Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kenai River be dammed — Government planned to plug Kenai Lake for hydro power

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories examining possible Homer Electric Association hydroelectric projects near Moose Pass. Next week’s story will focus on controversy surrounding the existing hydroelectric project at Cooper Lake.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

If federal government had gotten its way in 1952, the Kenai River would have been dammed at the outlet of Kenai Lake.

Instead of the gently sloping gravel bars where anglers fish year-round, bears and eagles find plentiful meals amid the blue-green water and drift boats and river rafts begin their journeys, the headwaters of the river in Cooper Landing would be spanned by an earth-filled dam 100 feet high and 1,800 feet long.

That’s 556 feet longer than the Hoover Dam.

The mammoth project would have dramatically and purposefully transformed a large swath of the central Kenai Peninsula, from the headwaters of the Kenai east to Resurrection Bay.

Plans called for using the dam to cause the level of Kenai Lake to rise and back up into the Snow River delta, which would be dredged to bring the water level even closer to the divide where it drains south into Resurrection Bay. A tunnel nearly four miles long would pierce the bedrock of the natural divide from Kenai Lake to Bear Lake. Another half-mile tunnel would be bored from Bear Lake to Lost Creek to the east in order to lower the elevation of Bear Lake from 200 feet to at least 50. The whole project would mean the waters of Kenai Lake could be forced to drain south into Resurrection Bay, rather than west as it naturally does into the Kenai River and eventually Cook Inlet.

The purpose of all this?

Power. Lots of it.

The project would have included a power plant at the north end of Bear Lake expected to produce more than 140 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year by utilizing the 1 million acre-feet of water storage that would be created with the dam in Kenai Lake.

Homer Electric Association’s plans to investigate installing four low-impact hydroelectric projects in the Moose Pass area brings renewed interest to using water for power in the Cooper Landing area. HEA’s plans have some new twists — especially the low-impact approach — but the co-op is hardly the first to ponder the feasibility of hydroelectricity in the Kenai Mountains.

Crescent Lake has nearly been the host of a hydro project before. In 1955, the Seward Petticoat Gazette newspaper had a story about a hydroelectric project at Crescent Lake, “which will eventually make low cost electric energy available to the residents of the Seward and surrounding territory,” the story states. It goes on to talk about attempts to obtain necessary permits from the Bureau of Public Roads and the Forest Service. A contractor for the state of Alaska also studied the area for hydro in the 1980s.

The Kenai River dam idea was outlined in a January 1952 report called “Our rivers: Total use for greater wealth — Reconnaissance Report on the Potential Development of Water Resources in the Territory of Alaska,” which was presented to the 82nd Congress, first session, as House document 197. The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, compiled it.
The stated purpose of the report was to investigate, “What of the water resources of Alaska? Have they any value? Should they be developed? These and a host of other questions have long needed answering.”

All regions of Alaska were reviewed in the report, and some were found to be more promising for hydroelectric projects than other. Southcentral, in particular, was deemed to be promising because it was thought that more power would result in more development.

“Cook Inlet area is the hub of Alaska, geographically, industrially, as a transportation center, and for accelerated development in agriculture and miscellaneous enterprises,” the report states. “The growth of this area is a healthy one, for it is not dependent on a single industry, nor on unstable resource development. Yet many of the resources are virtually untouched, a major one being the water resources. Agriculture, coal and metal mining, lumbering, fishing, and transportation have combined to serve as a nucleus for a stable economy. Lack of power and other water resource development has thus far prevented an even more impressive ‘chain reaction’ that would not only expand the existing developments, but would attract new manufacturing industries to the area.”

The Kenai River basin was seen as a likely candidate for hydroelectric projects because of ample lakes and glacial drainage streams, plus the Alaska Railroad and beginnings of the Seward and Sterling highways provided access to the area. But only one project — the biggie — was suggested as actually taking place.

“The basin offers numerous possibilities for small-power installations at relatively low construction cost. The only development considered is one using Kenai Lake for storage,” the report states.

A few other hydro sites on the peninsula were considered in the report. A proposed dam across Resurrection River about nine miles from the river’s mouth in Resurrection Bay at Seward would be 235 feet high and 2,000 feel long. That would create a reservoir with a 320,000 acre-feet capacity. A tunnel would carry water five miles downstream to a power plant that could generate more than 60 million kWh per year. The report questioned the feasibility of this project, however, due to geologic conditions.

Tustumena Lake is mentioned, but no projects were proposed, since it wasn’t seen as an area primed for development.

“The importance of the basin lies chiefly in its agricultural possibilities and the fact that much of it is underlain by coal-bearing sediments,” the report states.

Other than that, Cook Inlet itself got a nod of interest, but no specific recommendations:

“Cook Inlet has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world. Among the combination of factors that cause such large differences between high and low tides, at times exceeding 50 feet, are the configuration of the inlet and its bottom topography. This potentiality is worthy of future study.”

The report doesn’t include any study of what the ramifications of such large-scale hydro projects would be on fish, wildlife or any other aspect of ecology. But the report’s introduction does include a statement that seems to be at odds, to put it mildly, with the idea of plugging the Kenai.

“The fishing industry ranks first in importance in Alaska’s economy. This position can only be maintained if man-made destructive elements are minimized. The fish and wildlife service should be consulted to make certain that proposed structures for water resource development do not hinder the ‘run,’ of salmon.”

But the introduction also states that, “the construction of many of these dams is highly probable in view of future demands for power and water.”

Had it been built, the Kenai River as we know it today would cease to exist.

“It would have dewatered most of the upper river and we wouldn’t have any inputs until you got to Skilak Lake, really, except the Russian River input. Yeah, it’d be a pretty small stream,” said Robert Begich, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It would have cut, boy, a lot of production. All species of salmon go across Kenai Lake and spawn in the tributaries … and in the lake itself.”

Rainbow and Dolly Varden trout also spawn up past the outlet of Kenai Lake. Salmon and trout spawning occurs elsewhere along the river, but cutting off Kenai Lake would have had a drastic impact.

“They would have survived, but the whole system wouldn’t have been as productive. It would be too big of a landscape change. There’d be fish, but not very many,” he said.

“Yeah, it would have been a big landscape change. A doozy, that’s for sure,” Begich said. “We’d all have less to do.”

The Kenai River dam never came to be, but it wasn’t for lack of consideration. Documents show the federal government was considering installing hydro on the Kenai decades before the 1952 Interior report. In an Alaska Archaeological Survey supplemental report, “Sterling Highway Archaeology” from 1985-1986, put out by the state of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, there’s mention of Frank Towle, the first resident in Cooper Landing to get a title to his homestead from the federal government, in 1932.

