Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wading into debate over arsenic risks — Many factors to consider in finding safe level of contaminant in area water supply

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of an examination of arsenic levels in drinking water. For last week’s story, on March 4.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When Susan Bulkow, the local Alaska Drinking Water Program coordinator with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, gets a phone call from a central Kenai Peninsula resident asking about arsenic in the water supply, the question is usually straightforward:

Should I be concerned?

Her answer isn’t straightforward. In most cases, there is no simple “Yes” or “No” to that question, because there are no simple answers to many questions regarding arsenic.

The best Bulkow can do is offer information, wade carefully into the debates that swirl around arsenic contamination, and let residents decide the answer for themselves.

Epidemic or not?
A few things are widely agreed upon when it comes to arsenic — it’s here, and it’s bad for you. It’s been linked to cancer, and can contribute to a slew of other health problems, including fatigue, skin damage and problems with the circulatory system. Some level of arsenic routinely shows up in water samples across the central peninsula, in city and private wells.

What does that mean for peninsula residents? Is arsenic an epidemic that warrants a run on bottled water and filtration systems, where every glass of tap water is a tumor waiting to happen?

Or is it less dramatic than that — more a cause for routine concern, like replacing smoke detector batteries and making sure the garage door is open when warming up the car?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because some of the information necessary to make the leap from “if this” to “then that” is missing.

The biggest hole is in records, as a result of regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates and monitors arsenic levels in public water supplies — from cities and other municipalities — but there is no oversight of private wells. Banks require water quality tests on nitrates and coliform bacteria levels in private wells when homes are bought and sold, but no entity requires arsenic testing.

As a result, and since arsenic is undetectable by taste, sight and smell, many homeowners on private wells simply don’t know how much arsenic is in their water. And there are no comprehensive records of arsenic levels in private wells on the central Kenai Peninsula to accurately gauge how widespread contamination is.

There is anecdotal information available, but some points to arsenic being an epidemic problem, and some points the other direction.

Dr. Robert Thompson, with a practice in Soldotna, said he has recommended over 1,000 patients get hair mineral analysis done in the past five years, which in part measures the level of arsenic in their systems. He believes arsenic is a significant concern.

“It’s a huge problem on the peninsula. About 80 percent of the wells, based on the testing I’ve seen, have high arsenic levels,” Thompson said. “I’m more surprised when they’re not elevated than when I see them when they are elevated.”

Mike Polocz, who offers arsenic testing with Culligan Water, said he’s routinely found high levels of arsenic in private wells he’s tested —up to 70 parts per billion or more. He agrees with Thompson that high levels occur particularly in certain areas, including Sterling, along Kalifornsky Beach Road and near Sports, Longmere and Mackey lakes.

Mike Tauriainen, owner of Tauriainen Engineering and Testing, in Soldotna, which is certified to conduct water analysis and forwards water samples to Anchorage for arsenic testing, said arsenic isn’t a huge concern.

“It varies from nondetectible — below the detection limit, probably down under 1 part per billion, which is an incredibly small amount — to over 100 parts per billion. But that’s uncommon. We have seen a few samples come in at over a hundred,” he said.

Tauriainen estimated that 1 percent to 5 percent of the water samples he sees test high for arsenic.

“We are blessed with pretty good water on the peninsula, as far as health concerns go,” Tauriainen said. “My personal opinion is that it’s generally not a very significant factor, but some people are more sensitive to different minerals, including arsenic. At the allowable level of 10 parts per billion, I don’t think that there’s any significant cause for concern.”

He also said he hasn’t seen evidence of arsenic showing up in higher concentrations in some areas than others. Arsenic levels, and water quality in general, can vary by area, but well depth probably has more to do with arsenic than location, he said.

“We really haven’t done a study of it, but I haven’t really noticed that one particular area has more than others,” Tauriainen said.

“Typically, the deeper the well, the more likely it is to have arsenic, because water has been in residence longer with arsenic. But it’s not a hard and fast rule.”

A rising tide?
A misperception Bulkow has heard is the level of arsenic in the water supply is rising.

“I’m not aware of there being an increase associated with arsenic,” she said.
There has been a concern that earthquakes and seismic activity lead to an increase of arsenic in water, but that’s probably not the case, she said. Probably.

“It is possible that some earthquakes could loosen deposits, and you could temporarily see an increase. We don’t know. We haven’t actually done that kind of testing to substantiate those claims. We have had other people tell us that they believe there is a correlation,” Bulkow said.

Tauriainen said he doesn’t think the typical magnitude of earthquakes felt on the central peninsula cause long-term changes in water quality.

“We don’t have evidence of that. We have not done a study, but normally the levels will stay roughly the same,” he said.

Maybe if the central peninsula contained more bedrock, earthquakes might fracture the rock and introduce more arsenic-bearing sediments into underground aquifers. But central peninsula communities sit on 1,000 feet of unconsolidated sediments, Tauriainen said, which may shift around during earthquakes, but don’t crack or undergo a large amount of upheaval.

However, aquifers can and do change, and wells can go dry or produce more water, or bring up new sediments if pumped hard. All of which could potentially affect water quality.

“If you’ve never tested private wells for (water) quality, you should, and if you have tested it in the past, it doesn’t hurt to get tested again to make sure you’re comfortable with those test results,” Bulkow said.

She said the increased buzz about arsenic is more likely due to increased attention on arsenic than increasing arsenic levels. The increased attention has come because the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the limit of arsenic contamination allowed in public water sources.

The maximum contaminant level was lowered from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion in 2006. The lower limit meant an increased number of water sources exceeded the allowed level of arsenic, but it doesn’t mean the amount of arsenic changed, Bulkow said. It’s just that 40 ppb was considered fine prior to 2006, and over the limit post 2006.

Reaching the limit
How much is too much is a basic question in determining a resident’s risk from arsenic, but debate swirls over what that level should be.

Prior to 2006, the EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 50 ppb was thought to be the difference between safe and not. And some people still think it is, even after the maximum contaminant level was lowered to 10 ppb.

“There’s a lot of conflicting data on arsenic. People believe the mcl is too high, and there are some that say the mcl is low,” Bulkow said.

“EPA is constantly looking at new research data that’s available to determine whether their current standards are consistent with what is being discovered in the lab and through reporting of discoveries and through the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other agencies. If they look at the data and decided the mcls were set too high, they revisit them and lower them. That’s what they did with arsenic,” she said.

Opponents of the lower mcl level point out that many of the studies done on arsenic took place in Third World countries, where poverty, poor sanitation and other factors already contributed to compromised health, Bulkow said.

She also said the arsenic limit assumes a sole water source, which typically isn’t the case.

“The mcl is set on the idea people drink the same water source every day all your life — 2 liters a day out of the same source. Most people don’t drink all their water all their whole life from one source,” she said.

Arsenic exposure of 200 ppb is toxic to a human. But arsenic is bioaccumulative, meaning even low-level exposure over time can build up to the point where it impacts health. Having over 10 ppb arsenic in a person’s system can increase their cancer risk by 30 percent, Thompson said.

But people, just like their wells, are different. Some people are more susceptible to effects from arsenic than others, just as some may drink more water than others. Even among the heavy water drinkers, some get more from their home water source, while others drink it from work, bottled from the store or from other sources.

All those variables make it difficult to determine one standard limit that is theoretically safe for all, whether it’s 10 ppb, 50 ppb or somewhere in between.
“We have to set the level someplace, so EPA is saying 10 is the level you should be concerned about. We have to draw the line somewhere, and the lines move,” Bulkow said. “It’s always based on more evidence and study and EPA is trying to do the best we can to protect public health with data we have at the time.”

Rather than being concerned over where the limit is set, Bulkow recommends residents use the 10 ppb limit as a guideline for considering their own individual arsenic exposure risk and deciding what they should do about it.

