21 that draws 40 to 50 bowlers each year, Waterbury said. They bowl Saturdays at AlaskaLanes from fall to spring. Bowlers compete against each other to accumulate points, and the winners go on to bowl in a state tournament.

“Last year we did very well,” Waterbury said. “There’s some really good bowlers here in this league. When you think you’re competing against Anchorage, which is such a bigger pool of bowlers, but we held our own, which is awesome.”

Scholarship money is available at the local and state tournament level. Anyone is welcome to join the league, whether they’ve bowled for years or never set foot on a lane before.

“I think it starts out as a fun thing for them to do to have a sport activity, something to go to,” Waterbury said. “They get into it because they want to have fun and it just kind of becomes a part of their lives. They then can move on, participate in tournaments, there’s scholarship money available — it kind of grows on them.”

The local high school club bowling program started three years ago, after the Waterbury family moved back to the area from Washington, where Tasha participated in high school bowling.

Waterbury said she wanted to start a high school league here so Tasha and other kids with the same interest had more opportunities to bowl. They practice Wednesdays and Fridays, and many also participate in the youth league. There’s also a youth-adult bowling league in the area.

The high school league has seven members and is acknowledged by the schools, with SoHi even featuring their bowlers in its yearbook last year, Waterbury said. But it isn’t a school district-sponsored sport. Waterbury hopes to eventually grow the program to that point. For now, though, it’s more about fun.

“I want the kids to enjoy a sport, and it’s all about the kids — that’s how I look at it,” Waterbury said.

Dollie Nicholson signed up her son, John, for Peninsula Strikers in September for just that reason. On Saturday, the 8-year-old showed he was getting the hang of things.
“He’s getting better,” Nicholson said. “He just tends to curve.”

John’s shots veered left, but sometimes not until after the ball made it to the pins.
“It’s hard to throw them and get them in the lane,” he said.

His aim was improving, as was his bowling vocabulary.

“It’s hard to get the balls into the gutter — well, not the gutter, but the score place,” he said.

His enthusiasm was plenty developed. After just over a month of bowling, the sport already ranked pretty high in his world view.

“It’s more fun than playing video games and watching TV and shooting stuff at my brother,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining the Peninsula Strikers can contact Waterbury at 262-7449 or 398-8813.

“All they have to do is give me a call. They can start that day,” she said. “We make it as easy as we can because we want the kids to bowl.”

Learning experience — Teaching in Alaska is whole new class of education



















By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Mary France was pleased when she received the telegram from Juneau offering her a teaching position in the only school in Kenai. She had applied for a job teaching first grade, and she made the assumption she would be teaching first grade.

The truth was one of several surprises in store for the 26-year-old when she came to the Last Frontier in 1954.

Mary France, now 80, was accompanying her husband, Dan, to the Kenai Peninsula, where he had been appointed protection officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She had left behind five years of elementary school teaching — two in Washington state and three in Idaho — and was grateful for the opportunity to continue.

“Since I had applied for a first-grade position, I assumed that I had a first-grade teaching job,” she said. “Well, I didn’t realize that that wasn’t so, and when school started in the fall I discovered I wasn’t the first-grade teacher; I was the fifth-grade teacher. It was a huge difference.”

Since Kenai principal George Fabricius had been out of the area for the entire summer, France didn’t discover her actual appointment until the day before school began, barely enough time to get used to the idea, let alone prepare to teach.

Still, she dutifully took her new class and began getting to know them and figuring out how to instruct them.

Meanwhile, things were not going as planned in the first grade.

The school had estimated that it would receive approximately 25 first-graders. Instead — due in part to the 1953 establishment of the Wildwood Army Station just outside of town and the burgeoning growth of young homesteading families — opening day saw 50 first-year students cramming into Joyce Carver’s southeast-corner basement classroom.

Consequently, at a faculty meeting at the end of the first day, France was made an offer.
“That’s when they asked me if I would switch to first grade,” she said. “Mr. Fabricius thought there was someone else in the area that had applied for a job that he was going to see if he could get to come in.”