Prior to Towle, Cooper Landing homesteaders weren’t granted titles to the land because of a 1921 Federal Power Authority restriction limiting entry to federal lands within a quarter mile of the Kenai River and Kenai Lake, the report states. The power authority had a dam in mind that was expected to raise the lake level 6 feet. During the ’20s, no action was taken on a hydro project, so the Forest Service requested that the Federal Power Authority loosen restrictions on land in the area that wouldn’t be affected by the planned dam, which it did on May 10, 1934, according to the report.

The authority then began lifting restrictions on a case-by-case basis, “if individual homestead or homesite permit holders could demonstrate that their improvements to the land would not be adversely impacted by a 6-foot rise in the water level on Kenai Lake or the Kenai River,” the report states.

Had a dam been built and the lake level increased 6 feet, “We would have a better lake view,” joked Mona Painter, Cooper Landing historian and longtime resident.

Levity aside, the magnitude of what might have occurred is staggering to consider.

“It’s been interesting what they’ve planned over the years,” Painter said. “It’s a complete plan about how they were going to have the water go toward Seward and have hydroelectric power that way. Can you imagine? It would have just been huge. Where the bridge is now there would have been a big dam. It would have been huge.”

Obama baby sitter awaits new era — Soldotna woman eager for former charge’s reign

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

On Tuesday, supporters of President-elect Barack Obama looked forward to watching him take the oath of office with a sense of excitement, pride and hope for the future. Mary Toutonghi, of Soldotna, was prepared for that and another sensation: Remembrance of the 44th president as a 7-month-old baby.

Toutonghi used to baby-sit President Obama when she was neighbors with his mother.

Toutonghi was living in Seattle at the time, in the early 1960s. Her husband was going to school at Seattle University, and she was a stay-at-home mom with their 18-month-old daughter.

They lived in a three-story house that had been converted into three inexpensive apartments. Toutonghi and her family lived in the basement apartment, and Ann Dunham — Obama’s mother — lived in the apartment directly upstairs.

Dunham attended night classes a few days a week at the University of Washington, and needed someone to take care of her son.

“The time was available and we were all struggling students. She needed a baby sitter and I said ‘Sure,’” Toutonghi said.

She watched Obama a few times a week, for about three hours at a time. Dunham paid her, but she doesn’t remember how much, Toutonghi said.

“I remember his being very large and very curious and very alert. I don’t remember him fussing, but that doesn’t mean anything. Saying he never fussed is like saying he’s not real. But I don’t remember any undue fussing at all,” she said.

Being a struggling young mother herself, in the tumultuous dawning of the 1960s, no less, Toutonghi said she doesn’t remember many specifics about Dunham.

“I was so engrossed in myself at the time,” she said.

But the circumstances of a young mother living, attending school and raising a baby alone stuck in Toutonghi’s mind.

“It was a tough situation, as far as I knew,” she said. “She was 19, she’d promised her parents that she was going to finish college, even through she’d married. I’m presuming her parents were paying for the schooling — nobody had any money at the time.”

Dunham met Barack Obama Sr., a foreign student from Nyang’oma Kogelo in Kenya, Africa, when she was a freshman at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. They married on Feb. 2, 1961, and Barack Obama II was born Aug. 4, 1961, when Dunham was 18.

Dunham left school to take care of the baby, and returned to Seattle while Obama Sr. finished college in Hawaii and left for graduate school at Harvard University.

“It was interesting, and I don’t know why she was going to school in Seattle and he was in Hawaii at the time. She had told me at one point that because of her husband’s post in the tribe he was going to have to go back to Kenya and marry a black woman, as well. It was a whole different world, so she was accepting of that and hoping she could get back to him soon,” Toutonghi said.

Later, Dunham moved back to Hawaii with her son and filed for divorce from Obama Sr. in 1964.

By that time, Toutonghi had long since moved on to the next chapter in her life. She baby-sat for Dunham for two months, then she and her husband bought a house in the Government Hill section of Seattle and moved there, before moving to Alaska in 1977. She had a long career as a speech pathologist. She’s retired from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and has a private clinic in Soldotna.

She didn’t have cause to think about her former charge until 2004, when she came across his first book, “Dreams from My Father.” Then she saw he was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

“Since I found the book, ‘Dreams from My Father,’ when it was first published, then when I was working on the 2004 presidential campaign and realized he was the convention speaker, it blew me away. And then this,” she said.

“I keep thinking of the six degrees of separation, that thing. I’ve known some unusual people in my time, but this was different.”

Toutonghi said she went to school in California with Bob Hope’s kids.

“We were in the neighborhood, essentially. I was not one of the elite group members, by any means, but I remember getting an award once with he and Dorothy in the audience,” she said.
As famous-people stories go, that’s noteworthy. But nowhere near as much as having changed the future president’s diapers.

“It was just mind-boggling to me when he did that Democratic convention, and then was like, ‘Huh,’” she said.

Toutonghi said she often wondered what happened to Dunham, who became Ann Dunham Soetoro after a later marriage, and died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

“We talked, but I can’t say, if I had been really strong friends I would have kept up the relationship. It was interesting to me as I read that book, his first book, I was thinking of his mother, then finding out she had died I felt very badly. I had meant to try to contact her through the publisher, but I didn’t get around to it. It was one of those things,” she said.

Toutonghi said her daughter asked if she had voted for President Obama because she had once baby-sat him.

“I said no. I felt that he had a concern for people as a whole,” she said. “As I thought of the books and things I had read about him and what I knew of that period of time, I think he was very aware of ordinary people and people who were trying really hard to make it. His mother definitely had spoke in terms of concern for people, and I just had the feeling that he must have carried some of that through, and it seems to be turning out that way. I listened to some of the speeches he had made today and he has an awareness of what it’s like to struggle to achieve something.”

She was looking forward to seeing President Obama take office, and not just for the thrill of 40 years-removed fame.

“I just think we’ve been through eight years of hell,” Toutonghi said, referring to the war in Iraq, mounting national debt and the country’s downward spiral into economic recession during President Bush’s administration.

She’s hoping the alert, inquisitive boy she once took care of now takes care of the country.

“I think he’s got a horrible job ahead of him, but he seems to be taking it in stride,” she said.

Hop to it — Local brewers pour with pride at Great Alaska Beer, Barley Wine Festival

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Hardy travelers from the central Kenai Peninsula braved blowing rain, 100 mph winds and some of the iciest road conditions of the winter last weekend in a quest to deliver precious cargo to Anchorage.


And no, they hadn’t had any before starting out to bolster their courage in facing the Ice Capades that were the Seward Highway and Anchorage streets and sidewalks. The lure of the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival was incentive enough for local brewers to hit the road and slide on in to Anchorage.

Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop, from Nikiski, and Soldotna’s Kenai River Brewing Co. and St. Elias Brewing brought their wares to the festival Friday and Saturday for the hundreds upon hundreds of thirsty hopheads to sample. Along with Homer Brewing Co. and Ring of Fire Meadery, from Homer, the Kenai Peninsula is laying claim to a growing stake of territory in Alaska’s brewing scene.

“The local beers hold up really well,” said Steve Ford, of Soldotna, who’s attended the festival on and off since 1994, and whose interest in the fine art, science and culture of brewing has grown even more consistently since then.

Ten years ago, the Alaska beer fest represented a rare opportunity for central peninsula attendants to sample diverse, high-quality, Alaskan-made brews, as well as versions from the Lower 48 and beyond. Nowadays, they can also mix in a taste of home.

“That was my first stop when I came in, I hit the local guys first. Then I’ll try the other brewers,” Ford said. “I’ve gotten into this thing lately to buy local. It makes a lot of sense — there’s good prices, it’s fresh, there’s no shipping and it’s environmentally friendly to buy local. And they’re always mixing it up, so it’s always worth stopping by.”

The Alaska brewers’ booths took up an entire two rows of the festival in the Egan Center, and did well in the judging, with Anchorage’s Glacier BrewHouse’s Big Woody Barley Wine taking third place and Sleeping Lady Brewing’s Old Gander Barley Wine taking second in the overall judging, and first among Alaska barley wines.

“There’s plenty of good options in Alaska beers out there. I can’t say enough about the Alaska brewers. We rock,” said Frank Kassik, of Kassik’s Kenai River Brew Stop.

Kassik and his wife, Debbie, brought 70 gallons of brew to the festival, including their Beaver Tail Blonde, Moose Point Porter, Morning Wood IPA, Dolly Varden Nut Brown, Snow Angel Barley Wine and Caribou Kilt Strong Scotch, which won them a third prize in the prestigious World Beer Cup awards last year. They also brought Smoked Russian Imperial Stout, which was poured during Saturday’s 2 p.m. connoisseur’s session.

“It’s never the same, and everybody brings something special they’re making for this session,” Ford said.

He said the smoked beers, like Kassik’s, were an interesting addition to the festival this year. And he’s a self-proclaimed hophead, so Kenai River Brewing’s series of single-hop beers has grabbed his interest over the years.

“They take one type of hops and brew from that, so you get to know that one flavor. That’s been really educational,” Ford said.

Brewery partners Wendell Dutcher and Doug Hogue, along with Joe Gilman and their mascot, Inebriatta, were manning the Kenai River taps Saturday afternoon. Dutcher said they brought 80 to 100 gallons of brew and were getting a good response to it.

“People say there’s a lot of character and flavor to our beers,” he said.

Kenai River was pouring their Honeymoon Hefeweizen, Arctic XPA, Sunken Island IPA, Skilak Scottish, Naptown Nut Brown and Swiftwater Stout for the festival, along with the single-hops.
There’s no telling what next year’s festival may bring. Part of the appeal for the brewers is a chance to sample each other’s efforts, Dutcher said.

“You get some ideas. You always have some recipes in the back of your mind if you have the time to start brewing them,” he said.

Next door at St. Elias, Zach Henry said he was making the most of the opportunity to drink in some new ideas.

“I take a break every now and again and try some beers I’ve always heard of and never tried, which is cool. I think that’s where every brewer’s inspiration for new beers comes from, you try somebody else’s beers and say, ‘Wow, I want to brew something like that and put my own stamp on it,’” he said.

Henry’s stamp at the festival included St. Elias’ Belgian Blonde, Irish Stout, Farmers Friend and Williwaw IPA.

“We picked a broad spectrum, from light all the way up to our dark, so there’s a little of every color up here, kind of cross section of our beers,” Henry said.

Being the new kids on the block, open as of this summer, St. Elias doesn’t distribute outside of Soldotna. Along with requests for samples came a common question for Henry, Jessie and Isaac Kolesar: “Where are you guys from?”

The point of attending the festival was to get exposure to a larger craft beer-drinking audience, and that was being accomplished.

“Because we don’t distribute, we’re trying to get people to come down and try us out,” Henry said. “… A lot of people came by and said their friends told them to try our beers. It’s a word of mouth kind of thing, which is cool.”

This being St. Elias’ first beer fest, they were learning some of the lessons Kassik’s and Kenai River already have figured out in their three festivals.

“We’re the total rookies up here this year, we’re learning so much we need to do next year,” Henry said.

Lesson No. 1: bring bigger banners. Lesson two, don’t let all the effort required to pack up, set up and keep up with the crowds — especially toward the end of the evening sessions — keep you from having a good time.

“We usually go kicking and screaming when we’re coming up, but when we get here we have a blast,” Frank Kassik said.

That being said, brewers don’t want to keep up with demand so well that they’re the only ones left meeting it.

“You don’t want to be the last tap (flowing at the end of the night),” Dutcher said. “You’ll see this crowd of people move in and everybody goes there. You don’t want to be that guy.”

Commercial brewing on the central peninsula has been a learning experience in general since taking off three years ago — for the brewers and for drinkers, said Jim Roberts, aka “Dr. Fermento,” the longtime beer review columnist for the Anchorage Press newspaper.

Unlike in Anchorage, where people are primed and accepting of microbrews, because there’s already so many of them, central peninsula brewers are having to create customers along with beers.

“On the peninsula they’re having to convert palates one beer at a time,” Roberts said.
They’re doing it through quality.

“Overall, I’m really, really happy to see what they’re doing down there,” Roberts said.

“I really like Kassik’s. A lot of brewers are trying to be the biggest, the boldest the bad-assest, the most bodacious, throw any adjective in there you want. But Kassik’s said, ‘We’re in the business of making good, solid, strong-tasting beers,’” he said.

Kenai River Brewing got praise for their single-hop beers, among their other efforts.

“They’re doing a great job. I’m seeing their beer on an increasing prolific basis up here. They’re going a good job focusing on a lot of IPA,” Roberts said.

And St. Elias is a welcome addition to the group.

“St. Elias is a badly needed venue on the central peninsula — the first brew pub,” Roberts said. “The beers are maturing, and by that I don’t mean getting older, but they’re doing a good job. It takes awhile to work the kinks out of brewing and they’re doing it.

“And they all get along. The alcohol industry by its nature is fiercely competitive, but you’ll find that Alaska brewers don’t fall into that category. … What you see here is on the bigger picture is it’s like a family reunion for all brewers in Alaska.”

The central peninsula brewers are a welcome addition to the family, he said.

“These brewers don’t need Anchorage. They’re doing us a favor bringing their beers here, and we’re happy to have them,” he said.

Plugged in: With computers, more money doesn’t always mean more speed

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about making smart PC purchases.