“I think what they should be concerned about is whether they have arsenic in the water and whether it should be treated,” Bulkow said.

She said people should have their water tested by a certified lab, discuss those results with their physician and a water treatment professional and decide from there whether, and how extensively, they should filter their water.

“They can look at the overall exposure risks that they have and look at their treatment options. I don’t want people to overreact because they all of a sudden find out they have arsenic in their water. But nobody ever feels like they’re overreacting to public health risks. I just want people to take it into perspective,” Bulkow said.

In the absence of regulations extending to private water sources, individual choice comes to the fore.

“Between 10 and 50 parts per billion, according to the EPA, is a concern,” Tauriainen said. “I’m not sure that it is, but for some people it is a concern. If somebody isn’t sleeping well at night because they’re worried about their water, it’s worth putting some kind of treatment on it.”

Giving it all, not giving it up — Mom donates time, energy, money to fight pediatric cancer

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Marcia Jacobs would give anything to not know what it feels like to lose a battle against children’s cancer. So she gives everything she can in the hope that no one ever has to know that feeling again — least of all her or her remaining daughter.

“I know that as a mom of a child who died of cancer, that does not inoculate me from my second child getting it. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. I know in a very visceral sense that I’m not safe, so to speak. The cancer mom stork could come knocking on my door at any time, just like it could any of us, so it makes me even more committed,” said Jacobs, of Soldotna. “I don’t want anyone else’s child to be diagnosed, and if they are diagnosed, I want them to be cured quickly, without losing a lung, without losing an eye or a leg or the ability to have their own kids someday. When my daughter grows up, I don’t want her to be the mom of a baby with cancer.”

In October 2000, just before her fourth birthday, Jacobs’ daughter, Anjuli, was diagnosed with an aggressive, incurable form of brain stem tumor called intrinsic brain stem glioma. In the next eight months the cancer robbed the happy, ever-smiling toddler of increasingly more of her health and mobility. In June 2001, it robbed Anjuli of her life and robbed Jacobs of the light of hers.

Through it all, the cancer never stole Anjuli’s love of life or her positive attitude.
Anjuli loved to paint and do artwork. When the cancer paralyzed her right side, she started painting with her other hand.

“She just switched from painting with her right hand to her left. She said her right hand just went to sleep, so she just switched,” Jacobs said.

“Though the cancer stole all of her abilities and bodily functions, Anjuli never complained. Medical staff continually marveled at the bravery and courage of this darling little dancer,” Jacobs wrote about her daughter on a Web site she started.

Even at 4 years old, with the pain and scariness of hospitals and medical treatments and paralysis, Anjuli never gave up. So Jacobs won’t either.

“They told me that the moment they diagnosed her there was no hope. I refused to accept that there was no hope, so I fought hard to get experimental treatments and that didn’t work. I decided, though, soon after her passing, that I was not going to let her suffering and her life be in vain, and that I would dedicate the rest of my life and every breath and every cent to the cause of finding a cure.”

‘Momma love’ on a mission
Jacobs was a single mom living in Washington without family when Anjuli died. She was drained emotionally and financially, with $300 left in her bank account and in danger of losing her house, she said.

None of that was enough to keep her from her mission. She started making art kits for kids fighting cancer in the hospital. Each month had a different theme — Disney or pirates or the ocean. Art was something Anjuli loved, and it was good therapy for the kids, especially the ones too sick to go to the playroom, Jacobs said. She had some parents and family members tell her the last Christmas card or Valentine’s card they got from their child was made from Jacobs’ art supplies.

She also established an endowment in Anjuli’s memory at Seattle Children’s Hospital that funds pediatric brain stem cancer research. It’s amassed over $30,000 so far, Jacobs said.

“It’s in perpetuity. Since my daughter didn’t get to live very long, at least her endowment does,” Jacobs said.

In 2002 Jacobs devised a memorial to raise awareness of brain cancer. She collected hats from the families of brain cancer victims from around the world, including one of Anjuli’s. She took the memorial to Washington, D.C., and it was displayed in the Capitol. She met with her congressional delegation in 2002, and again in 2005, to encourage them to not cut funding for brain cancer research. Meanwhile, the memorial has gone on tour, being displayed at brain cancer fundraisers and awareness events across the country.

Jacobs also raised money for the Make-A-Wish foundation, which paid for Anjuli to have a trip to Disneyland two weeks before she died.

In 2005, Jacobs moved to the central peninsula with her then-husband. She’s since had another daughter, Emily Grace, almost six years to the day that Anjuli died, Jacobs said.

Even though she’s a single mother again, working in the billing department at Central Peninsula Hospital and raising her daughter, Jacobs still seeks out ways to fight pediatric cancer.

“Working full-time and being a single parent, it’s hectic. I’m a big caffeine mother. I think the most powerful force in the universe is love, and for me nothing is more powerful than a mother’s love for her child. So it’s caffeine and momma love, that’s what powers me,” Jacobs said.

In 2008, Jacobs stumbled across an opportunity that turned her head — possibly because it involved about 100 bald ones.
Jacobs heard about last year’s fundraiser for Saint Baldrick’s Society, where people collect monetary pledges to shave their heads, just four days before the second annual event. It wasn’t in enough time to help organize it or raise money, but she went anyway to see if there was any way she could help. She ended up being invited to share her story of Anjuli and her dedication to fighting children’s cancer. Her speech was so moving that the organizers of the local Saint Baldrick’s event, which will be Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center, sought out her help this year. She happily obliged.

“I just jumped in with both feet doing whatever I can to help, because anything raising money for childhood cancer is great,” she said.

She particularly likes that money from Saint Baldrick’s goes to pediatric oncologists.

“The best and the brightest, in the lab and providing clinical care. Some of the most innovative, important, crucial advancements are coming from researchers that are like that — clinicians. They call it bench-side to bedside research. It’s amazing the things these researchers do,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has made the rounds of chambers of commerce meetings, Rotary clubs and other civic organizations to spread the word about Saint Baldrick’s. She’s been recruiting people to shave their heads and gathering donations. She also will help set up and clean up at the event, and plans to speak at it again this year.

“Oh my gosh, the more I read and learned about Saint Baldrick’s the more important I thought it was. I thought, ‘I could seriously go put my heart and mind into this,’ so that’s what I’ve done,” Jacobs said. “It did this mother’s heart good, and this year is going to be even better to see all these people stepping up for kids with cancer. I don’t know them but I love them. I’m hugging everybody and crying.”

Fighting children’s cancer is a personal issue for Jacobs, but it’s unfortunately one that’s familiar on the central peninsula. In October, there was a girl in Jacobs’ daughter’s daycare program that died of leukemia a week before she turned 3, Jacobs said. Each year, 12,400 kids in the United States are diagnosed with cancer, and 2,500 of them die of the disease every year, Jacobs said.

“We really need everybody’s support. We know that it’s a recession, but cancer doesn’t care that it’s a recession. It’s still going to get 12,400 kids; it’s still going to kill 2,500 this year. That research helps every kid with cancer, no matter where they live.”

Heads together for cancer cure — Shavees bare it to raise money for Saint Baldrick’s Foundation

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Even though hair is being buzzed into oblivion, going bald to support children’s cancer research is a growth experience. For the shavees, as they’re called in the Saint Baldrick’s fundraiser, the literal physical transformation is mirrored by psychological ones. They get a glimpse of what it’s like to deal with a common side effect of cancer treatment and they learn about their own capacity for empathy and for making a sacrifice for the good of others.

Brain Heath, a paramedic/engineer with Central Emergency Services and one of the organizers of the local Saint Baldrick’s event, learned one more valuable lesson about himself when he dared to go bare — he really doesn’t look good bald.