By day two, Mrs. Biggar was in charge of the fifth grade, and Mary France was a first-grade teacher, sharing a single classroom with Carver and 50 students.

“We had to hunt for desks,” she said. “It was a struggle to come up with enough desks and equipment.”
Another struggle was basic classroom operation, especially since no kindergartens existed in the area and most of their students had never been in any kind of school before. Many of the students did not know their colors or numbers, let alone the alphabet, and some were unsure of where they lived and even their last names.

For practical purposes, France and Carver sometimes split the class in half. “I took my group of students and went into the hall for beginning reading,” France said. “But many things were taught together. We could do math together. One of us would do the teaching, and the other one would supervise and keep things going.”

The cramped conditions continued until Nov. 11, when the upstairs addition to the school was complete and Carver took half of the students to a new classroom.

The problems, however, were not over. And neither was France’s introduction to the intricacies of teaching in a remote location.

Most of the town, according to the Frances, received electricity from a diesel-powered generator operated by Frank Rowley. In the mornings and evenings, when the natural light was low or nonexistent, Rowley’s generator couldn’t keep up with the demand. At those times, Fabricius would go outside and start up the school’s own “light plant.”

The principal expected energy conservation from his faculty.

“Mr. Fabricius was pretty iron-handed, I guess,” France said. “You had to keep the temperature at 68 degrees, and you never turned on three banks of lights at a time. You turned on the two inside banks, but you never turned on the third bank because of the electricity problem.”

Another occasional problem centered around recess. “Kids went outside to play, regardless of the weather,” France said. “Everybody went out to recess (at the same time), and somebody always checked the playground to see if there were moose because if there were moose on the playground we couldn’t take the kids out for recess.

“And many times the moose would come and lie just by the windows at the back of the school. And the kids couldn’t go outside to play because (the moose) wintered there.”

Another difficulty came at the end of each day, especially early in the year.

“One of the hardest things to do was to get (the first-graders) on the right bus. The military kids had their own bus, but to go out to North Kenai, it was all Greek to me,” said France, who was unfamiliar with the area herself. “I didn’t know where any of those roads were out there.

“We did the best we could to put the kids on the right bus. Then it was kind of up to the bus driver.
“One kid — the bus driver came back (to the school) with one that was left over. And he didn’t know where he lived, so we just had to stay there until his parents came.”

The teachers and students at the Kenai school made it through the year, although France said the experience was an education for everyone. The area was growing, oil was about to be discovered on the Swanson River field, and things would never be the same.

“That was the first year that they had to have two teachers (for one grade), and after that year the second grade had to have two, and then the third, and so forth,” France said. The earliest grades also stayed large, and so for many years in a row at least one teacher was added to the faculty.

France’s first first-graders would not be her last, but — including such familiar area surnames as Reger, Segura, Ames, Juliussen and Ivanoff — they would be among her most memorable. Except for a two-year foray (1957 to 1959) into high school home economics, France continued in elementary education until she retired in the 1970s.

Over the years, the area got telephones, radio, television, natural gas and paved roads, but progress was rarely easy. Mary France got better and better at teaching elementary school in rural Alaska, but it was that first year that helped prepare her for the many to follow.

Arts and events calendar week of Oct. 29

Events:
Ongoing
  • Artists Without Borders in the 4D Building in Soldotna has a group show, “The Color of Music,” on display through October.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has watercolors by Sherri Sather on display through October.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has watercolors by Pam Mersch on display through October.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Emily Grossman on display through October.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Amy Warfle on display through October.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has “Out of the Bag,” an experimental exhibit, on display through October.
  • The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has a group exhibit by the Kenai Photo Guild on display through October.
  • Veronica’s coffee shop in Kenai has photographs of Veronica’s through the seasons by Joe Kashi on display through October.

