Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crazy for the climb — Backcountry skiers try mountainous feat: 3 volcanoes, 3 weekends

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story about three seasoned outdoor enthusiasts who begin a quest to take on three Cook Inlet volcanoes over the course of three long weekends.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, although most of their friends thought they were nuts.

It was a Thursday afternoon after work in May 2006, and the onset of Memorial Day weekend was in the air. Buddies Tyler Johnson, 32, and Rory Stark, 37, had a free Friday and a good weather forecast in front of them, so they decided this would be a good time to climb and then ski down a volcano.

They targeted 10,016-foot Mount Iliamna across Cook Inlet, and sketched out a rough plan of attack: Drive down to Ninilchik, launch their 16-foot Achilles inflatable from the beach, motor nearly 50 miles across Cook Inlet and far up into Tuxedni Bay, work their way inland on foot until they reached snow, and then start climbing on skis with skins.

Simple enough, they thought, despite the fact that neither of them had been there before. It would be an adventure. And Johnson and Stark, both veterans of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, were accustomed to adventure and thinking on their feet.

“Me and Rory, we’re trying to find people in Anchorage (where both men live). We’re like, ‘Hey, we got good weather for three days. We’re gonna take the boat across,’” said Johnson, a 1995 graduate of Skyview High School. “Nobody wanted to take the boat. Everybody’s like, ‘You’re crazy, man. Nobody’s gonna go across in your 16-foot boat. Come on!’ So when we left town, it was just me and Rory.”

Of course, all of those doubters back in the big city didn’t know about 35-year-old Craig “Chunk” Barnard, a carpenter, handyman and extreme-skiing enthusiast living on the Kenai Peninsula.

“Rory was like, ‘I know this guy, Craig. He’s down in Cooper Landing. He lives in a tent. We’ll stop by and see if he’s there,” Johnson said.

“So we stop in Cooper Landing and we start driving down Craig’s road, and there he is, walking from the liquor store with a six-pack. We’re like, ‘Craig, hey, man, you gotta come.’ And he’s like, ‘All right, all right. Yeah, yeah. Hey, can I call my boss real quick?’

“So he calls his boss and leaves a message and tells him he’s not going to show up to work Friday and Saturday.”

According to Barnard, the “invitation” from Johnson and Stark was more of a command.

“We walked into my tent, and they told me what I need and what I don’t need,” said Barnard, 35. “And what I don’t need was ice axes or crampons or ropes. So they just kind of quickly shuffled some gear into a bag for me.”

That rapidly, the three of them were on the road, heading south.

“That’s how it started, completely off-the-cuff, no planning whatsoever,” Johnson said.

They brought no maps and no GPS. They brought no mountaineering gear — just backpacks, skiing gear, some food and alcohol, and their boat.

“We had four days of food,” Johnson said. “We had some Taco Bell. I think we had, like, one thing of Mountain House, maybe, but we just stopped at the fast food.”

They purchased a stack of cheeseburgers from McDonald’s and took advantage of the “10 burritos for ten dollars” deal at Taco Bell. “And that worked out really well. That was our food for the whole trip.”
They arrived in Ninilchik in the early morning.

“We barreled off across the inlet at 2 a.m., and it was pretty rough going across, and then we had to go up Tuxedni Bay,” Johnson said. “We didn’t quite know where we were going, you know. We just knew we had to get somewhere up into Tuxedni and see how far we could get.”

Barnard had been on Iliamna before, just the year before, and had a general sense of the best route to take. In 2005, he had been part of a three-week, fly-in trip onto Tuxedni Glacier, and from there he skied the mountain, eventually reaching the summit.

Based on Barnard’s experience, Johnson and Stark planned to run as far into Tuxedni Bay as possible to reach the glacier flats, but the upper reaches of the bay eventually became too shallow to continue. They beached their boat and dragged it above the high-tide mark, then hoisted their gear onto their backs and began a slow trudge up the heavily bear-traveled mud flats of Center Creek.

They planned to follow the Center Creek drainage into the high country, eventually crossing over a rocky ridge before dropping down onto the Tuxedni Glacier, which they would follow to the base of the actual mountain.

That Friday evening, about 18 hours after leaving Ninilchik, they stopped at about 5,000 feet and made their first camp. None of them had slept since Thursday morning, when they’d awoken to go to their respective jobs: Barnard as a handyman and carpenter, Stark as a pilot for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Johnson as a civil engineer.

The next morning, they were on the move again: up the glacier to the mountain’s southwest flank, and from there to the sulfur-smelling summit of the volcano.

“We had to pick our routes, and there were some crevasses, but the crevasses weren’t that bad. It was more the avalanche conditions we were a little concerned with,” Johnson said. “We picked our way up (the main mountain) in six hours, and then the ski down was like 30 minutes.”

They reached the summit early Saturday evening and soon returned to their Friday campsite for the night. On Sunday morning, they skied off the snow of upper Center Creek, then walked the mud flats back to their boat.

“We got down to our boat, and it didn’t get mauled,” Johnson said. “There’s just circles of bear tracks around our inflatable. We heard that the bears like to take swipes at those boats over there, so we thought for sure something was going to be wrong.

“So we launched it. Nice weather. It was like glass coming back.”

They arrived in Ninilchik in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend fishing flurry.

“We beached the boat on Ninilchik beach, and there’s probably a thousand motorhomes all lined up there, and these people were there, and they come walking over,” Johnson said. “They were just blown away. They’re like, ‘Where’d you guys come from?’ And we’re unloading our ski gear and stuff. They just couldn’t believe it.”

By Sunday evening, all three men were home — satisfied, and yet not satisfied.

Johnson said that when they had packed up in Ninilchik and were driving north, they were all thinking the same thing: “Man, that was absolutely, unbelievably the best trip I’ve been on in a long time. And so we’ve gotta do all three now.”

The Redoubt and Spurr volcanoes were waiting.

Word of mouth — StoryCorps interest grows as more people voice their tales

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Ross and Annie Kendall’s four kids have heard the stories of life on the family’s Kodiak Island setnet site multiple times. Shoot, they grew up living many of them:

What the remote site was like when the Kendalls first started fishing it 30 years ago — a 12-by-16-foot cabin with no electricity.

How the fish would be covered with burlap soaked in water, sitting in the sun with magpies pecking the eyes out until the tender came.

How it’s changed today — a satellite phone and periodic e-mail connection, and a covered, refrigerated seawater system to keep the fish pristine in 35-degree seawater as they wait for the tender.

And the, as Annie puts it, “schizophrenia of being in one place every summer and living somewhere else in the winter.”

“The kids would roll their eyes and go, ‘Oh yeah, that story again,’” Annie said.

The stories may be old news for the Kenai couple’s now-grown children, who spent summers growing up at the setnet site with their parents. But they’ll be brand-new to the millions of radio and Internet listeners across the country that may hear them on National Public Radio in the future.