Warning: Spending more money does not necessarily buy you greater useful computing power and reliability. Any computer is only as fast as its slowest bottleneck, rather like a chain’s weakest link, and each computer should be carefully balanced for cost-effective performance.

DRAM memory is the very high-speed “volatile” electronic chip memory that holds programs and data only so long as a computer is powered up. When the computer is turned off, whatever unsaved data remains in volatile DRAM memory disappears.

DRAM memory retrieves and manipulates data far faster than your spinning mechanical hard disk but the hard disk retains its data as a magnetic recording when powered down and holds hundreds of times more data. Not having enough DRAM forces your computer to frequently use the slow mechanical hard disk for primary computing, which greatly slows down any computer. DRAM memory is now very inexpensive.

One of the first and most inexpensive ways to often improve computer performance is to add additional memory, particularly if you are using the computer for memory-intensive tasks such as processing photos or videos. Ordinary 32-bit Windows XP computers should be upgraded by installing at least 2 gigabytes (GB) DRAM if the computer exhibits any slowdowns that coincide with heavy hard disk activity. (Check to see if your hard disk indicator light is on most of the time and under what circumstances.) Sixty-four-bit Vista and Windows XP x 64 computers should have at least 4 GB of installed DRAM. Adding more than 4 GB DRAM to a computer using a 32-bit operating system like Windows XP is a waste — the computer can’t even recognize that it’s installed. This is not a limitation with 64-bit operating systems.

There are several types of DRAM, usually designated DDR, DDR2 and DDR3, along with the DRAM’s speed ratings. The correct type and speed for each CPU processor and system board must be installed. Tests show that adding DRAM whose rated external speed is significantly faster than the minimum specified for your system board and CPU is a lot more expensive but only provides a very slight performance advantage. That’s because current DRAM technologies can only go so fast internally before becoming unreliable. When the external speed (the bus speed) is increased, something that makes marketing departments happy, the internal chips can’t really keep up and provide data all that much faster. In order to avoid crashing, high speed DDR memory inserts internal “wait states” that slow the data transfer rate. The net result is that there’s only a very modest improvement in overall system performance. One real benefit of AMD CPU processors, by the way, is that they include the DRAM memory controller directly on the CPU and the memory controller runs at full CPU speed, which does result in better DRAM performance under most circumstances.

When you upgrade the amount of DRAM in your computer, replace all of the DRAM at the same time, adding two matched sticks at a time in each DRAM channel. All installed DRAM needs to be matched in order to avoid instability and to maximize performance.

When you’re adding DRAM, be sure that its rated speed is at least as fast as the standard for that system board and installed CPU; I prefer to install DRAM that is rated for one speed increment faster than the minimum required for a particular CPU and system board. Slower DRAM is slightly cheaper but more prone to instability or slower performance. Using DRAM that’s rated as faster than the minimum required usually results in a more reliable system, provided you operate the computer at its default memory speed. That gives you a little in reserve.

There’s a really useful program, CPUID, that will give you a wealth of information about your installed processor, your system board and your DRAM memory. It’s a free download from www.cpuid.com. This free diagnostic is recommended.

Also recommended when you’re trying to balance the performance of your computer system is a benchmark program called “Performance Test”, now in version 6.1. Although the software license activation for Performance Test costs $24, a very reasonable price, you can get a 30-day, full-function download from the vendor’s Web site, www.passmark.com. Passmark also sells a “burn-in” program to stress test new hardware and provides a 30-day, full-function trial of that program, as well.

I’ve used Performance Test for many years as a means for identifying the weak points in my computer systems. For example, I recently found that my law office file server had quite adequate CPU and network performance but that the hard disk performance was very much sub-par, even though I had installed a RAID disk array of 10,000 rpm Western Digital Raptor SATA hard disks, some of the faster hard disks available. Raptor hard disks should be capable of reading and writing 100 to 200 megabytes of data per second. I was getting between 4 MB and 7 MB per second. Spending hundreds of dollars to replace these fast hard disks was obviously not the answer. That brings us to our next low-cost means of improving computer performance.

Driver Software: Software “drivers” are the bits of programming code that allow any attached hardware to work properly with the Windows operating system. Microsoft provides a lot of the basic driver software needed to get Windows installed and running but the Microsoft drivers, although generally pretty reliable and stable, are necessarily generic and do not always provide the best performance with specific computing hardware. This is particularly true for high-end video cards, fast hard disk controller chips, scanners and network connections.

Updating the “driver” software for too-slow computer components is one of the best ways to improve the system performance and stability of an unbalanced computer system, and it’s usually free. My own file server’s hard disk performance tripled after I updated the driver software for the hard disk controllers. It’s still not really good enough, but three times faster than before. That’s a good start for a 10-minute process that cost me nothing.

When you buy new computer hardware that requires some sort of driver software, the hardware vendor usually provides their optimized driver software on a disk or CD. However, the optimized vendor software is not always installed when a new computer is set up and vendors constantly update their software drivers to reduce bugs and improve performance, posting new driver software to their Web sites. So, your next step after identifying specific performance weaknesses is to update the drivers for the related hardware. For example, if hard disk performance seems weak, update the IDE and SATA disk controller driver software.

There are several ways to update the driver software for balky hardware. You can do so within the Windows Control Panel system tab or using Windows Update over the Web. You can use the vendor’s CD that came with your computer or go directly to the hardware vendor’s Web site. Some Web sites include Internet-based scans and automatic updating while others require you to know what’s installed and manually choose and download updated driver software.

You must be very careful, though, when updating driver software. If the new software is not stable, then your system will crash. Before you update driver software, be sure that you completely back up your computer system. Also, use the Windows System Restore function to set a restore point with known good driver software, so that you can roll your system back in the event of instability.

Finally, don’t install a driver that the vendor just posted for the first time last week. Unless you’re in a critical situation, don’t be a test pilot — let some other eager fellow take the first risks. Wait a few weeks before updating to new driver software so that the vendor has a chance to correct any problems. The slowest computer of all is one that won’t even work.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his Web site, www.kashilaw.com, along with links to legal and community resources.

Raising the roof — Dome group wants to create service area to generate funds for indoor sports facility

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The Tuttles, of Nikiski, are a soccer family. Dan coaches the Under-14 Sweetfeet in the Kenai Peninsula Soccer Club, and Denise is assistant manager. Four kids play year-round, with two participating in a league that requires frequent trips to Anchorage. The oldest daughter participates in the Olympic Development Program, which involves camps held throughout Alaska during the winter as part of the team selection process.

The kids work hard and love the game, but that alone isn’t enough to bridge the widening gap between peninsula soccer teams and teams from Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna area and Juneau.

Tuttle says that gap is the length of a full soccer field, has a roof overhead, lights and heat, and is blanketed in artificial turf. It’s a place to play year-round.