Wednesday
  • The Nikiski Community Rec Center is holding a Howl’oween dog costume contest with door prizes, costume prizes, a doggie cakewalk and refreshments at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Dogs must be both people and dog friendly and on a leash at all times. The cost is a $5 entry fee per dog. Call 776-8800.
  • The Soldotna Public Library has a pumpkin carving and painting contest. Entries representing a fictional book character can be dropped off Wednesday.

Thursday
  • The Nikiski Senior Center has a fall bazaar and bake sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with jewelry, candles, candy, figurines, Pampered Chef items, Avon, jellies, jams and baked goods. Call 776-7654.
  • Soldotna library pumpkin contest judging and awards. See Wednesday listing.

Halloween
For adults:
  • The Kenai Performers will stage “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at 7 p.m. the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai, with Allen Auxier, Saraya Coburn, Angie Lyon, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Dagmar Mayer, Dan Van Zee, Crockett Schipman, Andrew Gunter, Glenn Tinker, Scott Coburn, Lisa Nugent, Jamie Nelson, Donna Shirberg, Doug O’Hara, Charlotte Schipman and Sally Cassano. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and kids. The show is rated PG-13.
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has a Halloween party with music by 9-Spine.
  • The Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road has a costume contest with prizes at 8 p.m. and karaoke at 9 p.m.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has trick-or-treating and a costume contest for kids at 6 p.m.
  • The .406 in Kenai has a pizza and salad bar, karaoke and a costume contest with prizes for the scariest, funniest, most original and best transsexual costumes.
  • Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna has rock covers and originals by Tuff-e-Nuff and a costume contest with prizes for scariest, ugliest, sexiest and most original costumes.
  • The J-Bar-B has prime rib dinner, karaoke and a costume contest.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a costume contest with $100 for first prize, $50 for second and $25 for third.
  • Mykel's in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass and rock music by Them Other Shuckers and a costume contest.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. and a costume contest.
  • The Vagabond Inn on K-Beach Road has music by AK Free Fuel and a costume contest.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has acoustic music by Chris, Robert and Josh at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

For teens/families:
  • The Nikiski Senior Center has a fall bazaar and bake sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See Thursday listing.
  • Kenai Elks Lodge will hold a Halloween party and costume contest from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., open to public. Kids may bring carved pumpkins to enter the pumpkin-carving contest. Call Mary Macrander at 283-7776.
  • The Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula will hold trunk-or-treating and an indoor carnival from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Setup starts at 5 p.m. Call Kim Dent at 283-2682.
  • Sterling Elementary School will hold trunk-or-treating from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the school parking lot. The school is seeking donations of candy.
  • Kenai Christian Church will host trunk-or-treating from 6 to 8 p.m. with live music, candy and food available. Call Adam Meyers at 283-4559.
  • Grace Lutheran School and Church on Ciechanski Road will hold an October Fest with food, fellowship, games and prizes from 6 to 8 p.m., open to the public. Fun, not scary, costumes are encouraged, and there will be a soup and dessert cookoff for adults to enter. Each family is asked to donate a bag of candy for game prizes. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call Pastor Tom Schmidt at 283-6297.
  • The Sterling Senior Center will host a costume Halloween party for Sterling families from 6 to 8 p.m. with games, prizes, treats and a cakewalk. Volunteers are needed. Call 262-2943.
  • The Nikiski Rec Center will hold a teen night Cand costume contest from 7 to 10 p.m. for ages 13 to 18. Cost is $2 per person. No masks or no weapons allowed.

Saturday
  • Coffee Roasters on K-Beach Road has Kona coffee tasting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • The Nikiski Senior Center has a fall bazaar and bake sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See Thursday listing.
  • Pamyua will perform at 7 p.m. in the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School with an opening performance by Yaghanen Youth. Tickets are $15, available at the door or in advance at Charlotte’s, Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and Funky Monkey in Kenai, and Art Works and River City Books in Soldotna. Call Michael Bernard at 398-1510.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at 7 p.m. at Old Town Playhouse. See Friday listing.

Sunday
  • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at 3 p.m. at Old Town Playhouse. See Friday listing.