The Kendalls recorded their descriptions of life at the Kodiak setnet site at the Kenai Community Library on Monday, as part of the StoryCorps program.

StoryCorps is an independent, nonprofit oral history project where everyday people record stories about their lives through interviews by friends or family members. Since 2003, program staff has been traveling the country, recording tens of thousands of stories in 40-minute sessions, which are archived at the Library of Congress.

Participants get a free CD of their recording that they can share with whomever they like. Some stories are aired on NPR or posted on the StoryCorps Web site.

StoryCorps staff has been in Alaska since Oct. 15, and will be here until April 30, 2009, facilitating interviews in Fairbanks, Nome, Barrow, Dillingham, Unalaska and Juneau. Alaska stories also are being archived at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Public libraries in other areas of the state, including Kenai, have volunteered to be recording sites.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people and families in the community to participate in that. Just basically to share some of those stories with other people,” said Julie Neiderhauser, with the Kenai library. “It’s a good thing for families. It gives that person being interviewed an honorary role as the family historian.”

The library has been hosting recording sessions since Nov. 4. It was scheduled to continue through Nov. 26, but may add another week if more people want to make recordings.

Participation started a little slow, probably because folks were waiting on the sidelines to see how the project works, Neiderhauser said. As more people participate, word of mouth spreads and dispels some of the initial trepidation people may have had.

“I think the permanent part,” is what may scare people away, Neiderhauser said. “This is going to be stored and people go, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I say?’”

She recommends thinking about questions and topics to discuss before coming in, and the library has a list of suggested questions to ask if people get stuck.

Another misconception is that conversations have to be about something momentous. Not so, said Joy Morgan, with the library.

“It’s meant for people to record a conversation, whatever they feel like talking about,” she said.

Morgan and her father-in-law, Dick Morgan, were one of the first duos to do a recording. She interviewed him about being a civic leader in the early days of the city of Kenai. Another group, a grandmother and granddaughter, talked about what it was like living in the area in homesteading days.

But stories don’t have to be historic. Even young adults have plenty of experiences and insights to share.

“It can be anything people want to talk about. People think it has to be really important, but everyone has a story, something they can talk about that’s really interesting,” Morgan said.

For the Kendalls, StoryCorps was a chance to share experiences that may seem foreign to people in the Lower 48.

“To us it’s a normal aspect of our lives. Maybe not in Alaska, but to other people, it’s a pretty unusual lifestyle, and you never know how long that will go on for,” Annie Kendall said.

The process was painless, Ross Kendall said. Call the library or stop by and set up a recording appointment. Fill out a few release forms when you get there. Listen to a short tutorial on how to use the recording equipment. Push record, and you’re off.

The first five or 10 minutes were a little unnerving, getting used to not being able to make side comments and wondering if they’d have enough to talk about, Annie said.

“All of a sudden I looked and it was 35 minutes and I was thinking of all these big points we still wanted to make,” she said.

Both being teachers — Ross retired and Annie at Nikiski North-Star Elementary School — the idea of oral history intrigued them, and they enjoy listening to StoryCorps broadcasts on NPR.

“To me it’s a neat opportunity to be able to be part of that and to feel like you had something sort of interesting to talk about,” Annie said.

StoryCorps recording sessions are available at 9 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Recordings last 40 minutes. To reserve a slot, call the library at 283-4378.

First response — New mayor sets out to keep campaign promise of government that listens

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

The new Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor’s goal is to answer constituent and staff e-mail the same day it arrives.

That’s 60 to 100 missives Mayor Dave Carey reads and responds to between daybreak and day’s end.

“I live across the street from the borough offices, so it’s pretty easy to just walk to work and home each day,“ Carey said.

“My goal is to answer each and every e-mail the same day I receive it. Last night I spoke in Ninilchik at the American Legion Veteran’s Day dinner. I came back after 9 p.m., and answered e-mails until midnight.”

Carey took office one month ago, winning rule from past Mayor John Williams over 24,800 square miles of a landscape whose inhabitants range from oil refinery workers in Nikiski to commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet to the Alutiiq of Nanwalek. That’s a population of about 52,000. A third of his new province is covered in water, including the sensitive Kenai River and, across the bay, the controversial Chuitna coalfields. And he took office just in time to inherit the newly declared endangered species, the Cook Inlet beluga whale.

Carey, 55, has never married and doesn’t have children. “I’ve always been in public service, whether it was teaching or coaching, it has been my life,“ he said.

When he was campaigning, Carey could be heard saying “the borough mayor must believe in service above self.”

Carey’s stepfather and mother moved to Sterling in 1961. His father, a Navy pilot flying during Operation Deep Freeze in 1956, died when his plane crashed at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. His mother remarried several years later, and with stepfather, Ed Onstott, the family moved to the Kenai Peninsula.

Carey graduated from Kenai Central High in 1970. At Gonzaga University, a Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash., he earned his political science and master’s degrees in educational counseling, then returned to the peninsula as a teacher and coach. He taught at Soldotna Middle and High schools, then retired after 34 years.

Even as Soldotna mayor, and now as borough mayor, Carey continues to teach twice-weekly political science classes at Kenai Peninsula College.

“At 21 students, this is the largest class I’ve ever had,” he said, speaking of his fall semester group. Half are high school students able to take his government class for high school credit.

Students seem to respect that a bona fide politician teaches them about government and politics.

“I’ve always required out-of-class political observation in the community,“ he said, including a long list of his own meetings, such as the Soldotna City Council meetings and now, borough assembly meetings.

“What’s nice is that in class we can then discuss what they observed,” he said.
As a professor, retired teacher and the winner of numerous scholarly fellowships, Carey has an academic political bent that influences his mayorship.

“It’s an interesting dynamic — you have to find a balance between theory and practice,” he said. “We ask ourselves at Friday staff meetings: Are we doing what we came here to do? Are we solving problems?”

Small, kinder government
It’s not always big things that get citizens worked up. One of the first problems Carey was able to solve as mayor involved garbage bins.

In those daily e-mails, “I hear about some of the small things that haven’t been done,” Carey said. “One example is that in Moose Pass, Crown Point and Ninilchik where we have solid waste sites, the containers can’t be used. At Moose Pass and Crown Point, it was because there’s no lids.”

Ravens, crows and eagles took over the Dumpsters and scattered trash about. Bears also make regular visits. A temporary solution involved transferring lidded Dumpsters not being used at Cooper Landing, with bear-proof ones on order for next summer.

“Then at Ninilchik, the (Dumpster) was so high off the ground that some people, and particularly, the elderly couldn’t reach it,“ Carey said. “Now we have it placed at arm level.”

Those outside tax assessment areas seldom have contact with the borough, except over “small projects like this,” Carey said.

His philosophy is: “Government is there to do things people can’t do for themselves. Most people want to trust government. But they want services provided fairly.”

New issues
Big issues were sitting on the doorstep the first day Carey took office Oct. 17. A projected $1.7 million in revenue shortfall came with the newly voted-in Prop. 1, removing nonprepared groceries from the borough’s list of sales taxed items on a seasonal basis.