She and about 30 other central peninsula residents attended an informational meeting Thursday at the Kenai Merit Inn to voice their support for the peninsula’s own 175,000-square-foot dome.

“The rate at which the clubs we compete with are developing, we will be falling behind rapidly without a facility of our own,” Tuttle said. “The difference between an elementary school gym and turf is like apples and oranges, you cannot compare the two.”

Anchorage, Wasilla and Juneau have indoor turf fields where sports like soccer, track and field, baseball and softball can not only start practices on time — instead of waiting for snow, ice and mud to recede in the spring — but they can keep up their skills in the winter, too.

On the central peninsula, outdoor spring sports teams with schools practice in gyms, hallways or wherever else they can find space until their fields are dry and ready for them. Youth programs, like the Kenai Peninsula Soccer Club and Boys and Girls Club soccer program, only get a few months playtime outside when Alaska conditions allow it. After that, it’s either pack it up until next year, or jockey for indoor gym space, which isn’t ideal even when teams can find it.

“Redoubt Elementary has been the most willing to give us time but as our girls have grown, so have their kicks,” Tuttle said of the Sweetfeet team. “It is too small for the 16 girls we roster, making it very difficult to truly practice as needed to compete.”

The solution Tuttle would like to see is an indoor sports facility on the central peninsula, like the 174,290-square-foot, air-supported facility at Changepoint Church in Anchorage, called The Dome.

“Since the (Anchorage) dome has opened, the level of play between our area and those with indoor facilities has grown an even larger gap. It would be nice to give our local talent an arena to shine in and grow as athletes,” Tuttle said.

A local group has been meeting throughout the fall and winter to discuss the possibility and look at ways to make it feasible. At Thursday’s meeting, spokesperson Mike Navarre said the group would like to sell 25-year bonds to finance the project and create a service area with the same boundaries as the Central Peninsula Hospital service area to pay for the dome through tax dollars.

The envisioned dome would be about the same size as the one in Anchorage, only configured differently so it could have designated spectator seating. They also want removable turf to allow for basketball and other nonfield events. The estimated construction cost is $20 million.

Navarre said the group estimates a half mill increase in property taxes would cover the amount needed to build the facility and provide money to help pay to run it. A half-mill tax increase, which would cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 an extra $50 a year, would generate $2 million a year. Most of that — $1.4 million — would cover the debt service each year, with $600,000 left to help cover annual operational costs. Navarre said they expect operational costs to exceed $600,000, but plan to make up the difference with user fees. They’d set rates based on how much extra they’d need to raise to run the facility.

While the group does want to follow in Anchorage’s footsteps in building a sports dome, it doesn’t want to end up in financial trouble a year after opening — as Anchorage’s dome is facing a $600,000 shortfall in operational funds.

It would be a mistake for the peninsula to expect to build a facility through legislative money, grants and donations alone, and to pay to run it primarily through user fees, Navarre said. Anchorage’s dome costs $600 an hour to rent for an event, he said.

“For a facility like this, our idea is that a service area is really the only way this area can support it. Local sports teams, they’re constantly out raising money just to have enough money to have the activity. What we want to do is charge for the use of the facility, but make the fees reasonable enough that people can use it,” he said.

The group does hope to get grants, donations and legislative funds to finance a large chunk of the project, and the more financial support they get, the less bonds will be needed. But Navarre said the group wants to be open with the public about all the costs involved, in case grants and donations don’t come in as hoped.

“We don’t want to mislead the public. We’re introducing realistic costs and talking about all the reasons why it’s a good idea. At the end of the day, they get to make the choice,” Navarre said.

The group has been gathering letters of support from a diverse group of potential users, everyone from local sports programs to Homer teams and even Triumvirate Theatre, which would like to do “outdoor” shows there in the winter.

“Think outside the box. It’s kind of exciting to think about all the things that can be done,” said Kathy Gensel, co-chair of the dome facility committee.

Youth and high school sports uses alone would be myriad. Such a facility can include soccer fields, a football field, batting cages, a baseball and/or softball diamond, a track and a basketball court. It could allow the peninsula to host major sports tournaments and teams to practice year-round. Adult recreational sports could also find a home there.

But the public has to buy into the benefits of a dome to agree to more taxes to pay for it. Navarre sees it as an extension of the community’s existing support for kids.

“Those in the business community know that (sports teams) are out soliciting all the time — all the time,” Navarre said. “… It comes out of the community one way or another, and by having a service area we can spread the cost for what we see as a cost of living issue over a broad base.”

To form a service area, the group needs approval from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to put the question on the ballot. They hope to complete a feasibility study this winter, with money from the hospital community fund and a previous fundraiser, and approach the assembly in May to get the issue on the October ballot. If it passes, construction could start during the 2010 building season, Navarre said.

There are likely to be some sticking points in garnering public support. One is the concern that the dome, with a $20 million price tag, isn’t a necessity at a time when the economy is stumbling.

But Navarre said he thinks this is a good time to pursue the project.

“Alaska has lots of opportunity still for growth and expansion,’ he said. “The Kenai Peninsula community is going to grow, and this is a 25-year project — it’s going to be here for a long time.”

Navarre said he expects the economic woes of the Lower 48 will impact Alaska to some degree, but not as extensively as is happening elsewhere. And he said he sees the possibility of further oil development and natural gas line construction on the horizon, as well as continued demand for an indoor facility.

“We’re talking about a 25-year project, and the economy’s going to go up and down over time, and global warming isn’t going to happen quite soon enough,” Navarre said. “It’s still going to be cold in the winter, so for 25 years, this makes sense.”

Where to put the facility may also become an issue. The group is hoping the borough will donate land — five acres for the facility and another five for parking — somewhere between Kenai and Soldotna.

“Kenai wants it in Kenai, Soldotna wants it in Soldotna. If we find a neutral ground, the politics of the situation are that we’re likely to get more support. There’s only going to be one facility, we’re really going to have to share,” he said.

So far, Navarre and Gensel said they’ve gotten wide-ranging support from government, schools and community organization representatives. The real test will be on the ballot.

“We’re pretty broad in terms of the numbers of people that we have talked to at this stage,” Navarre said. “We’ve got a good broad base of support. It has to go before the assembly and the assembly has to approve it to put it on the ballot and it has to pass. The public gets to decide this. That’s how this works.”

Harry situation — Even a bear mauling couldn’t keep Johnson out of the mountains

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

By the time Harry A. Johnson heard the handcar moving toward him down the rails, he had walked 15 of the 20 miles to Seward from his mining camp on Victory Creek. Earlier in the day, he had been attacked by a brown bear, and now, using a shovel for a cane, he was working his way toward town to get some stitches for the nine bite wounds on his arms, legs and back.