Nov. 7
  • The Soldotna Senior Center will hold its 12th annual juried amateur art show in conjunction with the center’s fall bazaar. Entries can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 and 5. Categories are oils, pastels, watercolors, and drawings; needle arts, beading, quilting and sewing; and three-dimensional. The entry fee is $6, with a maximum three entries each person. Call Mary Lane, 262-8839.
  • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at 7 p.m. at Old Town Playhouse. See Friday listing.

Nov. 8
  • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at 7 p.m. at Old Town Playhouse. See Friday listing.
  • Soldotna Senior Center’s 12th annual juried amateur art show and fall bazaar. See Nov. 7 listing.

Nightlife:
DJ
  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m., with a Halloween party Friday.

Live music
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has music by 9-Spine Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has folk music on Wednesday night.
  • Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna has rock covers and originals by Tuff-e-Nuff on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has music by Tyler Schlung on Saturday night.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has acoustic classic rock by the Free Beer Band at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has acoustic music by Adam and Sonny on Wednesday.
  • Mykel's in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers around 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • The Vagabond Inn on K-Beach Road has music by AK Free Fuel on Friday night.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and acoustic music by Chris, Robert and Josh at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Karaoke
  • 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at the J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

Other
  • BJ’s in Soldotna has a Brown Bears hockey pregame special with a game ticket, tacos and a beer for $15 from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has a nine-ball pool tournament at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • The J-Bar-B has free pool on Sundays, a horseshoe pit in the beer garden, and a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a dart tournament at 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Stevens should show honor we once thought he had

It’s a sad day for Alaska.

Sen. Ted Stevens, Uncle Ted, Alaskan of the Century, Lion of the Senate, Senator for Life, added a new title to his name: convicted felon.

Stevens was found guilty Monday of seven counts of lying on his campaign disclosure forms by not recording gifts and remodeling services he received from Veco and its president, Bill Allen, Double Musky owner Robert Persons, Penco Properties owner Bob Penney, and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.

Sadder still was Stevens’ reaction to the guilty verdict — defiance, finger pointing and blame. He didn’t show a hint of remorse or offer any sort of apology to Alaskans.

He probably thinks he doesn’t owe us one. He must figure that after all he’s done for the state, Alaska should be indebted to him for life. That’s the mentality that led him to ignore ethical rules and the law in accepting gifts without reporting them in the first place.

On one hand, he has done more to make Alaska what it is today than anyone else. Communities across the state show the stamp of his service in the Senate — from water projects to airports, even the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai was part of the gravy train of federal dollars he consistently drove to the state.

But he’s wrong in thinking his service gives him special ethical privileges, or makes him in any way above the law.

He’s wrong in not taking accountability for his actions. Even if prosecutors didn’t conduct as smooth a case as they could or should have. Even if there was drama with the jury. Even if all the conspiracy theories he and his closest supporters maintain about the investigation and trial that brought him down, it doesn’t obscure the clear, unavoidable truth: He took gifts and didn’t report them.

He’s guilty.

Stevens needs to resign from the Senate, drop out of the re-election race and apologize to his constituents.

If he won’t, it’s up to Alaskans to show Stevens and all our elected officials that we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior by voting against him on Tuesday.

He doesn’t deserve to represent Alaska in the Senate, and he can no longer be an effective legislator. Even if the Senate doesn’t kick him out, as it should, the stigma of these violations will follow him wherever he goes, and in whatever he tries to do.

No other course of action makes sense. If Stevens honestly doesn’t think he inappropriately accepted gifts, or if he truly was clueless that Veco was footing the bill for his house remodeling, then he clearly lacks the intelligence to remain a senator.

If he knew what he was doing and thought he was entitled to his behavior, he lacks the ethical compass needed to be a senator.

That makes him either stupid or corrupt. Neither are qualifications Alaska needs in its representatives.

If Stevens doesn’t want that to be the only thing remembered about him, he needs to step up and prove he’s capable of the integrity and honor Alaskans once assumed he had and be accountable for his actions.