“I really was afraid. I thought my head would look a lot better bald than that. It was pretty traumatic for my wife,” he said.

Heath helped launch the first Saint Baldrick’s event on the central Kenai Peninsula three years ago, as part of the local FOOLS of Fire chapter. The Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society is a nationwide firefighters organization, and chapters often put on fundraisers for Saint Baldrick’s, where people collect monetary pledges to have their heads shaved.

Money raised for the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation goes to fund pediatric cancer research. Since the foundation began seven years ago, Saint Baldrick’s events have raised more than $51 million with more than 73,000 shavees in 48 states and 18 countries, according to information from Heath.

On the central peninsula, local firefighters, public safety and law enforcement personnel have embraced the Saint Baldrick’s cause. Not only is it raising money for a vital purpose, but also it’s also a unique event to be involved in, Heath said.

“It’s fun and it’s an outgoing event. There’s lots of stuff going on,” he said.

“Another thing is, with the shaving of your hair, it’s kind of a personal thing that you can go out there and show people, and people will ask about it. People will notice that there’s 15 people that are standing around with their heads shaved and they start to wonder why their heads are shaved and you can talk about it. ‘Great, this about Saint Baldrick’s Foundation, this is what it does to support research in children’s cancer,’ and that’s something that I think people can get behind.”

About 50 people stepped up to the clippers for the first event held here three years ago, and hundreds more stepped up financially to encourage them. The event raised $18,000, when organizers were only shooting for $10,000. Last year’s event raised $27,000 surpassing the fundraising goal of $20,000. This year the bar is set at $30,000.

The number of people involved has grown each year, as well. Last year saw about 100 people waiting to be shaved, and the conference room at the Soldotna Sports Center was packed with people there to watch and donate, Heath said.
Seeing the variety of people wanting to be involved has been the most memorable and moving part of Saint Baldrick’s, he said.

The first year, a grandfather with long white hair brought his grandkids to watch him get his hair shaved off, which he then donated to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for people who’ve lost their hair from cancer treatments.

“They said they didn’t recognize him. Their whole life he’d had really long white hair and they didn’t recognize him,” Heath said.

Then there was a former assistant fire chief, who said he was going to grow his hair really long when he retired. He did, then had it shaved and donated to Locks of Love.

“We’ve just had people who have heard about it and wanted to come in. One guy had some really nice dreadlocks. He said he heard about this yesterday and didn’t raise any money. He brought in like 25 dollars, but he decided he wanted to do that. We ended up raising a few hundred right there, like $300 just for that guy, just for his hair from passing around a hat,” Heath said.

There have been at least two women each year who have shaved their heads, including one woman who drove all the way from Valdez both years to participate, then she got back in her vehicle and drove home the same night.

“Every year there’s something pretty amazing in there,” Heath said.
Groups of school kids have also gotten shaved, some because they have classmates or friends who have cancer.

“It’s not a really big area, we all know that, but there are quite a few kids that are undergoing cancer treatment or just had their cancer in remission that are in the local area,” Heath said. “We’ve had kids that had their friends going through cancer treatment, so that was a big thing for them to come out and raise awareness and support for their friends.”

Heath had his head shaved the first year.

“It is really a strange change. I’ve had my hair short usually for most of my life, but the bald part is really, really different. Just the way everything feels. It’s way colder, amazingly colder, like walking around with a hat off. Yeah, it’s weird. Your whole identity kind of changes.”

Heath had long sideburns for many years, and several other firefighters getting shaved that first year left their facial hair intact.

“We looked like monks,” he said.

Off came the sideburns and beards, even for a friend who didn’t want to go totally bare.

“He walked around like that for a while before the rest of us forced him to go back and shave it off,” Heath said.

A cadre of local, professional barbers and hairstylists donate their time to do the clipping. Anyone with hair 10 inches or longer can donate it to Locks of Love at the Saint Baldrick’s event when they go up to get their head shaved. People can sign up to be a shavee and gather pledges in advance, or go to the event to get shaved or make a donation. There also will be a raffle for donated prizes. To sign up to volunteer or to donate in advance, visit the event’s Web site, http://www.stbaldricks.org/events/event_info.php?EventKey=2009-56.

Heath said there’s always a need for volunteers, even if it doesn’t involve becoming bald. There’s also a pressing need to spread the word and encourage donations this year.

“I can definitely see — pretty much everyone across the board can tell — people’s ability to donate to things has decreased significantly the last six months to a year,” Heath said.

This year’s Saint Baldrick’s fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center conference room. Heath hopes, in spite of trying financial times, to meet the group’s fundraising goal and to have at least another 100 people come face to face with their own, newly unobscured faces.

“The event itself is really what makes it so much fun,” he said. “It’s so amazing to watch all these people go up and come away physically changed in just a few moments. You definitely remember it afterwards.”

Quest complete — Peninsula mushers face trials of the trail

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Jason Mackey faced a perfect storm in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race starting Feb. 14, although weather was one of the few things that didn’t go wrong for him.

“It was just a chain reaction of crazy events that I’ve never seen in training,” Mackey said. “The trail was as good as it’s ever been, it was like a superhighway the whole way. But overall I had many, many issues, right from the beginning.”

Coming out of Braeburn, the first checkpoint, his 14-dog team started getting sick with vomiting and diarrhea. He dropped one dog in Carmacks and another in Pelly, but just two hours after leaving Pelly on a 200-mile run to Scroggie, he already had one sick dog and another injured one in the sled, along with hundreds of pounds of food and gear.

“I worked my butt off. Man, I never worked so hard in my life,” Mackey said.
Those two were dropped in Scroggie, and another in Dawson, leaving Mackey’s team at nine dogs, with still over half of the 1,000-mile race to go.

“It wasn’t through the whole team at one time, just here and there throughout the team, so it was pretty disheartening,” Mackey said of the illness. “I had full faith in those dogs. I thought that I had everybody weeded out.”

A new form of disaster stuck as he was leaving Dawson — three of his females went into heat.

“By the end of 850 miles I had dealt with a little bit of everything. It got to the point where they wanted to give up, they wanted to breed and fight amongst each other, but I didn’t want to give up,” Mackey said. “We’ll walk over the (Eagle) Summit together, even if I had to take them over one at a time. I didn’t care, but they had something else in mind.”

Mackey has always told his family that if they get a call from him during a 1,000-mile race, something’s wrong.

“I called three times in that race,” he said.

One call was to his brother, Lance Mackey, who has won the Quest four times and also won the last two Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races.

“He’d been there before and he knew what I was going through. ‘You need to do what you need to do. Either they’ll go down the trail or they won’t,’” he said.
Mackey scratched in Central the morning of Feb. 25.

“After day 11 or day 12 of dealing with those situations a guy gets pretty burned out. As bad as I want to get to the finish line, it’s kind of one of those things where s--- happens and everybody’s been through it. My brothers, my dad, the best mushers in the world,” Mackey said. “I felt like I let everybody down, including myself and the dogs. They didn’t learn anything by turning around and getting in the truck, except they think they can do that now.”

To say Mackey is disappointed is an understatement; especially considering the investment of time, money and effort it took to get him to the start line. But he sees a silver lining. For one, he learned more about his dogs, including one of his leaders, Banger.

“She was absolutely incredible the whole way. She’s 48 pounds and she’s pulling 400 pounds of gear down the trail basically by herself. Everybody else is screwing around and she’s all business and she didn’t ever want to quit,” Mackey said.

Brutal though the lessons may have been, Mackey said the Quest was a learning experience for him and he’s shooting to reapply his knowledge within the next three years.