Manually propelling the handcar were Johnson’s friends, Fred Beyer and Mat Schlosser, who applied the brakes and rolled to a stop alongside him. According to Johnson’s account of the event, published in the 1961-62 edition of the Alaska Hunting and Fishing Guide, the conversation was brief:

“What happened to you?”

“Never mind. Get going to Seward and the doctor.”

And they did. Down the rails they traveled, dropping off their friend at the Hotel Sexton before calling on Dr. John Baughman, who came and “sewed up” Johnson’s wounds. By the time The Seward Gateway newspaper reported the incident five days later, on July 25, 1908, Johnson was recuperating at the Coleman House and said he was “feeling pretty well, though stiff and sore.”

Johnson, who was born in 1874 and was trained as a blacksmith, had come to Alaska from Erie, Penn., in 1904, to work for the Alaska Central Railway as a meat hunter. He and a crew of “mountain hunters” were employed to supply wild game — mostly moose and Dall sheep — for the tables of the men laying track north from Seward.

Over the next 60 years in Alaska, Johnson also subsistence hunted and trapped, prospected for gold, performed other seasonal work for the railroad, was a longshoreman in Seward, worked as a hunting guide in the Kenai Mountains, and became a renowned wildlife photographer, toting his treasured Graflex Speed Graphic camera with him almost everywhere he went.

Hope historian Diane Olthuis, who wrote about Johnson in Goldpan, Trapline and Camera, described him as “small and wiry,” perhaps 5-foot-6 and 120 pounds, with dark hair and a handsome face that featured a lean nose and high cheekbones. She said he was known widely as a fastidious man, who wasted nothing, spoke only when he had something worth saying, had gentlemanly manners and was unbelievably tough.

According U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service historian Gary Titus, Johnson was one of only 10 residents of Moose Pass in 1920. The following year he constructed a cabin near Resurrection Creek, 18 miles south of Hope, and moved there. Although he built a home in Moose Pass in 1948, he returned to his mountain cabin and his traplines there until well into his 80s.

But on the afternoon of July 20, 1908, Johnson was a gold miner exploring a knoll high in the countryside when he was startled by the sight of twin brown bear cubs lying in a patch of alders only about 25 feet away. The appearance of cubs, Johnson knew from experience, almost always meant that a sow was nearby.

“I stand perfectly still and give the surroundings a careful, close scrutiny which yields no adult bear,” he wrote. “Where is the mother grizzly? I am sure she is somewhere on the knoll.”
He considered his situation: He was alone and unarmed. In one hand he held a shovel. The pack on his back held a prospector’s pick and a gold pan.

Suddenly, the sow materialized before him, immediately focusing on Johnson with her eyes wide and her nose wrinkling in alarm. A moment later she charged, and Johnson yelled, “Get back! Get back!” But she kept coming.

Johnson swung his shovel and struck the sow on the side of the head. She swung a paw and cuffed Johnson on the side of his chest. As he went down, she stood over him, then bounded around him and growled before biting him five times.

“She suddenly left me and galloped up toward where the cubs were, squealing and growling all the time,” he wrote. “(Then) she came back again, still growling, and bit me four more times. Perhaps 30 seconds have passed since the bear came in sight, but she has been in continuous, fast action, and I am completely at her mercy.”

It was at this point, as the bear romped away again, Johnson said, that some part of his mind noticed that the sow’s breath smelled of berries.

He didn’t dwell long on the fragrance. Instead, he lay as still as possible, awaiting what he presumed was going to be a death blow from the agitated bear. But the sow did not return, and eventually he rose cautiously and headed back for camp.

“The bear didn’t shake me and didn’t inflict tearing bites,” Johnson wrote. “In the whole battle I received only one serious bite. The shock of it, however, stayed with me for years.”

Fortunately for Johnson, the shock was not enough to fog his common sense. After walking for an hour just to reach his camp at Victory Creek, he examined his wounds and decided that a doctor’s needle and thread were going to be required. A few hours later, he was on the handcart with Beyer and Schlosser, rolling toward Seward.

The mauling did not prevent Johnson from returning to the mountains. For nearly 30 years, he lived alone in the cabin he had built in 1921. From there, he ran an extensive trapline, hiking into town in the spring to sell furs and buy provisions for another year in the mountains. In 1926, southwest of his home, he constructed a trapline cabin that was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

Olthuis reported that Johnson — who had only one working lung, perhaps due to a childhood illness — guided his last hunter in 1955, at the age of 80. He is said to have climbed a tree at age 85, and at age 86 to have made one final 23-mile hike in to his mountain cabin.

In 1961, his body would no longer cooperate and he finally had to seek assistance. He asked John Kinda to take him on horseback to the mountain cabin, where Kinda said that Johnson “bawled like a baby,” knowing he would never see the place again.

In 1962, he sold the cabin to Cooper Landing guide Max Hamilton, and in 1963 — 55 years after he had struggled wounded from the mountains to get a ride into town — two neighbors gave Johnson another, final ride to Seward, to the Wesleyan Nursing Home.

He died on the morning of June 14, 1965, at age 90, in the Pioneer Wing of the Seward Hospital. As Olthuis said in her book, “An Alaskan era passed with him.”

On ice: Mushing, carving events postponed or canceled due to lack of winter

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Organizers of an event the size of the Peninsula Winter Games have a challenging task in ironing out all the details required to hold a communitywide event, but they’d gotten it all taken care of — volunteers were lined up, space had been reserved, announcements were made; everything was ready to bring the peninsula out to the games.

But somebody forgot to take care of the “winter” part.

With the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, Al York Memorial Junior Musher Sled Dog Race and ice carvings scheduled to begin over the weekend, the weather turned from a two-week, below-zero cold snap to rain and temperatures in the 40s, washing away hopes of events that depend on winter conditions.

“The weather’s the one thing we can’t control, and that’s frustrating,” said January Yeager, project coordinator for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Typically, the first weekend of the Peninsula Winter Games includes volunteers cutting 2-ton blocks of ice from the pond along Marathon Road in Kenai, which local carvers use to create ice sculptures around town.

On Saturday, the pond was covered with water.

“There’s like a foot of water on top of the pond. We can’t ask volunteers to go out there and do that. It’s not safe. You’re working with 2-ton blocks of ice and cold water on top of that, so it’s not good,” Yeager said.

The ice carving was canceled.

“It’s a total bummer,” she said. “There was just way too much water on there to get equipment out there and everything. And that’s one of the best things. They’re so cool to look at.”
Well, not so cool at 40 degrees.

“Yeah, exactly,” Yeager said.

While the carving event fell victim to a lack of good ice, the Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association’s Al York kids’ mushing races fell victim to too much ice.

Warmth, rain, then overnight freezing have left the mushing trails by the Soldotna Airport bare in spots, icy in others and with just a weak layer of crusty snow in the trees.