Carey directed his legal staff to prepare an implementation plan. He also directed a review of the shortfall projection, contending he’s not sure that number is so high. Overall, the borough has a heathy revenue stream.

Currently, gross sales are high, Carey said, making him believe the borough can weather the revenue loss from grocery sales.

On his first day as mayor, Carey was also told the federal government agreed to list the Cook Inlet pod of about 345 beluga whale as endangered.

On Oct. 27, Carey attended a Beluga Whale Stakeholder meeting in Anchorage along with 50 other representatives of various groups.

“I was the only high-ranking elected official present, even though Anchorage and the Mat-Su boroughs could be greatly impacted,“ he wrote in a Nov. 1 report.

While Carey said he doesn’t question the science leading to the listing, he wants answers in terms of possible economic impacts: whether inlet drilling could be halted or restricted. Will it mean oil platforms could be restricted in how they receive supplies? How about salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers? Will Williamsport on the other side of Cook Inlet be closed as possible port for the proposed Pebble Mine project?

“We need to explore the questions. We need to also know what should the (beluga population) numbers be? We need to set a goal — what is that number of that population if the environment is appropriate?” Carey said. “We’ll be listening to all stakeholders, then will provide that information to the borough assembly in terms of policy or direction we should take.”

Carey talks tough about the prospect of stiffer environmental regulations emerging to protect the beluga at the cost of borough input and loss of economy.

“As Alaska is preparing to celebrate our 50th year of statehood, it would be unacceptable if the Kenai Peninsula Borough was treated as a colony or territory by the federal government and our sovereign rights of self-determination were lost … and our economy was intentionally sacrificed,” he wrote in one of his public reports.

Public challenges
When Carey assumed office, he remained on several boards, among them chairmanship of Homer Electric Association’s Board of Directors. He also was the Kenai Peninsula Special Management Area board president, a state-appointed group that Carey is resigning from as soon as he is replaced.

Recently, Carey was criticized for possible conflict of interest in being both borough mayor and head of the board that makes decisions about HEA contracts and other sensitive financial matters. His chief of staff, Hugh Chumley, also was on the board.
In response, Carey and Chumley announced their resignations Nov. 12. Carey said he consulted the borough attorney when he took office about whether the HEA post would create a conflict.

“My term would expire this coming year anyway, so the thought of remaining seemed reasonable,” Carey said Friday. “I also had an opinion from the HEA lawyer, who didn’t see a conflict.“

Yet, the borough attorney warned that right-of-way issues might arise. And soon, Carey found HEA meeting nights scheduled for November and December conflicting with borough assembly meeting dates.

“I found that, timewise, I want to focus everything I’m doing on being the borough mayor,” Carey said.

Shively: Pebble project may not work

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Pebble Partnership’s chief executive said Thursday the concept of the proposed Pebble Mine is not a sure go; that in the end, it might not pencil out as possible.

“It is possible this project will not prove economically or otherwise feasible,” John Shively told Catherine Knott’s class at the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College.

Shively had opened to a question-answer session after making a brief PowerPoint presentation. For the next two hours, students asked questions for their culture and ecology class.

“We invited John Shively because we are looking at the Pebble Mine process as a case study,” Knott said.

The idea is to study the impact of environmental change on human society. With that in mind, the class is studying the Pebble project from a number of angles and a host of speakers.

Any number of factors could doom Pebble Mine’s prospects, Shively said. World economics could cause the major investors, Angelo American and Northern Dynasty, to find obstacles to financing the project. Or exorbitant transportation and energy costs at a time when the world commodities market sees a sharp downturn in the price of gold could prove stumbling points.

“All of these projects have to survive economic hurdles. This one is subject to an extensive economic review. In the short run, it might not work, but in 10 to 15 or 50 years, it might be more economically possible,” he said.

The trans-Alaska oil pipeline, at the time of its construction in the mid-1970s, cost $8 billion. In today’s inflated environment, compare that to the projected $6 billion to build Pebble Mine. That estimation has soared from $3.5 billion when Shively accepted the position with the Pebble Partnership in April.

“The cost of everything has gone up: the costs of steel, the costs of equipment, the cost of energy to run the equipment. It all adds to the costs,” Shively said.

Shively pointed to his 40 years in Alaska, working for the NANA Regional Corp., overseeing contracts starting up the Red Dog Mine, and his work as chief of staff and commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources with the Bill Sheffield and Tony Knowles administrations.

Shively was drilled on a number of environmental questions. Bringing the former head of the Division of Habitat, Ken Taylor, on staff is a recruitment that Shively pointed out with pride because Taylor has perhaps more knowledge of the Bristol Bay watershed than other experts, he said.

“And after 40 years in Alaska, I don’t want to be the one they point to and say I messed up Bristol Bay,” he said.

“Environmental interest will cause us to do the best we can do. We have to be able to protect the fishery, and if we can’t prove that to ourselves, then we shouldn’t do it,” he added.

In the meantime, there is much to figure out ahead of time. The biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge is power generation.

Given the timeline for starting the permitting process in late 2009 or early 2010, which involves gaining approval for 67 types of permits from 11 federal and state agencies, and a projected four years of construction, Pebble won’t be mined until 2020, Shively said. Alternative energy sources becoming available likely will offer new options in the coming years.

“In the meantime, we have to have some idea of where we will get our energy to understand what our project will cost,“ he said.

The mine could start on liquefied natural gas, then consider new methods, such as geothermal, wind or combinations of those down the road.

The mine will require as many megawatts as it takes to power Anchorage, with its 300,000 population. That’s about 600 megawatts, even though the dozen villages around Pebble have a combined population of about 1,800 people. It will not be diesel fuel, Shively said, which is costly and would need to come in high volume.

From the start, Shively thought the best path would be to invite Native groups in the region to become involved in what energy is ultimately decided as a power source for the mine, he said.

“It makes sense to provide lasting, low-cost energy benefits to the people of the region,” he said

The summer’s feasibility study releases are online at: www.pebblepartnership.com.

Under the gun — Post-election fear of firearms regulations creates run on sales

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

President-elect Barack Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress have many Alaskans worried the government will take aim at firearms regulations that could drastically increase the cost of guns, if not ban them altogether. But in the meantime, the fear has created a boom in gun sales bigger than Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, hunting season, Christmas shopping, Sept. 11 or any other event firearms merchants on the central Kenai Peninsula have ever seen.

“I’ve been here in this shop about 20 years and have never spent a week in this shop like this week was. At times I needed to be triplets,” said David F. Thornton, of Brown Bear Guns in Kenai.

Firearm retailers across the central peninsula report dramatically increased sales following the general election Nov. 4, where Democrat candidate Obama beat Republican John McCain for the presidency, and Democrats gained six seats in the Senate with three races to be decided and, as of Sunday, 20 seats in the House of Representatives.