Guest editorial — Mowing down reed canary grass

Why attack?
Reed canary grass is a non-native species that was intentionally planted on the Kenai Peninsula to control erosion. Unfortunately, the grass grows so well, even in the middle of rivers and streams, that it can cause the channel to narrow or dam up completely.

When this happens in salmon streams, loss of fish habitat can occur, along with the creation of barriers to spawning and migration.

Plan of attack
Since the reed canary grass that Kenai Watershed Forum is going after is located near salmon streams, spraying herbicide is not our first choice for getting rid of the grass.

Instead, black tarps will cover the grass to block out sunlight for several summers. In cases where the grass is growing in the channel of the river, the plant will be repeatedly mowed down below the water level in an effort to drown it.

Did we win?
While the grass is not yet waving a white flag, KWF made significant progress this summer at Jim’s Landing, Beaver Creek and Bing’s Landing. Still, there are over 250 known infestations of reed canary grass on the Kenai Peninsula, but most of them are less than an acre, making this an ideal time for control measures. If all goes well, next year’s battlegrounds will include Boat Launch Road and Slikok Creek.

Josselyn O’Connor is the membership coordinator and office manager with the Kenai Watershed Forum.

River watch: Leaves play vital role in health of salmon streams


Riparian vegetation includes the trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that surround any stream. This vegetation is critically important for the Kenai River, Anchor River, Quartz Creek and most streams on the Kenai Peninsula. These plants provide dropped leaves, bud scales, twigs and even pollen grains that end up in the streams. This vegetable matter provides the energy that supports a majority of the aquatic insects and invertebrates that in turn are food for the fish populations of the receiving streams.

Leaves descend in a short but major pulse in the fall. If an average tree has close to 200,000 leaves, leaf fall can mean a huge organic material influx for the stream. These leaves are at first unusable by the insects until they are attacked by aquatic bacteria and fungi. A few days after inoculation by these bacteria and fungi, the protein content of the leaves actually rises and they become a favorite for a special group of insects. The nymphs and larvae of a couple species of stoneflies and craneflies will skeletonize the leaves and create large amounts of very fine particles that drift downstream. (We’ve all seen the nonbiting cranefly adults when we see a critter buzzing around that looks like a mosquito on steroids.)

These finely chopped-up leaves then become the food of choice for a great many aquatic insects found in these streams. The most common caddisfly in the Kenai River, Brachycentrus, sits on rocks in the stream and catches these fine particles with leg hairs. Some other caddisflies, like Arctopsyche, use specially spun underwater nets to trap the fine particles for their dinner. Many of the mayfly larvae, as well as a great many of the midges, use these leaf fragments as a major food item, too. Black fly larvae — we call the pesky adults “whitesocks” — have specially evolved antennal fans that are used to trap these chopped-up leaves as a major portion of their diet while in the larval stage. Additionally, there is a whole host of nearly microscopic invertebrates (many are related to shrimp) that also use these particles in our streams and rivers.

As every fly fisherman knows, these insects and invertebrates are a major source of food for the resident fish. So, we tempt rainbows, grayling and even lake trout with our fur and feather mimics of these insect larvae and adults. Less widely known is the reliance of our young salmon fry on the smallest of the invertebrates and insects. The more insects our salmon fry can eat, the bigger they will be and the greater their survival will be when they head out to the ocean.

It has been shown that streams with hefty riparian input will support large insect populations and in turn a large population of salmon and trout. The Kuparuk River on the North Slope has almost no riparian input and has very few insects that support only a very small population of grayling. Riparian input each year plays a major role in the overall food chain for our resident fish and the temporary salmon found in our peninsula streams.

There are federal- and state-mandated building and logging setbacks from streams and rivers for very good reasons. Obviously, we don’t want our structures to suffer flood damage and we don’t want our close proximity to the stream to be a source of stream pollution, either. However, the stream’s need for the leaf input each fall is often overlooked, even though these leaves are an important energy engine that fuels the stream and the fish populations. The take-home message is to preserve the riparian vegetation along all of our streams.