“It would be bad for the dogs. Dogs can’t negotiate this ice, there’s really nothing we can do for them,” said Mindee Morning, one of the event organizers. “They have a little bit of a stud system built in, but I’ve had a few dogs fall in the dog yard, hitting their chins or splaying their legs out. Put a load on that and try it, it’s not the best of things. People can do it and dogs do it all the time, but I voted for no, especially with kids. It’s really hard to fall on the ice.”

Danny Seavey, race organizer, said the event is now scheduled for March 21, to be held in conjunction with the Clark Bradford Memorial Race on March 22 — if conditions improve by then, of course.

“Just do a snow dance every single day, because dogs don’t ice skate,” Morning said. “I have a bunch of dogs, they don’t know what happened. They don’t know why they’re not running.”

Morning asks that people and dogs stay off the trails until they do get more snow.

“It’s just better right now for everyone to stay off the trails. Hopefully we’ll groom as soon as we can,” she said. “In the trees, there is snow, similar to what you’re seeing on the side of the road or any trails where snowmachines can’t go. It’s crusty on top and they’ll fall through and just pound it down into little lumps of ice.”

The Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race is in a holding pattern waiting for snow, as well. It was supposed to start this Saturday, but has been pushed back a week until Jan. 31 in hopes of better conditions.

“The reason we did that is the lack of snow and the trail conditions, so we’re giving it another week,” said Tami Murray, executive director of the T-200. “We got 4 inches of snow on Saturday night up in the hills, but we still need a lot more down low, so keep your fingers crossed.”

Pushing the race back creates some logistical challenges, especially for mushers who may have had other plans for the 31st.

“We had a couple that had to withdraw, one because of the Yukon Quest. The food drop is that same weekend,” Murray said.

Kasilof musher Jason Mackey will miss next week’s T-200 in order to get his food distributed in preparation for the 1,000-mile Quest race from Whitehorse, British Columbia, to Fairbanks.
But they’ve picked up a few more mushers by extending the registration deadline to Jan. 23. They’re up to 23 for the T-200, and nine or 10 each for the T-100 and the junior race, Murray said.

Race organizers are also trying to make sure their volunteers are ready to go a week later.

“We’re just confirming everybody as we speak. Our vets are our main concern. They take time off from their practices to volunteer for this,” Murray said.

All of this depends on snow showing up — on a timeline that coincides with forecasts and schedules.

“It will, it always does,” Morning said. “That’s where humans have to make plans, and the weather doesn’t have any plans.”

A schedule of events for the Peninsula Winter Games is available at www.peninsulawintergames.com. For information on the T-200, visit www.tustumena200.com.

Editorial — Dome group plays campaign the right way

An effort to build an indoor, domed sports facility on the central Kenai Peninsula is what good government is all about.

Citizens want something. They think it will benefit the entire community, but they recognize there isn’t enough “free” money available on the magic financial tree of state and federal funds, grants and corporate donations to pay for it. So they volunteer to shoulder an extra tax burden to make it happen, and ask their neighbors to do the same.

In these days of bank bailouts, stock market collapses, housing market bubble bursts and retirement fund evaporations, coming on the heels of an era of pork barrel spending where following the money was more challenging than following an instruction book in Chinese, it’s refreshing to see an example of government straight out of civics 101.

People want something, they’re willing to pay for it so they ask their government to help provide it.

The group pursuing the sports dome, led by former borough mayor Mike Navarre, Kathy Gensel and Dale Sandahl, and supported by a who’s who cast of community leaders, is going about this in the best way possible. They want to establish a service area that would increase property taxes by a half mill to pay for the dome.

They’re forming a realistic estimate of the costs and scope of the project and are open about it with the community. They’re not telling people, “We’ll get grants, and the Legislature will come through and surely BP will be good for a million or so,” and adding (in fine print), “We’ll stick taxpayers with the rest of the bill.”

They’re not even attempting to convince people that the dome will pay for itself in user fees. It’s a good thing, because after the Soldotna Sports Center and Kenai Multipurpose Facility, citizens know recreation facilities tend to become black holes for public money. Instead, they’re telling people the truth: We’ll be paying a certain amount every year to operate this facility, and that’s OK. It’s not meant to make money, it’s a quality-of-life enhancement we’re willing to support.”

They do hope to get grants, legislative and donor funding, but they’re not even factoring that into the cost structure they’re presenting to the public. They’re telling people, “If we get this money, great, but if not, this is what it will cost to have this facility. We think it’s worth the cost, for the good of our kids and the entire community. We hope you think so, too.”

Whether people agree or not that the dome is worth an extra $50 a year on $100,000 of assessed property value, they can’t fault the process or allege that government’s trying to sneak something by them.

The dome group is holding a series of organizational meetings, where everyone is invited to come get information and ask questions. They’re talking to potential user groups and gaining their support. And they’re planning on bringing the matter before the borough assembly in May to get the service area question on the October ballot. Then, as Navarre said:

“The public gets to decide this. That’s how this works.”

Guest column: From Alaska, with love of money

If Alaska’s two most powerful women politicians were to chat, what might the conversation be? The following is one satirist’s take on a phone call from Gov. Sarah Palin to Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

“Hi, Lisa. It’s me.”
“Umm … Sarah? What do you want?”
“Oh, nothing, really. I was just wondering what you were going to wear to the inauguration balls.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided. Maybe a conservative business suit.”
“How conservative?”
“Look, I’ve got a house full of PAC men here and I really can’t talk right now.”
“Want me to call back?”
“Sure. How about in about two years.”
“Well, I didn’t want us both to wear the same outfit. You know, so that we don’t clash with each other.”
“Um hmm. I suppose you don’t want me to wear red.”
“You got it, sister. That’s my color. After all, I earned it.”
“You betcha.”
“And that’s my line. Don’t you go appropriating it.”
“Look, I’ve really gotta go. I have to mingle with my guests.”
“OK. Umm, speaking of appropriations … .”
“Have you talked to the Begster about keeping the congressional fiduciary pipeline open back up here to the Great Land?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. The special projects spigot is still in the ‘on’ position. If it’s any of your business.”
“Sorry. It’s just that I feel so … so … isolated up here.”
“Well, I’m sure that you’ll be staying busy hiring and firing, and ironing the blue and gold bunting for all the statehood celebrations.”
“What celebrations?”
“Come on, sweetie. Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood.”
“Geez, that’s right.”
“Don’t tell me you forgot. Too busy with political beauty pageants?”
“Gimme a break, Miss Nepotism of 2002.”
“Stop with the name-calling, dearie. It has become so pre-election.”
“Speaking of elections …”
“Don’t even go there.”
“You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that you were actually not going to step aside for the good of the party in 2010.”
“I have no intention of stepping down. Not for you, not for — well, not for you.”
“The pollsters are already giving me a 10-point lead, sister.”
“Hmmph. Don’t forget about the restraining order that I have against you.”
“What restraining order?”
“The one that says you are to keep at least 25,000 votes away from me. At all times.”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I heard about that. But I fired the guy who was gonna serve it on me. How do you like them apples?”
“It is those apples, missy. Get a life. Or at least better grammar.”
“You leave my family outta this.”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“Okay, bye.”
“Bye … umm, Sarah?”
“Are you really going to come be down here in D.C. in January?”
“Yep. You betcha. I’ll just be unobtrusively hanging around on the outer fringes of power.”
“Right. In your bright red dress with that rhinestone tiara, I suppose.”
“So? What’s wrong with that? I’m sure nobody will even notice me.”
“You are going to return to Alaska afterwards, right?”
“Golly, I suppose so. Eventually.”
“Okay. [sigh] A hundred million.”
“For openers?”
“And you’ll come up in July to cut the ribbon for the groundbreaking of my future gubernatorial libary?”
“It’s ‘lie-brer-ee’.”
“Okay, library.”
“Oh, all right. Say good night, Sarah.”
“Good night, Sarah.”