“A lot of people were waiting to see what would happen with the election, that’s why there’s a huge increase in sales,” said Travis Wright, owner of The Impact Area on Kalifornsky Beach Road. “A lot of people figured McCain was a shoe-in for the election, but mainly because people are scared about what Obama’s going to do once he gets inaugurated and starts getting people in key positions in the government.”

Wright anticipated the increased demand and ordered 40 percent more stock than he usually would.

“Pretty much all of that is gone,” he said Friday. “I’ve made more money the last two weeks as far as gross sales than I normally do in two months.”

Wall displays and gun racks had as many empty spots on Saturday at The Impact Area, and Wright was sold out of the most popular types of ammo. He’s ordered more stock, but many of the rifles he did have out in the shop were the only ones left, instead of being display models with more in the storeroom for customers to buy.

“There’s been a huge increase in sales. We had the early dividends and sales have not tapered off, in fact, people are still getting their checks, so it’s never tapered off after that,” Wright said.

Many of his customers are paying in cash. He said he’s talked to bankers, who’ve told him people are pulling money out of their accounts to invest in tangible goods — like guns.

Mike Harrell, owner of Mike’s British Guns, in Sterling, said his sales are up, as well. Harrell sells antique, side-by-side shotguns and rifles over the Internet that are 75 to 120 years old. These are high-end, high-dollar firearms. Some sell for upward of $4,000.

“I could go three months at a time without selling anything,” he said.

In the last 10 days, he’s sold $8,200 worth of firearms. He said he doesn’t necessarily know that’s because people are worried about gun bans or increased regulations, but there certainly is a lot of interest in the issue at the moment, which may have contributed to his sales.

Concern and predictions of what regulatory changes may come out of the Obama administration are all across the board, from increased taxes to establishment of nationwide gun-purchase waiting periods, or even outright bans of firearms.

“An increase on guns in price, increase in taxes that they would have to pay, plus the inability to be able to buy them, and they’re concerned about being able to keep them,” Thornton said. “Now, that is an American liberty and freedom — you have the right to keep and bear arms. Every American has that right, and Americans have paid with their blood for the last 200 years for that right and that freedom, if you’re not able to bear arms, then you’re subject to whatever puppet dictator is coming down the street, and that’s why people are scared.”

George Root, co-owner of Soldotna Pawn, said he hasn’t heard Obama make any specific anti-gun comments, but he is concerned about possible regulations. So are his customers. Sales of firearms have doubled recently, he said.

“During his speeches and stuff, he (Obama) said that he’s for the Second Amendment, telling us that he believes in the Second Amendment in there and he’s for that, but he also stated that he is for regulations, and he would like to see the states do the regulating,” Root said. “To me, that’s just an open contract. That’s a big foot in the door, so once that starts, well, anything could happen after that. And I think the majority of Alaskans are concerned about what he’s going to do. Not right away, but what he may do down the road.”

Alaska has some of the least-restrictive gun regulations in the country, Root said. You don’t have to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and there’s no waiting period to buy a gun. Dealers just have to call in a background check to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which usually takes about five minutes, Root said.

Wright said he’s done his homework on gun regulations, and where Obama likely stands on them.

“I hear rumors, what people are saying, but to know for sure and to get the facts you have to read into what people do. I knew what Obama stood for to begin with, I’m all about protecting our rights. I’ll let everyone I possibly can know what I know,” he said.

Wright cited examples of Democrat-controlled states, like New York, California and Obama’s Illinois, being restrictive in firearms regulations. He also said that gun regulations don’t work. When Australia banned guns, for instance, violent crimes increased drastically overnight, he said.

“Those things never worked in the past. I can’t get people to understand that what they’re trying to do is not going to help anybody, it might potentially make things worse,” Wright said.

Judging from sales, people are most concerned about the continued availability of semi-automatic rifles.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the assault rifles,” Root said. “Quite a few people have been coming in for those types of things. They feel those types of rifles will probably be the first to go.”

Thornton, at Brown Bear Guns, said he’s sold out of many types of firearms and ammunition, in particular the semi-automatics.

“They’re interested in people-shooting guns. Semi-automatic. More .223-caliber than anything else,” Thornton said.

Thornton said he prefers moose and bear hunting, to eat what he shoots, but the .223-caliber is worthless for large game.

“Two hundred twenty-three is a caliber that was developed for that Vietnam War, and they’re not fit for anything but wounding and shooting people. They don’t turn my crank at all.”

Root said the .223-caliber are purchased for personal protection, and can be fun to shoot as a recreational gun. Wright said they’re good for some small game hunting.

“The cool thing in the state of Alaska is there’s no magazine capacity restriction, so you could put a 100-round magazine and go coyote or wolf hunting,” he said. “They’re not just used for recreation up here because the laws that we have allow us to do more with them.”

Sales of other merchandise have been brisk, as well. Hunting rifles, pistols, ammo, powder, primer, accessories — whatever inventory gun dealers have are flying off the shelves.

Ron Ross, of Kenai, was looking for a pistol Saturday at The Impact Area that his wife could have for protection when he’s traveling. Fear of higher taxes or tighter restrictions prompted him to buy a gun now, rather than waiting.

“All this is going on, so I just figured I better do it before they put a hold to everything,” he said.

Ross also hunts and has rifles at home.

“But I may buy another rifle before all is said and done,” he said.

Bill and Sandy Forbes, of Soldotna, were considering buying a hunting rifle for their son. Forbes said several of his friends have been talking about possible gun regulations.

“It seems like most Democrat presidents end up wanting to do gun control and they’re worried about your right to buy guns, so you end up getting a run on buying guns,” he said.

That’s good for retailers in the short term, but those who believe higher taxes on firearms or ammunition, increased regulations or outright bans on some firearms are coming, think the post-election windfall will turn into a serious dry spell in sales.

“Sales are going to continue until legislation is passed. Everybody’s scared but it’ll be a while before legislation is introduced and passed,” Wright said.

“It’s a good business to be in when things like this are happening, but what’s going to happen when legislation is passed, I’m going to have to work in the oil field again,” he said.

Computer security: Evening the odds

Putting the final touches on computer security is an intentional misnomer — there’s no finality to computer security. It’s always been, and probably always will be, a continuous contest between those of us striving to protect our systems and our data and those attempting to either hack into our systems or simply cause random destruction.

This week, I’ll suggest some basic operating system approaches that you can take to make that contest at least an even proposition.

The Internet is now a nearly indispensable and highly useful part of nearly everyone’s life. Grandparents communicate with grandchildren, financial transactions and bill payments are completed with a few clicks, and e-mailing PDF files allows us to facilely communicate with clients whom we have never met. It allows me to file this column with the editor rather than driving into town on a snowy evening. However, Internet communications can be likened to walking in a beautiful, but snake-infested, jungle: you need to watch where you step.

Most importantly, train yourself, your employees and your families to be security conscious. Computer security is as much common sense and a security-conscious mindset as it is a specific program or piece of hardware.