David Wartinbee, Ph.D, J.D., is a biology professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. He is writing a series of columns on the biology of the Kenai River.

Science of the seasons: Shedding moonlight on daylight saving time

As we leave daylight saving time behind and set our clocks back an hour Sunday, I don’t want to start a discussion on its merits or lack thereof.

I’d rather talk about why we have time zones in the first place. Historically, each location on Earth had its own time, still called local time. It is defined by the sun reaching its highest point in the sky — which it does so exactly in the south. That’s called local noon. Local noon doesn’t depend on latitudes but on longitude only, hence we find time zones spread across a world map horizontally.

Local noon makes sense as it describes time conveniently at each longitude. A keen observer can be replaced by a good time piece.

The disadvantage came — big time — with the change in communication and especially transportation needs of the 19th century: train schedules didn’t just include the travel times, but they needed to accommodate the change in time depending on each destination’s longitude. The solution to that was to set up time zones, with New Zealand being the first country to do so in 1868, the United States and Canada in 1883 (by law in 1918). In 1884, 25 nations (12 American, 11 European, as well as Liberia and Japan) met for the Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., and established Greenwich as the Prime Meridian and created 24 time zones of 15 degrees longitude each.

There are exceptions to the latter, especially concerning national and state borders. Usually these exceptions are subtle: Ogallala, Neb., is on Mountain Time while Plateau, Texas, is on Central, even though it’s two degrees farther west. Some exceptions are more extreme: all of China is on one time zone, although the country spans 60 degrees (and therefore should technically be divided into four time zones). Lublin in Poland and Santiago de Compostela in Spain are in the same time zone, even though they are 30 degrees apart. In contrast, Russia is in accordance with the meaning of the Meridian Conference, spanning 10 time zones over 160 degrees.

Alaska is on one time zone (with the exception of the Aleutians West of Umnak Island), although Ketchikan and Nome are 35 degrees apart. What that means is Southeast Alaska’s local noon occurs near 12 noon, central Alaska’s local noon is around 1 p.m. and Western Alaska’s local noon around 2 p.m. Sunrise and sunset are equally shifted, with Yakutat having both its sunrise and sunset 1.5 hours earlier than Bethel throughout the year.


Harvest moon
The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and therefore occurs within two weeks before or after Sept. 22. At that time of the year the moon is in the constellations of Pisces and Aries, which stay close to the horizon when they rise in the east; hence the moon stays close to the horizon, as well.

That gives rise to a couple of phenomena. One is based on the physics of diffraction: close to the horizon, moonlight (which is reflected sunlight) has to travel through more of Earth’s atmosphere. Air, which is mostly nitrogen and oxygen molecules, scatters more of the blue part of the spectrum, leaving the moon more reddish.

The other is completely psychological: what is called the moon illusion makes the moon appear larger closer to the horizon than up in the sky (although either are of the same angular size). Even though there is no single hypothesis explaining the effect and different people may experience it differently, one such hypothesis holds that to us the moon looks farther away on the horizon than somewhere in the sky (where it is surrounded by sky) – because it is still of the same angular size. By appearing farther away, it also appears to be bigger. In other words, this is not what the moon really looks like, but it’s based on how our brains interpret what our eyes see. Good comparisons are optical illusions that fool all of us (like the same size dots where one appears larger than the other, the parallel lines that appear nonparallel, etc.).

Also, while the moon’s orbit around Earth is a nice ellipse, describing its motion and appearance relative to the horizon becomes quite complicated, because two different spherical coordinate systems are merged. One consequence is that while, on average, the moon rises 50 minutes later each night, during the fall it rises only 30 minutes later each night. Therefore twilight turns quickly into a brightly lit evening, assisting farmers to get their crops in.

Andy Veh is a physics and astronomy professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. E-mail your science questions to redoubtreporter @alaska.net.