“I was bummed but I think it made me a better musher in the long run. How do I fix the things I saw fall apart in front of me? And I do have answers for that now, so my goal is to be back in the Quest with a whole different outlook on the race,” Mackey said. “I also have unfinished business there in the Quest. That’s what I have in mind — to race and win. That might sound confident from a guy who just scratched, but I’m not going there to come in second place.”

Third place, second to none
Jon Little’s team put forth a winning effort in the 2009 Yukon Quest. Even though they finished two spots and 58 minutes behind the leader, he said the race was a victory for him.

“In lot of ways (the race went) as good as can be expected, and I expect a lot, so I’m very happy with the dogs. My mission is always for the dogs to do their best, and I feel they did,” Little said. “… I left nothing on the trail. I tried everything I could and just two teams had a little more conditioning there at the end.”

Little said he tried a new approach this race of running his dogs longer but at a little slower pace, at times tackling eight-hour runs and resting for about four and a half.

“My attempt was to hustle things up a little bit. I wanted to set a pace where people could either stay with me or give up. But you run the risk of hurting your own chances because you’re kind of in the red zone of resting the dogs,” he said.

Little was in the lead coming out of McCabe Creek, Stepping Stone, Scroggie and Dawson, but slipped to third and couldn’t make up the difference.

“Eagle Summit always affects the race somehow,” Little said.

He and the two other frontrunners, Sebastian Schnuelle and Hugh Neff, reached the formidable ascent at night. Blowing snow had obscured the trail and created drifts.

“There were no discernible trail markers at night, no reflectors. It was only my second time up. I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to go up the hill. As it turns out, you go up anywhere. I couldn’t convince my dogs to go up in a headwind with such steep drifts on a hill,” Little said.

He found Neff camped out in his sled bag, waiting for morning to try the climb.
“At the time it seemed like a good idea to me, too,” Little said.

At dawn, Neff and Little took turns helping each other get their teams to the top, with one pulling the gang line in front and one pushing the sled from behind. As they were getting Little’s team to the top he spotted Schnuelle and William Kleedehn doing the same thing.

“At that point the first three were in the same spot. Sebastian basically said, ‘See you later Will,’ and he went for the win. His dogs had just incredible conditioning and good training. He was able to maintain good, steady speed. And Hugh has an amazing ability to go fast even late in the race,” Little said. “My guys coming off Eagle Summit slowed down to an easy trot, which ordinarily wouldn’t have been bad if I had a little lead. It was a fine speed for finishing the race but I couldn’t gain on anybody.”

Little wonders what might have been had his team not been involved in a vehicle collision on the Sterling Highway in October. Four dogs died from the crash and two others were injured.

“My lack of leaders was directly a result of that accident. Probably three dogs were in the rotation to run lead, and who knows which one of them would have done well,” he said.

Eagle Summit also looms as a “What if?” but Little isn’t spending much time looking back.

“It’s pretty hard to convince a dog team who doesn’t want to go a certain direction to go that way,” he said. “They didn’t want to go until morning. It boils down to better training in the preseason, a little longer runs and working on leaders.”

Finishing with a healthy team, gaining confidence with a more aggressive run schedule and being within striking distance of the lead were victories for Little.

“I’ve never been in position at that point in a race where I’m in the hunt to win. That’s a plateau I’ve never been on before,” he said.

“I thank everybody who helped me out. There’s been some local support and several people chipping in to help,” especially with veterinary bills and surgery following the accident, Little said. “It’s a community effort to get any one musher up the trail, so I’m really grateful.”

Challenged to succeed
An American musher from Kasilof traveled through Canada and Alaska with an Englishman, a Jamaican and a French Canadian.

Colleen Robertia was looking for a unique experience in her rookie run of the Yukon Quest, and she definitely found it.

“Overall, it went well. It was quite the adventure,” she said.

Robertia’s main goal was to maintain a healthy team while finishing the race. She and her husband, Joseph, maintain a small kennel with several rescues. One of her late-addition Quest team dogs, Arrow, came from the Kenai Animal Shelter.

“I’m really proud of my guys, especially because my philosophy is a very humane approach. We have a small kennel and they have a lifelong home here. It’s really hard to finish well and finish in the money, so to do that successfully and still have all the same guys here, it’s really rewarding because you know, even though I haven’t turned heads, you can do this humanely if you choose to,” she said.

The race was a series of firsts for Robertia — her and her dogs’ first 1,000-mile race, Robertia’s first tangle with massive expanses of jumble ice and her first experience with the isolation of multiday runs between checkpoints.

She led in some respects, too, maintaining the biggest team for most of the race, and finishing the last leg in the fastest time. She ended up placing 12th in her rookie run, sandwiched between Mark Sleightholme, of England, and Newton Marshall, of Jamaica, and ahead of Luc Tweddell, of Yukon Territory.

Sleightholme, Robertia and Marshall were been dubbed “the triplets,” since their teams were well-matched and ended up running more or less with each other for the second half of the race.

“The team did very well. I’m really happy with how they looked. I guess I’m proud of how I did with the dog team I had. … I got a lot of compliments just of how great they looked and how great their attitudes were,” she said.

Robertia said she started out slow and conservative, and made it a point to rest her team longer than she ran them.

“The only time I cut rest was to move with (Sleightholme and Marshall) over Eagle Summit, because I knew that was going to be the biggest challenge, likely of my mushing career. I wanted to be able to move with them for the benefit of the team. If they can see other teams around them, if nothing else they can chase them. Dogs just have a different attitude when other dog teams are around,” she said.

Long runs on the Yukon River posed a new challenge for Robertia.

“Jumble ice. Not just jumble ice, we’re talking about 100 miles of jumble ice. Three days at a time on it,” Robertia said. “The trail markers did a good job kind of weaving a path through it. There were times when I felt like a pinball in a pinball machine. I really felt like I got to be a better sled driver from this race, as well.”

She got to be a better pilot during her descent from Rosebud Summit when her brake broke.

“It’s 100 yards long but basically beyond vertical, so you’re dropping but you’re basically not even in contact with the ground,” Robertia said. “It goes by so fast you don’t have time to panic, but I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I think I’m flying right now.’ I think the dogs were even like, ‘Oh my goodness, I think she’s flying right now.’”

The distance between checkpoints was both a hardship and one of the things Robertia enjoyed about the Quest. It was difficult having to haul enough gear and being on her own for days at a time between official checkpoints, but it also meant taking advantage of the unofficial checkpoints along the way — remote cabins where people share a fire, dish up some moose or bear stew and swap stories.

“For them, it’s their television. That’s really exciting to hear all about the trail and what we’ve encountered. It’s almost like a symbiotic relationship because they get something out of it, but it’s really nice for you, too,” Robertia said.

Putting her dogs to the test and watching them succeed was another reward of the challenge.

“Seeing my dogs go through something that they’d never gone through before, something so challenging for them and just hoping they’ll still trust me and hoping I’m not breaking that bond I have with them. Wanting to explain to them, ‘There’s 200 miles, guys, hang in there.’ They’d keep their tails wagging. That was definitely the biggest challenge for me to see them go through something and not be able to explain to them what the end goal was, just hoping that they sensed it through me,” she said.

In the end, it was the most difficult parts that will make the fondest memories.

“The hardest things to overcome are things I’ll keep with me forever. As hard as it was when I’m out there, I wouldn’t trade it now that it’s over and I’ve gone through my first 1,000-mile race. I wouldn’t change it,” Robertia said.

Do you mind? ‘Mentalist’ bends expectations, cutlery in performance

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

People coming to Chris Carter’s show at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus on Friday had better come prepared to be amazed and involved, since they may not have a choice in the matter.

Carter bills himself as a mentalist, and his performance is filled with feats meant to blow people’s minds, or at least reveal them.