Learn how to use your programs so you don’t accidently delete or overwrite data. Take a second and reflect before unthinkingly confirming a file delete or file overwrite dialog box.

Avoid the back alleys of computing that are likely to mug your data or privacy. Some types of Web sites, especially those that your teens and children might be tempted to frequent, are obvious places to contract computer viruses and other malicious software (often called “malware”). Other Internet traps include e-mails that solicit your assistance in supposed foreign money-laundering schemes, alleged employment solicitations, or other get-rich-quick schemes such as the ostensible request that you confirm an out-of-the blue award of a Wal-Mart card or some such to you.

Although most of us believe we are too smart to fall for such obvious scams, I’ve seen a fair number of supposedly sophisticated businesspeople fall for them. One peninsula businessperson was convicted of felony theft and jailed after raiding their trust account for hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in that Internet scheme. Needless to say, the money transferred over the Internet was never recovered, and several clients whose trust account moneys were raided were also inadvertently scammed.

Other Internet sites look and sound like the real thing but are silently redirected to scammers. This practice is termed “phishing” (fishing) but can be readily countered by turning on the “phishing filter” in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 and by using some common sense.

NEVER give out personal and financial data in response to any sort of unsolicited e-mail. Be especially wary of unsolicited e-mails to the effect that your login data or financial and bank account information should be verified or updated. These are often crude, but sometimes effective, attempts to get enough information to victimize the unwary.

If you really must make changes, then do so by telephone to an independently verified telephone number to your bank’s service department or a known, good login site that you independently enter into your browser’s URL window. Be particularly careful about opening the attachments to unsolicited e-mail. This is a favored delivery mechanism for malicious payloads.

ALWAYS enable some sort of firewall program. Remember that Internet communication is a two-way street. Just as what goes up, comes down, what comes in can also go out. There’s a huge amount of rogue software roaming the Internet that can be used, and often is used, to silently plumb every corner of your computer and export all sorts of data to persons artfully hidden behind several layers of the Internet.

A firewall reduces the chance of someone beaming into your computer and exercising mind control over it. You can find the Windows firewall settings as a separate icon on the Windows Control Panel by clicking on Start, Settings, Control Panel, Windows Firewall. If you use the Internet to communicate between office and remote locations, then be sure that you set up what is termed a “virtual private network,” which uses a dedicated port for secure, encrypted two-way communication over the Internet.

Next week I’ll discuss more about basic operating system approaches, including downloading and installing security and operating system updates.

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.

Making the law — Kenai attorney followed mother’s advice to first Alaska Legislature

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Soldotna’s James Fisher said that his mother’s imploring voice followed him into adulthood and constantly urged him toward public service.

“She used to tell my brother (Bob) and I, ‘You should give back to society. You want to contribute to society.’ Over and over,” Fisher said. “In effect, she programmed us.”

Fisher’s mother, Mary, also practiced what she preached. According to Fisher’s daughter, Sally Tachick, she provided numerous examples of giving to society throughout her long life.

Fisher, who began his public service by joining the Marines just before his 18th birthday in 1945, found it impossible to resist his mother’s advice. After he and his father traveled in June 1955 from Texas to Anchorage — where the first person he met was Seaborn Buckalew, a lawyer who became famous as a Superior Court judge throughout most of the 1970s and ‘80s — it took Fisher little time to find himself embroiled in the politics of his adopted home.

It wasn’t his first venture into the political arena, however. At the age of 23, he had run unsuccessfully for a seat on the Texas Legislature. Despite losing the election, he had enjoyed the political scene, and so, in Alaska, after working with the military’s White Alice communications system and a brief stint as an insurance adjustor, his political aims took on a sharper focus and met with greater fortune.

Fisher, who had earned a law degree in Texas in 1952, took up residence in Anchorage, involved himself in the grassroots “Operation Statehood” efforts of 1958, and became a member of the first Alaska Legislature in 1959.

With his election as an Anchorage delegate to the first state House, Fisher joined a vast majority of other Democrats in the Legislature. As strange as it may seem in today’s Republican-dominated state, in 1959 Alaskans elected Democrats to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, the governor’s mansion, and to 18 of 20 seats of the state Senate and 33 of 40 seats of the state House.

This majority didn’t always equate to unity, however. Appointed to the Judiciary and Rules committees, Fisher found himself “assigned” an extra duty: Watch Rep. John Hellenthal (D-Anchorage) and make sure he follows the rules.

Speaker of the House Warren Taylor, Rules Committee Chair Richard Greuel and Majority Leader Peter Kalamarides — all Democrats — came to Fisher with this unusual task.

“They were frankly suspicious of John Hellenthal,” Fisher said. “They didn’t think he could be relied upon. They described him as a ‘loose cannon.’ They weren’t sure that they could hold him to his word.”

They weren’t the only ones who believed that Hellenthal was manipulative. Former Gov. Jay Hammond, who was also a member of that first State House, wrote that Hellenthal was “perhaps our most artfully articulate philosophical prostitute.”

Hellenthal, Hammond said, “could argue opposing positions on any issue with equal passion and persuasion” and was “sometimes more intrigued with mind manipulation than meaningful effort to resolve conflicts.”

Fisher said that Hellenthal had a “reputation for always coming up with his version of the truth.
“So they assigned me to the Judiciary Committee — and he was the chair of the Judiciary Committee — and I was there to watch him, to make sure he performed as a committee chairman should.”

In the meantime, Fisher said, Greuel sometimes maneuvered politically in ways he had accused Hellenthal of doing, and Taylor occasionally took liberties himself and “wasn’t very sensitive to the ethical ramifications of his actions.”

Hellenthal, on the other hand, was clever, but he “wasn’t acting as flagrantly as I’d heard him described.”

Despite such machinations, however, Fisher deemed the first state Legislature a success.
“I still remember that day when we were going into Juneau (for the first time), flying into Juneau in one of the old (Lockheed) Constellations,” Fisher said. “It was misty, as it frequently is in Juneau, and we weren’t at all sure then how long it would take to set up and organize the state government.

“There was some speculation it might take six months. Well, actually, it only took 81 days.”

In that first session, from Jan. 26 to April 16, 1959, the new state lawmaking bodies passed legislation that created the organizational framework that has run Alaska’s government now for 50 years.

“We thought we were starting something brand-new that hadn’t been done before, and that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes that had been made before,” Fisher said.

At the end of the Legislature’s second session in late March 1960, Fisher got married, an event that perhaps signaled many more changes to come.

Defeated for a second legislative term later in 1960, Fisher moved on. He and his wife, Helen, and their daughter moved to the Kenai Peninsula, and their son, Bruce, was born the following year. Later in the 1960s, with attorney Jim Hornaday, he opened up one of Kenai’s first law offices.

Fisher stuck close to home, eschewing another try at political office so he could remain close to his family. And even while Fisher & Hornaday was going strong, he never faltered in his dedication to public service.