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

Art Seen: Practice makes perfect

Alyse Haynes has been drawing since she was 2 years old, and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3.

Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. She is 17 now, and attends Soldotna High School, where she gets special life skills training and encouragement toward independence and community contribution.

Alyse is showing her work currently at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna.

Many of the drawings are filled, almost edge to edge, with various figures. The effect of seeing a wall full of them is quite magical, and pleasingly textural. Her color choices are bright and varied, and she has an interesting sense of space, so that some of her works feel like a tapestry.
Intensive needs instructor Kim Jordan finds the artworks amazing, and says Alyse will often pull out her notebook to draw when she is feeling stressed.

Many of the drawings are repeated versions, with small variations, as if she is continually working on the perfect piece. It’s sort of a version of what we all do, isn’t it? Refine ourselves, little by little, always looking for an improved version, working out our lives like a ball of fine clay, or layering our experiences as in a long-worked oil painting.

Tony Oliver will break out his form of art when he’s stressed, too. Or pleased, or energized, or intent. He’ll break out his camera pretty much whenever he sees beauty around him, which turns out to be almost all of the time.

He finds it easy to come upon inspiring scenes while he is hiking, biking, snowshoeing, canoeing, skiing, rafting and exploring our rich environs. Tony is a tech guy at the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and he spends a lot of his off-work time either working out, or working on that perfect shot.

He claims to be a “hobbyist” with his photography, but it is easy to see his eye is good, and his love for the subject is certainly evident.

His work is showing at the new Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway, where you can see the occasional quiet black-and-white photo, as well as some really creamy, well-composed evening shots. All but one of the images was gathered locally, and although he does not create his work to sell it, it is available to purchase, as are Alyse’s drawings.

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 Jan. 21

  • The Soldotna Senior Center is looking for artists to display their work in the center's lobby. Shows are one month long. Artwork must hang on the walls. Call Mary Lane at 262-8839.
  • Artists Without Borders, in the 4D Building in Soldotna, presents a solo show by Laura Faeo.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Joe Kashi on display through January.
  • The Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College has the traveling statewide photography show, “Rarefied Light 2008,” on display through Feb. 4.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Alyse Haynes on display through January.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has photography by Tony Oliver through January.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has “Facets of 3-Dimensional Art” by Joyce Cox on display through January.
  • Odie’s coffee shop in Soldotna has a collaborative art show by Claire Rowley, Ashley Doremire, Sam Merry, Sue Zurfluh-Mann and Donna Schwanke on display through January.

  • Central Peninsula Writers Group will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at Kenai Community Library. It is open to the public. Bring extra copies of your work to share.

  • A Monopoly tournament for kids ages 8 to 17 will be held at 4:30 p.m. at Redoubt Elementary School as part of the Peninsula Winter Games. Registration is at 4 p.m. The first 25 kids to register will play.

  • The Kenai Community Library will hold a wire beading class from 1 to 3 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a wooden or plastic ruler. Advance registration is necessary, and the materials fee is $12.50. Contact Cynthia Gibson at 283-4378 or www.kenailibrary.org.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a frozen boxer contest on Friday night, to see who can get a pair of frozen boxer shorts thawed and put on first.

  • Kenai Community Library will hold a free family game day from 1 to 4 p.m. with a variety of board games, or bring your own to share.

Coming up
  • The Nikiski Community Recreation Center will hold a teen night with movies, popcorn, open gym, basketball and more from 7 to 10 p.m. Jan. 30 for ages 13-18. Admission is $2.
  • Loraine Larsen will teach a fur sewing class at the Kenai Community Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 31. Participants may make fur earmuffs or sheepskin baby booties. Cost is $26. To register, call 283-4378.
  • Seamus Kennedy will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4 at The Crossing in Soldotna. Call 262-1906 for more information.
  • 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.
  • Central Peninsula Hospital is seeking artwork in a variety of mediums to display in its new addition. Artists in Southcentral Alaska are invited to apply. The deadline for submissions is March 9. For information about the program, contact Leah Goodwin with Aesthetics, Inc. at (619) 683-7500, or Goodwin@aesthetics.net, or visit http://kenaiphotography.com/CallForArtists.htm.
  • Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus is requesting proposals from artists interested in creating work to be placed in its new Riverview Commons by 5 p.m. March 13. The installation will be complete by Aug. 17. Proposals must include a conceptual sketch including notes, up to 10 slides of past work, a resume and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Submit proposals to Phillip Miller, Kenai Peninsula College, Facilities and Maintenance, 156 College Road, Soldotna, Alaska 99669. Miller can be reached at 262-0325 for more information.

  • Friday and Saturday nights at The Riverside.

Live music
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has Pilot Cracker Playboys on Friday night.
  • The Crossing has the Baked Alaskans at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna has Tuff-e-Nuff on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has the Free Beer Band on Wednesdays and Sundays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has open mic night Wednesdays, and AK Free Fuel on Saturday night.
  • Mykel’s in Soldotna has Diggin’ Roots with Robb Justice and Dan Spencer from 6:30 to 9: 30 p.m. Friday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass by Them Other Shuckers on Friday nights.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic night at 6:30 p.m. Fridays.

  • The Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road has a karaoke contest through early February every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. with a $500 prize.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 9 p.m. Friday at J-Bar-B outside Soldotna.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • 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.
  • The J-Bar-B has a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays. Patrons get one ticket each day they’re at the bar. Must be present to win.
  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has Texas Hold ‘Em poker from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and free pool Thursdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has Tommy Bahama bingo on Sunday and Monday and darts on Tuesdays.