“What I do, it’s a mix of illusion and psychological abilities to the point where, for all intents and purposes, I read people’s minds. I don’t, obviously, it’s not like radio waves are coming out of their minds,” Carter said.

For the illusion part of the show, Carter bends cutlery and makes light bulbs held by audience members illuminate or even explode. For the psychological feats, he has people tape his eyes shut, then describes details of objects they’re holding, and details of the people holding them. He asks people to think of the most amazing, craziest details about their lives, ones that there’s no way Carter should be able to guess. Then he does.

“That’s where it really gets cool. There’s part of the show where people are going, ‘OK, maybe he’s got this set up,’ and all of a sudden I’m working with them, so they scream,” Carter said.

Carter also dabbles in subliminal psychology and hypnosis, getting subjects to bend to his will.

“They realize it at that point, I’ve kind of played them like a piper and gotten them to do what I want them to do,” he said.

Carter got interested in the skills he blends into his mentalist performance through an early fascination with more traditional magic tricks. When he was 8 his uncle let him sit in on a poker game, and Carter realized people’s body language gave away what they had in their hands. He started doing a trick where he could guess people’s cards.

“When I did this on them they freaked out. Instead of, ‘Oh my gosh, what a cool trick,’ it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re inside my head,’” Carter said. “Ever since then I’ve just been absolutely in love with the idea of, I call it messing with minds, and that’s what the show is all about. That’s what makes it fun to do is it’s such an incredible mystery to people that they react in a way that’s just way out of proportion to something in just a traditional magic show.”

He’s had people panic and fling the suddenly illuminated light bulb they’re holding across the room. And there’s usually plenty of screaming.

“One of the things that makes it funny is the reactions from people from the audience,” Carter said.

“Big football players scream and run out of the room, then they come back in and they scream and run out again,” he said.

Carter originally went to college as a theater and business double major, but he’s always had an interest in psychology, he said.

“I knew from the point I was 10 years old I wanted to be a performer, but I’d always been fascinated by humans’ behavior, so I’ve taught myself a lot,” he said.

“I’m pretty much a self study. Hypnosis. Illusion is another area. There’s no college that will teach you that. You have to learn it from insiders,” he said.
Many of his feats, especially the psychological ones, he’s developed and perfected on his own.

“Three years after grad school I was light years ahead of the day I started to perform professionally. It’s the kind of thing you can only really learn by doing it constantly on a new pool of people. That’s what made all the difference,” he said. “There are things in the show that have taken me six or seven years of hard work to develop, and I have things in the show that took me two weeks. There’s really a lot of variety in it.”

Audience members themselves bring some of the variety, since they in effect are the raw material with which Carter works. He’s performed in every state but Hawaii so far, and there are a lot of similarities in the audiences he sees.

“Most people are really extremely receptive,” he said. “I think most people have a real strong desire to participate in something mysterious and something strange, but strange in a fun, exciting way. Not strange in a creepy way.”

That being said, there are some differences in how people approach the show.
“If I’m performing at a technical, engineering school, they tend to have a very left-brain response. They’re busy trying to analyze and come up with solutions, whereas other people may just relax and enjoy the mystery. … It doesn’t matter what frame of mind you take into a show, you still get what you want out of it,” Carter said.

Once in a while, even Carter is amazed in the course of a performance.

“Occasionally I’ll end up revealing something about people that turns out to be a little more personal than I intended to reveal,” he said.

In one instance he was reading a guy’s name from a woman in the audience. She kept denying there was anything special about him, until Carter said she’d spent the night with him.

“All of sudden I heard this other shout from this other girl across the room that was the guy’s girlfriend. Then this guy got up and ran out of the room,” Carter said.

“Usually I’ll hold back from revealing anything superembarrassing, it’s not my goal to embarrass anyone,” he said.

But the mind, like Carter’s show, can be mysterious, and reveals surprises when least expected.

“There’s always fresh surprises. People are somewhat predictable and yet they’re not completely predictable. You always learn something unique and fresh just about every time, so it’s still fun. It still keeps me on my toes,” he said.

Carter will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Ward Building at KPC. Admission is $12 general admission or $10 with a valid student ID.

Art Seen: Jury’s in — Biennial exhibit has plenty to consider

I recently had the interesting task of co-judging the Biennial Judged Exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this year, with Potter’s Guild president Charlie LaForge.

Each year it seems I get more excited about the range and quality that comes in, regardless of the format. Every other year is a “juried” exhibit, rather than “judged,” meaning pieces are selected to be included in the exhibit, and there are many that do not hang or display.

As was the case this year, all entered pieces are eligible, and the judge’s job is to choose the awards and honorable mentions. The competition is obviously much greater for the juried shows, and our guest juror is usually someone from out of our immediate area (in case he or she needs a quick getaway. Jurors are occasionally given a hard time for their choices, which are, of course, subjective, but always educated).

The following were given cash awards for their placement in this year’s exhibit:
Best of Show: John Lagoutaris, ceramics, “I Am Free in the Rapid River Waters of Destiny.”

  • 1st Place 3-D: Shirley Seanor, pine needle weaving, “Jug With Lid.”
  • 2nd Place 3-D: Heather Floyd, cast bronze using a lost wax method, “Sphere I.”
  • 1st Place 2-D: Erica Miller, pastel, “Chasing the Sun #2.”
  • 2nd Place 2-D: Joseph Kashi, digital photography, “Frozen Windows.”
  • 3rd Place 2-D: Traci Knutson, Polaroid transfer over Palladium print with watercolor, “Melancholy.”
  • Honorable mentions: A. Jane Alford, Allan Janonis, Andy Hehnlin, Clayton Hillhouse, Connie Tarbox, Donna Schwanke, Juanita Hillhouse, Kristin Edwards, Marali Sargeant-Smith, Pamela Mersch, Sandra Sterling, Steven Pannarelli, Tony Oliver and Tracie Howard.

I spoke with a few of the placers in the exhibit to try and get more of a sense of the processes that led them to the finished pieces.

Traci Knutson took a workshop on Palladium printing before creating the small but fascinating portrait of her dog. Palladium is a metal that is mixed with a chemical and acts as an emulsion that is then painted on a surface, in this case watercolor paper. It’s then developed using a large digital negative and long exposure times.

She transferred parts of the same image from Polaroid shots right onto the Palladium print using a water bath, and added some watercolor to finish the effect. Charlie and I were both drawn to the unusual psychology of the piece and were intrigued by the possible meaning of the artist’s choices. Upon questioning, Traci agreed that there were intense dynamics surrounding the work, as well as the animal that is no longer with us.

John Lagoutaris’ work was also quite striking in its symbolism and emotional qualities. He calls himself an intuitive artist, one who is not so much of a drafter, but interested in letting the foundation determine the outcome. He then moves along with the piece as it evolves. There were many layers of work, and numerous firings over the course of a year to achieve the surface he was shooting for. The soulful longing evident in the expression and the bold execution of the work helped to land its placement as Best of Show.

Joe Kashi’s photography is unmanipulated digitally, save for some range changes in the light to dark ratio. He frequently finds himself looking for interesting abstractions that are already existing in reality, and then capturing them like a found object. The windows are especially ripe for unusual aberrations due to the old single-pane glass and abundance of cooking inside Veronica’s Coffee House during frigid winter months.

Joe claims that what a photographer needs in order to capture these little gems are an open and still mind, and of course a keen eye. Oh, and also the ability to avoid the picturesque, unless it can be handled in a completely new way.