He was president of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce for three years, worked with the nonprofit Alaska Legal Services, and, with Helen, he became involved in environmental issues and joined the Kenai Conservation Society.

Now 81 and one of only four surviving members of that first State House, Fisher is still active in his community. He is a member of local historical societies, helps out at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center and is on the board of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

As he can be seen frequently riding his bicycle or walking from place to place around town, he never fails to be mindful of the need to give back to society, and to heed the “programming” initiated by his mother’s imploring voice.

Water works: Insects master submerged breathing

I remember as an elementary school student watching a classmate attempt to drown a grasshopper by holding its head under water. The grasshopper endured the insult long enough for the childish attention span to turn to some other endeavor, and the insect was released to swim another day.

While the grasshopper was in danger of being squeezed too hard and perhaps getting a bath it neither needed nor wanted, it was in absolutely no danger of drowning with its head under the water.

Insects take in their air by way of a special set of spiracles on the thorax and the abdominal segments. The many spiracular openings lead to a series of very fine, hollow tracheal tubules that repeatedly branch until they are about one micron in diameter (one micron equals 1/1,000,000 of a meter).

These very fine tubules are surrounded by insect hemolymph (insect blood) that can absorb oxygen from the tubules and give back carbon dioxide. In order to refresh the air in these tubules, insects simply stretch or move the abdominal segments. If you watch an insect for a while, it will periodically stretch the abdomen, much like you and I do when we elevate the chest and draw in a fresh breath of air.

So how do the many aquatic insects live completely under water if they use air-filled tracheal tubes for oxygen exchange? There are several interesting solutions to this problem. Many aquatic insects are so small that they are able to simply exchange gases from the water right through their thin exoskeleton.

Another approach can be found in several groups like the mayflies and caddisflies that have special gills as larvae. Some of these gills look like a miniature brush of fine tubes, while others resemble flattened footballs attached to each abdominal segment. These gills exchange gases that are then channeled into the tracheal tubes.

Mosquito larvae and some other dipteran (flies) larvae have a tiny tube that they extend above the water surface so they can take air directly into their tracheal tubes. This is like breathing through a straw while still completely submerged.

(While we now appreciate the damage that was done to our wetlands, this is why years ago oil was spread over swamps in attempts to control mosquitoes. The surface oil would plug up the mosquito respiratory structures and the larvae would die.)

The colder the water is, the more oxygen it can hold. Warm water, on the other hand, can hold much smaller amounts of oxygen. Most streams in Alaska are so cold that it is no hardship for insects to get all the oxygen they need. During the winter months, when the water is at its coldest, the insects are able to get all the oxygen they can use so they are very active feeding and growing.

In warmer waters the oxygen is limited so insects must resort to additional measures. Some insects use hemoglobin in their hemolymph that is the same bright red color as our blood. The insect hemoglobin, just like ours, helps hold onto oxygen and spread it throughout the insect body. In an effort to extract the limited oxygen from warm water, some insects flap their gills in the current to bring them in contact with more water. Yet others can undulate their bodies to create a current or even build little tubes that funnel water past their gills.

When these immature aquatic insects leave the water to become aerial adults, part of the emergence process involves shedding their gills. They then use the normal spiracular openings and tracheal systems for their breathing as adults. When we consider that many insects can fly nonstop for hours, the insect’s simple breathing system apparently works quite efficiently.

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 watershed.

Tell tale with heart — SoHi play is love story, good-and-evil struggle over Edgar Allan Poe

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The last days of Edgar Allan Poe’s life remain a mystery, 159 years after his death. He disappeared for five days in 1849. When he was found, he was incoherent and died a short while later.

Was it alcohol poisoning, as was the theory of the day? Or rabies, as new speculation holds? Or maybe it was something even more dramatic than that.

“Nevermore,” a play by Julian Wiles staged this weekend at Soldotna High School, speculates that Poe spent the last few days of his earthly existence fighting over his fate in the hereafter.

“It’s an exploration of what might have happened,” said Mike Druce, SoHi drama teacher. “The idea behind it is that Nimrod is trying to win his soul to the dark side. To do that, he’s driving Poe crazy by making him relive incidents from his stories.”

Poe’s love interest in the play, Annabel Lee, is fighting against the evil Nimrod to save Poe’s soul, creating a classic tale of good vs. evil, set against a backdrop of Poe’s work.
“It was an interesting concept, a little bit different from what we’ve done before,” Druce said. “It looked like it would be fun to do.”

The play intersperses the narrative tale of Poe’s life with scenes from his work, including “The Telltale Heart,” and some of his more obscure poetry. Twenty SoHi students, from freshmen through seniors, play 52 different roles in the production.

The show is staged in the round, meaning the audience sits onstage surrounding the actors. It makes for an intimate setting, but presents some challenges in a show that requires magicesque slight of hand in some scenes.

“We’ve had to improvise a few things,” Druce said. “I think one of the interesting things for our show is technically, I think our production is probably more technically challenging than the original.”

Druce saw photos of the first production of “Nevermore,” which looked like it was staged more simply than SoHi’s adaptation, with bodies disappearing from coffins, slight-of-hand tricks, multimedia slide projections, and a giant mask that, well, you’ll have to watch the show to find out.

“Our set is a challenge. Trying to switch a body onstage with people sitting 10 feet away is a little tricky,” Druce said.

“Nevermore” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the SoHi auditorium. The show runs about one hour, 20 minutes. Tickets are $5 at the door, and there’s only seating for 100 people each night.

The cast consists of Jeff Melvin, Chrissy Smith, Cati Smith, Jessiah Steffy, Nick Tesch, Dillon Ball, Alex Wilson, Britt Wilson, Emily Raffa, Kevin Oelrich, Joshua Rutten, Autumn Ball, Katelyn Jordan, Brian Folley, Briana VinZant, Lizzie McDermid, Kelly Thomas, Sarah Anderson, Keegan Eshleman, Delana Duncan and Holly Jenkins.

Art Seen — Drinking in variety at Kaladi Brothers’ November art shows

With the opening of a new shop on the Sterling Highway, in the old Godfather’s Pizza space, Kaladi Brothers now offers twice the art to see each month.

There are artists showing in both locations, where First Thursday receptions were held at the beginning of the month. Libby Berezin’s clay work is on exhibit at the Sterling Highway shop. She completed a bachelor of arts degree in literature in Illinois before moving to Alaska with her husband in 1975.

The pieces she has on display are mostly functional platters, with glazes that feel organic and with designs that are patterned after the natural world.

Some of the round platters have handles, and all of the square and rectangular platters have irregular, sort of floppy edges. There is an almost Japanese feel to some of the lighter, less heavily painted pieces.

In the side room, she has a series of objects that appear to be both wheel thrown and hand built and have the quality of sea urchins or some such underwater creature. Even though they appear to be nonfunctional ceramics, I find myself imagining turning them flat on a counter to hold rings and other jewelry.

There is something about clay that invites one to use it, handle it and make it fit into one’s lifestyle somehow.