The exhibit stays up through the end of the month and then comes down to make way for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Student Exhibit. Gallery hours are 12 to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

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 March 11

  • Artists Without Borders in the 4D Building in Soldotna has artwork by Susan Anderson on display through March.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has egg tempera paintings by Andy Hehnlin on display through March.
  • Coffee Roasters in the Red Diamond Center on Kalifornsky Beach Road has an exhibition of Kenai Peninsula College student photography from the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race on display through March 26.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has nature and wildlife photography by Samantha Becker on display through March.
  • The Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College has “Details,” an exhibition of paintings by Nikiski graphic artist Chris Jenness, on display through March.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has “This Season That We Call Winter,” a photography exhibition by Genevieve Klebba, on display through March.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has photography by Jeremy Reeve on display through March.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has the Peninsula Art Guild Biennial Judged Exhibition on display through March.
  • 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. The artist of the month in March is Corrine Fairchild.

  • Rock band Static Cycle, from Anchorage, will perform at Hooligan’s in Soldotna with a $5 cover charge.

  • Mentalist Chris Carter will perform at 7:30 p.m. in the Ward Building at Kenai Peninsula College. General admission is $12, or $10 with a valid student ID.
  • Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus is requesting proposals from artists for work to be placed in its new Riverview Commons by 5 p.m. 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.

  • The 12th annual Central Peninsula Writers Present event will be held at 4 p.m. at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

  • The Shirley Temple film “Bright Eyes” will be shown in the Kenai Community Library conference room at 2:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

  • The Saint Patrick’s Day parade will be held from Baily’s to the “Y” on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna at 4:30 p.m. with dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the Soldotna Senior Center. Tickets for the dinner are available at the senior center.

Coming up
  • A floral centerpiece class will be offered by Carroll Knutson at the Kenai Community Library from 1 to 3 p.m. March 21. Participants should bring a 6-inch bowl, heavy kitchen shears and a store-bought bouquet. The cost is $5.
  • Kenai Community Library will hold a Family Game Day from 1 to 4 p.m. March 22. A variety of board games will be available, or bring one of your own to play. It is free and open to the public.
  • The grand opening of the Curtain Call Consignment Boutique will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 27 and 28 at the Kenai Performers’ Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Organizers are taking consignments of new or gently used namebrand and designer clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry and accessories. Contact Mary Krull at 398-2931.
  • The Friends of the Kenai Community Library will hold a fundraiser dance from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. March 28 at the American Legion Hall in Old Town Kenai to raise money for a library expansion. Live music will be by Bull Don and the Moose Nuggets. Finger food, coffee and tea will be served. Tickets are $10, available at the library and at the door. Call Edale Clark at 398-1399 for more information.
  • The Friends of the Kenai Community Library will hold a high tea from 2 to 4 p.m. April 5 at the Merit Inn in Kenai to raise money for the library. Catering will be by Charlotte’s. Tickets are $25, available at the library and from board members.

  • Friday and Saturday nights at The Riverside.

Live music
  • Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna has Mother of Pearl on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has the Free Beer Band on Sundays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has LuLu Small on St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass by Them Other Shuckers on Friday nights around 7:30 p.m. through March.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has live music by The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • The Vagabond on Kalifornsky Beach Road has Country’s Rock at 9 p.m. Thursday.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and music by Shannon and Angie Bren from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

  • 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 9 p.m. Fridays at J-Bar-B outside Soldotna.
  • 9:30 p.m. Mondays at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • 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 at 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a Twister on Thursday night, a root beer chugging contest Saturday night and darts Tuesdays.

Tustumena Lake Cliff House explodes into history

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Alaskans may be accustomed to the idea of fireworks on Independence Day, but about 30 years ago, Miles Dean got more bang for his buck than he bargained for.

The problem began in June 1978, when John Swanson decided to install propane in his cabin, called the Cliff House, on Tustumena Lake. Swanson, the owner of Peninsula Building Supply, who in 1960 had become the new city of Kenai’s first mayor, wanted gas-powered lights and a gas-powered cook stove in his place. But after the installation, something was wrong.

According to his son-in-law, David Letzring of Kasilof, Dave Donald went up on the lake in late June and discovered a leak in the system. Donald turned off the valve on the propane tanks and returned to Kenai to notify Swanson. A short time later, Letzring himself went up on the lake with Swanson’s son, Ron, and they, too, found the system in need of repair.

“We went in there, and yeah, you could smell the propane,” said Letzring. “We turned it off. And I told John about it, too. John says, ‘I’ll go up there and fix it up.’
“This was June-something, and Dean went up there on the Fourth of July. And he goes in and turns the gas on and lights the lights, and he built a fire in the woodstove. And then he got in his boat and went over to Clear Creek to fish.

“And the Cliff House ceased to exist. The metal roof was almost to the glacial flat. Pieces of the place were in the lake. It was all over. There was nothing left. It blew up. It was just like a little bomb.”

A piece of Kenai Peninsula history that may have dated back as far as 1910 vanished in the destruction.

Both Gary Titus, a historian for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and George Pollard, who has lived in the Tustumena area since the late 1930s, agree that the original builder of the Cliff House was August “Gust” Ness. The first historical mention of the structure can be found in a 1921 entry in the diary of big-game guide Andrew Berg, who lived on Tustumena Lake in the early 1900s.

Ness selected an ideal location for his log structure: near the back end of Devils Bay, on a small point of sandy land just below a set of cliffs that inspired the name and provided shelter from glacial winds. Protected also by a stand of spruce along the northern and eastern sides, the cabin was a haven from nearly all bad weather. According to Pollard, it was vulnerable only to a strong wind out of the southwest.

The cabin door faced roughly west toward the cliffs, near the entry of a trail to Tustumena Glacier. The picture window faced in a southerly direction, and Pollard remembers that he could sit at the table by the window and watch bears feeding on Clear Creek less than a quarter mile away.

By the 1960s a steep metal roof with a long gable over the front porch provided protection from the rain and easily shed the snow. Loads of sand were dumped as insulation in the open, empty space between roof and ceiling boards. Letzring remembers that after a night in the Cliff House, he needed to brush off his sleeping bag because sand continually sifted through the boards.

By the 1970s, the southern exterior wall was draped with several sets of moose antlers. The eastern wall, too, featured an array of trophies, including at least two bear hides.

When Ness died of a heart attack in 1937, the cabin passed into the possession of Tony Johansen, whom Titus, Pollard and Letzring believe was either Ness’ nephew or his son. According to “Alaska’s No. 1 Guide,” by Titus and Catherine Cassidy, Johansen, via his mother’s first marriage, was the son of Mary Ness. The book also states that when Mary wed Gust in about 1924, she was known as Mary Demidoff Johansen, suggesting that perhaps in this union Gust became Tony’s stepfather.

Tony hung onto the Cliff House until 1951, the year Swanson reported purchasing the cabin, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records. According to “Once Upon the Kenai,” Swanson moved to Kenai in 1952, but he was in Kodiak for many years, and later in Anchorage, prior to the move and may have made the purchase then.

The Cliff House was considered Swanson’s property for most of three decades. At the time of the explosion, no one was living permanently on the lake any longer. When Tustumena Lake passed from being part of the Chugach National Forest to part of the Kenai National Moose Range in 1941, federal officials allowed individuals living on the lake to stay in homes on unpatented land until their deaths. No new cabins were allowed on refuge land, however, and many of the old cabins either deteriorated badly or became the temporary facilities for hunters traveling up into the hills for big game.

Gold miner Joe Secora was the last of the numerous old-timers who once could be found living year-round on the lake, and his death in a plane crash in 1972 signaled an end to an era.

But the obliteration of the Cliff House was not the end of this particular story, at least according to Letzring. He said Swanson came to him in August 1978 and told him he had unwritten permission from the refuge to rebuild the cabin.

“He says we can rebuild it, but we gotta get it done right now, this year,” Letzring said.

Titus is skeptical of Swanson’s claim. To allow a single instance of building or rebuilding a private cabin on the refuge, he said, is to “open a can of worms.”
“I don’t think so,” Titus said. “If that would have been done, it would have been illegal because that was federal land. If you give one person permission to do that, you’d have to give everyone permission.”

When Bob Richey, who was the assistant manager of the moose range at the time, learned recently of Swanson’s claim, he said, “I have never heard that. I can’t believe that is likely, and I think I would remember.”

Whether Swanson truly had permission to rebuild, plans to do so moved forward, Letzring said. Swanson and a handful of his friends — most notably George Calvin and Chuck Raymond of Kasilof — began gathering materials and storing them in Raymond’s Quonset hut on the Tustumena Lake road. Letzring said they were waiting for winter snow and freezeup so they could use snowmachines to haul in the materials over the ice.

And then the best-laid plans went awry. Late that year, Swanson was diagnosed with liver cancer and traveled Outside for treatment. Without his leadership, Letzring said, the heart went out of the rebuilding effort.

“The spark plug wasn’t there,” he said.

Swanson died in 1982, and to this day the small sandy point remains devoid of a cabin, which is how the federal government plans to keep it. According to Richey, who said he spent many nights at the Cliff House in his 26 years with USFWS, the greatest loss in the destruction of the cabin was not the structure itself, but the log book inside that was also destroyed. That book, he said, contained a wealth of names and histories that can never be fully recovered.

The fireworks on that particular Fourth of July were something to remember.

Editorial: Death penalty is not the necessary conversation

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, has stated his intention to start a discussion about protecting Alaskans from violent crimes. While that’s a noble aim and would be a valuable conversation, by submitting House Bill 9, which would reinstate the death penalty in Alaska, he takes the discussion in the wrong direction.

The Alaska Territorial Legislature abolished the death penalty in 1957, with good reason. Moral concerns aside, the practicality and common-sense arguments against state executions are too weighty to overcome.

As Chenault himself points out in a post on his blog, www.mikechenault.com, death row is expensive. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found in 2008 that confining an inmate to death row, compared to a sentence of life without parole, is $90,000 more per inmate. On the federal level, a 2008 report by the Office of Defender Services found that a federal murder case in which the death penalty is sought costs about $620,932 — eight times more than a murder case not seeking execution.

As Speaker of the House, Chenault displays a disappointingly laissez-faire attitude about state expenses, especially in trying financial times: “Frankly, I don’t believe that cost should get in the way of dispensing true justice. How do you measure the cost of peace of mind? Most of us would sleep better at night knowing a criminal will never have the opportunity to harm another human being.”

While doing what’s right isn’t always synonymous with doing what’s cheapest, in this situation, there is a more cost-effective, as well as overall effective, solution:

Life without parole. Not only is it less expensive than reinstating the death penalty, it also avoids the risk of executing the wrong person. Chenault says the death penalty should only be used in “cases where there is no question of guilt or innocence,” and that he’s included safeguards in his bill to “help ensure that people are not wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death.”

When we’re talking about life and death, “help ensure” is simply not good enough. In a justice system predicated upon “reasonable doubt” — not absolute, 100 percent certainty — there’s always at least a fraction of a chance of a mistake, especially when human error is an ever-present possibility. The only way to absolutely ensure the wrong people aren’t put to death is to not kill them.

When considering the larger goals of sentencing — protecting the public from repeat offenders and deterring future crime — the death penalty is not the best way to achieve those aims.

Life without parole is just as effective at preventing criminals from harming anyone else, especially if Chenault had proposed a bill seeking to strengthen life sentences. As for preventing heinous crimes, the threat of the death penalty is not a deterrent. Expecting it to be means expecting violent criminals to employ rational thought. If they did that, they wouldn’t have committed such crimes in the first place.

Murderers, terrorists, serial killers — by definition, they are not reasonable individuals. If they are deranged enough to perpetrate violence on such a monstrous scale, chances are they won’t pause beforehand to consider which state they’re in and what the maximum penalty might be if they are caught, lose their jury trail and exhaust all their appeals.

Common sense is borne out by research — information from the Death Penalty Information Center shows that states without the death penalty have consistently lower murder rates than states with the death penalty.

Chenault says so himself — “People who commit the most monstrous of crimes will not have the opportunity to reoffend if a death sentence is imposed … while I don’t believe it’s a deterrent to crime, I believe it should be an option for the justice system to brandish against the most heinous unremorseful criminals in our society.”

Protection of human rights and safety should be the highest priority of our justice and related social systems. If even Chenault doesn’t believe the death penalty will deter violent crime, what’s the point of introducing the measure?

Time and discussion would be much better spent on other aims — strengthening sentencing for the most heinous crimes, helping murder victims’ families and investing in education, rehabilitation, employment and social service programs proven to help prevent crime and keep criminals from reoffending.

Let’s breathe life into those areas and keep the death penalty buried.

Bugging out: Mayflies will soon spring into action

March may seem a little early in the spring to talk about mayflies, but they are currently active on the bottom of virtually all of our streams, rivers and lakes.

Resident trout and whitefish here in Alaska use the many species of mayflies for food all year long. Because of this, mayflies are well-known to fly-fishermen, since they are the model for a large number of dry and nymph fly patterns.

It is also well-known that nymph patterns attract fish more frequently than dry flies. This is easily understandable since most mayfly species spend almost the entire year underwater in a nymphal form, and only a day or two as an aerial insect. The mayfly order name, Ephemeroptera, comes from the Greek “ephemeros,” which is a referral to the short-lived adult stage. While many mayflies can survive a couple days as an adult, some members of the group have adult stages lasting less than two hours. During that short aerial life stage, they have to molt once, find a mate, migrate to a water body and lay eggs. Talk about having a lot to do in a short time.

Most mayfly nymphs, or naiads, feed on fine particulate detritus or algae in the water. Some filter the tiny food particles out of the water column with hairs on their legs while others scrape the surface of rocks and gravel. Some species have brushlike mouth parts to scrub algae and detritus from almost any submerged substrate. The grazing of mayflies has been shown to significantly reduce and actually control the algal cover on submerged rocks.

With a very short time to find a mate and reproduce, most mayfly species choreograph their emergence so everyone emerges together. When the proper light and temperatures cues occur, the entire population can emerge in a matter of a few days.

My father used to tell of using snow shovels in the 1930s to clear walks and roads in July after the Hexagenia mayflies emerged en masse from the Mississippi River near La Crosse, Wis. Several years ago there was such a large emergence of these same mayflies from Lake Erie that the swarm was picked up on radar and were thought to be unidentified airplanes in the area.

Once the females have mated, they head to a stream, river or lake and fly just above the water surface to drop small packets of eggs. The flying female will often fly up and down over the water, each time touching her abdomen to the water surface and releasing a few more eggs. This behavior will go on until all her eggs, 500 to 3,000, are released. Incidentally, this is when trout rise and start taking insects off the surface of the water or start jumping out of the water after aerial insects. Because the female mayfly is carrying masses of energy-rich eggs, it is a sought-after meal by many fish species.

Mayfly eggs immediately start to absorb water once they are deposited. They become sticky and end up bound to rocks, leaves, twigs or vegetation. Depending on the species, they may hatch right away or possibly remain in diapauses for several months.

Depending on the species and the temperature regimes, some species can produce several generations a year. In colder climates like here in Alaska, most mayflies have only one generation per year. Sometimes, in cold years or very old habitats, it may take two years to complete one generation.

In the fast-moving current of streams, mayflies use a couple strategies to keep from being washed downstream.

Since currents are much reduced right up against a rock, one approach is to have their thorax, head and legs flattened so they can remain very close to the substrate. Others have modified thoracic gills that act like a giant suction cup, which then holds them against the solid substrate. Yet another group of mayflies use a disk of fine hairs on their abdomen that can also act like a suction cup to hold the insect in place in spite of the current. Incidentally, there are several species using this approach in the Kenai River.