Her prices are more in keeping with national prices for pottery, but are still reasonable (potters in our area of Alaska sell their wares quite inexpensively, especially considering the extra cost of materials shipment).

It is good that she mounts solo exhibits in more serious venues, as well, which helps to challenge her and keep her creative juices flowing. A couple of her pieces already had sold tags on them.

At the original Kaladi Kobuk location are the fanciful fiber creations of varying sizes and themes by Jan Wallace. I particularly enjoy the more subtle and thoughtful “Slow Dancing” and the vibrant and irregular “Looking for Stargate.” There is something inviting about “Fractured Ecosystem,” but there is a disconnect between the troubling title and the serene, Zenlike quality of the piece.

“Spirits and Myths” seems to be an interesting exercise, but I feel the composition could have been better orchestrated.

Her triptych, “Finding My Way,” seems more personal and the compositions more interesting, especially when the attached objects break the outside line of the piece.
She calls the work displayed in this exhibit a “creative outlet,” and all in all, the show fills the space well, almost verging on crowded. There is even a bonus underwater scene in the bathroom you will want to take in.

Kaladi Brothers has been providing a venue for artists for a number of years, and those willing to use the difficult hanging system (everything must be suspended by fishing line) have been bringing in a wide variety of art to display.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

Arts and Entertainment week of Nov. 19

Holiday arts, crafts fairs:
  • The annual Country Fair Fundraiser and Brunch at Peninsula Take-a-Break will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at Solid Rock Bible Camp on the Sterling Highway. Ladies can donate homemade arts, crafts, wearable items and food. Proceeds support Stonecroft Ministry. Live country music will be by Stefanie Bouchard, and inspirational speaker will be Marilyn Lee talking about joy of the journey. Lunch and childcare reservations must be made by Sunday. E-mail tab-reservations@hotmail.com or call Cindy at 260-6262 or Carolyn at 262-4214.
  • Kenai Central High School will host an arts and crafts fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 28 and 29 with more than 150 booths and door prizes every hour. Admission is free. Refreshments will be available. Table spaces can be reserved for $40. Contact Peggy Millyard at millyards@acsalaska.net or 283-5104.
  • Soldotna United Methodist Church will hold a Ten Thousand Villages sale from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 28 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 29 with handmade items from artisans around the world sold through fair trade practices. Contact Susan Smalley at 283-7469 or asusansmalley@yahoo.com.
  • Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai will hold its 14th annual bake sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 6. Contact Mary Kennedy at 776-8328, or mkennedy@alaska.net.
  • Hope Community Resources will hold a holiday bazaar from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 13 on Kalifornsky Beach road behind Ellis Automotive. Vendors are needed and can rent a table for $15. Proceeds benefit Hope’s activity fund. For more information, contact Lisa Hamilton at 260-9469 or lhamilton@hopealaska.org.

  • The Kenai Community Library is offering community members the opportunity to participate in the StoryCorps Alaska oral history initiative by recording interviews. Participants will receive a free broadcast-quality CD and a copy of the interview will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For more information or to schedule appointments stop by the library or call Cynthia Gibson at 283-4378. Interviews are recorded at 9 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays through Nov. 26.
  • Already Read Books in Kenai has “Collections” through November.
  • Artists Without Borders in the 4D Building in Soldotna has a group show on display through November.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Joe Kashi on display through November.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has Dena’ina art and regalia on display through November.
  • The Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College has ceramics work by Steven Godfrey, head of ceramics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, on display until Dec. 11.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Jan Wallace on display through November.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Libby Berezin on display through November.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has “Only Moose,” an invitational art show, on display through November.
  • The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center has a group exhibit by the Kenai Potters Guild on display through November.
  • Veronica’s coffee shop in Kenai has photographs of Veronica’s through the seasons by Joe Kashi on display.

  • The Central Peninsula Writers Group will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Kenai Community Library. The group is open to new members.

  • The Soldotna High School drama department will stage “Nevermore,” a play about Edgar Allan Poe, at 7 p.m. in the SoHi auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door, and only 100 seats are available.
  • The Kenai Central High School drama club will stage its fall performance at 7 p.m. at the school. For more information, call Cheri Johnson at 283-2157.
  • A Harvest Teen Dance will be held from 8 to 10 p.m. in the banquet room of the Nikiski Rec Center for seventh- through ninth-graders. Admission is $2.

  • SoHi drama department performs “Nevermore” at 7 p.m. See Friday listing.
  • KCHS drama club stages its fall performance at 7 p.m. See Friday listing.

  • KCHS drama club stages its fall performance at 3 p.m. See Friday listing.

Coming up
  • The Boys and Girls Clubs and the Kenai Peninsula is accepting artwork for its annual fine arts exhibit in December. The submission deadline is Nov. 26. For more information and entry guidelines, visit www.positiveplaceforkids.com.
  • Santa will visit with kids at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 28.
  • The Christmas Comes to Kenai Electric Lights Parade will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 28 down Frontage Road to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce building. Parade theme is “cinema Christmas,” with floats decorated based on favorite Christmas movies. Float lineup starts at 5 p.m. Following the parade will be a bonfire and tree-lighting ceremony at the chamber parking lot at 6:30 p.m., with fireworks at 7:30 p.m. Contact Tina Baldridge at 283-7989 or tina@kenaichamber.org.
  • A beginning beading workshop taught by Ruth Missik for ages 12 and up will be held at the Kenai Community Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 6. Limited to 10 participants. Cost is $20 to cover supplies. To register or for more information, call 283-4378.
  • The Central Peninsula Writers Group is accepting submissions for its 12th annual Central Peninsula Writers Presentation on March 14 at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Adult and high school writers from Cooper Landing to Ninilchik to Nikiski may enter. Entries are due Feb. 6. Entry forms and complete guidelines are available at the Kenai Community Library and online at kenailibrary.org under the Writer Group link.

  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

Live music
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has Tuff-e-Nuff at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has folk music on Wednesday night.
  • Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna has music by Anchorage band Muhammad Jang on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has live music by Emily Barry at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has The Free Beer Band on Wednesday night.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has open mic night Wednesdays and music by Dedzep on Friday night.
  • 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 by Them Other Shuckers at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

  • 9 p.m. Thursdays 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 J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • 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 and a fundraiser for Lori Prather, who has cancer, at 1 p.m. Saturday with a raffle and auction.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has Scrabble night on Tuesday and a dart tournament at 8 p.m. Thursdays.

Editorial — Electing to serve a good cause

Like most notes of thanks, this one arrives a bit after the fact. We would like to thank the candidates, campaign workers, those involved with the initiatives and all the election workers for the election on Nov. 4.

Elections are divisive affairs. Candidates spend months sparring back and forth, looking for the slightest bit of imperfection on the part of the competitors. As soon as that imperfection is found, it is trumpeted to the world.

While this is disturbing on some levels, it also is necessary. Whether the position is vice president, U.S. senator or state representative, those running for office deserve a thorough, and perhaps at times unfair, vetting process. These public officials will be taking our money and deciding what to do with it, so it is important we know as much about them as possible.

Candidates submitting themselves to this process deserve our thanks. We may grow to revile certain candidates and their views on some issues, but we must keep in mind that even the candidates we don’t like are part of a democratic system in which thesis and antithesis hopefully leads to synthesis that is better for all.

Three of the 10 races for state Senate and eight of the 40 races for state House of Representatives had only one candidate on the ballot. In one-sided races, constituents usually only learn that the candidate is thankful for support. This shows the value of a competitor. It also shows that running for office is not easy.

Take Sarah Palin, the polarizing candidate for vice president. Quite a few loved her, and quite a few did not, but there is no denying that, for our democracy, she submitted herself to months of hectic travel and unforgiving, harsh criticism.

It’s no mistake that on the night of the election, many candidates thank their families. Skeptics may say this is just politicians being politicians, but it’s clear that the time, effort and thick skin required to run for office places a huge burden on family.

And it’s not just the candidates and the family. The “Alaska Ear” in the Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday that it’s not uncommon for election workers to gain weight in the months leading to the election. The 17 people working on the Mark Begich Senate race turned that around by entering a fitness pact, resulting in lost weight.

The sacrifices campaigns make for democracy become even more admirable in light of the apathy in which many Americans hold their democracy. The Daily News reported Alaska voter turnout was relatively high this year, with 65 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

The problem is, 65 percent is not very high in light of the sacrifices our armed forces and their families are making at home and abroad right now. 65 percent is not very high in light of similar sacrifices that have been made before and since the 13 colonies declared independence in July of 1776. 65 percent is not very high considering voting is relatively easy and gobs of money are spent begging people to vote.

Americans may disagree about whether government is a necessary evil or a necessary good, but Americans agree that government is necessary. Those who go above and beyond to contribute to the election process deserve our thanks.

Guest editorial — Will Camelot play in the hood?

“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.”
— “ Camelot” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe

In the months leading up to and following the election of Barack Obama, media pundits are purporting that the 44th president and his young family will duplicate the so-called “Camelot” era of the 35th president, John F. Kennedy.

The “Camelot” of the Kennedy years was a reference to the hugely successful Broadway musical “Camelot,” which had opened just a month after Kennedy’s election. Starring Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and the then-unknown Robert Goulet, it ran for 873 performances, won four Tony awards and was America’s top-selling record album for 60 weeks. The musical drew upon mythology to evoke the magical concept of an unknown place where the legendary King Arthur was thought to have blissfully lived way back in the sixth century.

From the Jan. 20, 1961, inaugural balls onward, the press presented the Kennedy family as being part of a new magical dream for the American future. Kennedy’s better half, Jacqueline, or “Jackie” as we preferred to call her, was portrayed as the perfect wife — sort of a June Cleaver with diamonds and servants. Jackie could speak French, carried herself elegantly and was the doting mother of two small children, 4-year-old Caroline and John Jr. (whom we called “John-John”), born shortly after JFK was elected. Life and Look magazines had a field day, as did the venerable Saturday Evening Post in those pre-People days. It appeared to indeed be a new Camelot.

Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (D-Mass.) was elected Nov. 8, 1960. His victory was an upset over Republican Richard M. Nixon, who was completing eight years as a very visible vice president under Dwight Eisenhower. For the first time, both major candidates had been born in the 20th century. At 43, Kennedy was the youngest man and the first Roman Catholic to be elected to the nation’s top office. Ironically, it was the Irish Catholics of Cook County in Illinois that helped push Kennedy over the top. It was rumored that many of those voters had been dead for years.

Mr. Nixon carried 26 of the then-48 states, including his home state of California, to Kennedy’s 22. However, Kennedy garnered 303 electoral votes to Nixon’s 219. The margin of victory for Kennedy was just 112,827 popular votes, but Nixon eschewed a recount, not wanting to further divide the country.

So, we have 43-year-old Kennedy, a father of two with an elegant wife coming into office at a time when America was fed up with old Republicans running the country. Sound familiar? Well, hold your horses for just a minute. It ain’t that simple.

While Kennedy was the youngest and the first non-Protestant president and Obama is the second black president (after Bill Clinton, whom author Toni Morrison characterized as the “first black president” in a 1998 New Yorker article. Her opinion was shared by the Congressional Black Caucus when they honored Clinton in 2001), and Obama and Kennedy both have/had young kids and a beautiful wife, that’s where the similarity ends. Oh, and there is also the Chicago Democratic political machine to consider. I almost forgot.

Kennedy’s father, Joseph Kennedy Sr., was immensely wealthy and politically powerful. He was a friend of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and served as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of King James in London as England was drawn into World War II with Germany. Kennedy had been grooming his eldest son, Joe Jr., to be president some day, but Joe Jr. was killed in a war-related aircraft training exercise. So, the mantle fell upon No. 2 son, John.

JFK was a Purple Heart-decorated wartime naval hero and the subject of a book, “PT-109,” later made into a film starring Cliff Robertson. In 1957, Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for “Profiles in Courage,” a collection of accounts of other heroes of history. In May 2008, Kennedy friend Ted Sorensen admitted that the award-winning work ascribed to JFK was, in reality, largely Sorensen’s effort.

Kennedy received good press and we Americans of both parties couldn’t help but follow the lives of America’s favorite family, the First Family. President JFK had a bunch of tough issues to deal with, both domestic and international. He made decisions, good and bad, and he spoke intelligently and could express himself well. He was handsome and engaging and had the media eating out of his hand at the many press conferences he conducted.

And then came that fateful Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, when the Camelot that was Kennedy ended in downtown Dallas. “Camelot” the musical had ended its own run just months earlier and there was nothing left except a grandfatherly but powerful Texan named Lyndon B. Johnson, who delighted in showing his gall bladder operation scar to anyone who would look.

Obama and his family will not be able to duplicate the Camelot of the Kennedy years any more than Kennedy could duplicate it himself today. For there to be another Camelot in 2009, there must be a concurrent “Camelot” playing on Broadway. At the inaugural ball, there must be a sense of magic in the darkened room and a candlelit table where husband and wife gaze lovingly into each other’s dreamy eyes. There must be soft music in the background and a reverential hush from the political hacks and hangers-on standing just off camera. There must be a sense that the private lives of this family, the First Family, should be off-limits to the media. And there must be the same sense of self-reliant challenge and adventure that the Kennedy Camelot offered America and the world for the decade known as the Sixties.

But here, in the decade known as the Oughts, one is hard-pressed to find an environment that could sustain a King Arthur. Just ask any bell-ringing Santa in Chicago this holiday season and he’ll tell you, “No, Virginia, there ain’t no Camelot.”

And there probably won’t be one in the immediate future. At least not until Chelsea Clinton-Kennedy’s third term.

Bill Gronvold is a writer who lives in Kenai and Florida.