Another survival approach for these aquatic insects is being streamlined or torpedo-shaped.

This shape allows fast-moving water to pass by the mayflies without washing them downstream. By wriggling their abdomen they can swim much like a fish and move about in fast-moving water. This same technique enables mayflies in lakes to quickly move to hiding places and escape predators.

Mayflies are one of the most common aquatic insect orders, and they are found in fresh water all over the world. Apparently their many adaptations for survival in different habitats have enabled them to survive for millions of years. They are among the oldest of the insects and date back to the Carboniferous period.

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 ecology of the Kenai River watershed.

Playing with history — Kids get their take on Alaska’s past in play

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Putting kids in charge of Alaska history can garner interesting and enthusiastic results.

There’s the Good Friday quake of 1964 and resultant destructive tsunami, the gold rush gets some attention, as does fur trading and President Warren Harding driving a golden spike into tracks to commemorate the completion of the Alaska Railroad.

Through it all, legendary Skagway villain Soapy Smith is trying to steal anything that isn’t nailed down — including the spike, which is actually nailed down — and there’s the occasional outbreak of mild shoving. Plus a charging moose that mows down a group of drummers.

In short, “It’s wonderful,” said Sue Biggs, music teacher at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna.

Biggs and her students have put on two plays a year in her five years at the school, she said, and she often either adapts a book to use as a script or the students help her come up with songs or dialogue to enhance a pre-written show.

But this year, the spring play was up to her students to devise.

“Because of the 50th anniversary of Alaska, I thought it would be great to do something historic for Alaska, and there wasn’t anything,” Biggs said. “I approached them and said, ‘What would you think about us writing our own play?’ The kids who were into it stepped forward and did a Jim Dandy job.”

The play, “North to the Past,” involves 200 students from seven classes, and they all got input into the play.

“That’s why it’s such a large undertaking, because everybody is going to be involved in some way or another,” Biggs said. “What I told them is pretty much they’d do everything. My philosophy of doing plays is that everyone finds a place so it isn’t just a small group of kids performing and everyone else just singing. If you want to be on stage, find your place that is special to you. We had students creating dances because they’re dancers. They created sets because they like to build and they like to paint. People are acting because they like to act, or tripping because they like to fall.

“There’s a lot of falling, a lot of screaming and a lot of running in this play because it’s written by kids. I’m trying to keep everybody safe but also allow them to express themselves the way they want. I’m trying to take all of their pieces and pull it into a play.”

Biggs and her students brainstormed a list of milestones from Alaska history and she had them choose seven that would be in the play.

“So they chose what they wanted. Us coming into statehood is not one of the things they chose, so it’s not part of the play,” she said.

Soapy Smith has a prominent role in many of the scenes, since Biggs suggested the play needed a villain, and students liked that he was a genuine Alaska bad guy.

“They glommed onto that one and built his character throughout the play,” Biggs said.

Each class chose a theme and designed the dialogue, action and sets for that scene. Student authors came up with the storyline that wove through the scenes.

Fifth-grader James Elsey and sixth-graders Savannah Cartwright and Logan Parks came up with the idea of a family that steps into an elevator in a hotel while on vacation, only to discover it’s a time machine. The elevator then takes them to various stops in Alaska history, where there’s a problem to be resolved at each stop.

“You figure out that a bad guy named Soapy Smith is trying to steal all the gold,” James said.

James enjoyed writing the humor of the play, like having one of the kids complaining about needing to go to the bathroom throughout the entire play, until there’s actually a place to use the bathroom, when she decides she doesn’t have to go anymore.

For Logan, the creative process was the highlight.

“I want to be a writer when I grow up, so it was an awesome experience,” he said.

Savannah said she enjoyed all of it.

“I don’t really have a favorite part, the whole thing was pretty cool,” she said. “We wanted to do something fun that we would enjoy. I think it’s a lot of fun because so many people got to write the stuff and write the songs and it’s actually something you did.”

That’s the part Biggs is most pleased with, that the students created so much of their own play.

“I’m just amazed at the storyline and how they were able to bring it to the great ending,” Biggs said. “It ties people in history to the people in the present and it took us awhile to find an ending, but when they pulled it together it was just a pleasant surprise, and I just think the whole storyline is delightful. I’m just very proud of everyone for all the work they’ve done.”

“North to the Past” will be performed at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Soldotna High School auditorium. The show is free and open to the public.

Legal Ease: Hazards ahead — buying automobile insurance

Editor’s note: Legal information listed here is intended to be general preventative measures and legal first aid to help readers avoid problems in legal situations before engaging legal counsel. These are not a substitute for hiring an attorney and should not be considered to be legal advice specific to any situation.

Nearly every adult in Alaska needs to drive and thus needs automobile insurance. Public transportation is minimal and distances are often too great to walk or bicycle, even if the weather is dry and 50 degrees above zero, rather than 50 below.

Every driver is legally required to have automobile insurance whenever they are driving. If you don’t have insurance and get a ticket or are in an accident, you will probably lose your driver’s license for some time and could be legally prosecuted.

However, all automobile insurance is not the same. Your insurance should protect not only others, but you and your passengers. Buying automobile insurance can be very confusing and it’s been my experience that people are often surprised, after being injured in an accident, to find that their insurance coverage is not always what they assumed. Here are some suggestions when buying or renewing your auto insurance.
  • Check with your insurance agent to be sure that all of your vehicles are properly insured. In Alaska, each individual vehicle is usually insured separately for all permissive drivers, rather than a driver being insured for any and all vehicles.
  • Deal only with reputable insurance companies that have a long track record insuring drivers in Alaska and that have a good reputation for reasonable and fair dealing both with their own insureds and third parties. If you cause an accident that results in damage or injury to someone else, you don’t want to be insured by a company that forces every case to court. Life is too short.
  • It’s usually best to buy your insurance from a company with a local agent with whom you can review your needs and your insurance policy and who can help you immediately in the event of an accident.
  • Do not drive an uninsured vehicle even if you have insured your other vehicles.
  • The bare minimum third-party liability insurance required by law only provides coverage for anyone that you might injure as a result of an accident that is your own fault. If you cause an accident that results in injuries to your own passengers, pedestrians or third parties in other vehicles, then those persons would ordinarily be covered by your third-party liability insurance, but you would not be covered.
  • The minimum third-party liability insurance required by law does not provide any payments or protection for you in the event that you are injured in an accident. In order to adequately protect yourself, you would need to purchase optional supplemental medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage. Check with your insurance agent.
  • The minimum third-party liability insurance required by law does not provide any payment for damage to your own vehicle. In order to cover your own vehicle against damage, you must purchase some form of collision coverage.
  • Read any insurance policy language carefully. Be sure that you understand what is covered and what is not covered. If you are not sure, ask your agent or company and confirm your understanding in writing.
  • Most insurance policies include a standard sheet showing the coverages and amounts of coverage that you have purchased, which is usually called a declaration page, and also a standard handout that describes the policy provisions. Read the definitions — they are often the source of many misunderstandings and are usually binding.
  • Insurance policies are contracts and are generally interpreted as contracts by the courts, although the courts usually require insurance policies to be written clearly, more so than ordinary contracts.
  • By statute, the current minimum legal amount of third-party liability insurance in Alaska is $50,000 per person and $100,000 total per accident. However, this legally required minimum amount was enacted many years ago and is usually inadequate today due to rising medical costs.
  • Just because you have purchased the legally required minimum amount of insurance does not mean that you are adequately insured against personal financial liability if you cause an accident that injures other people. You probably are underinsured in today’s world. Again, check with your insurance agent.
  • Increasing the amount of your liability insurance coverage beyond the bare legal minimum is often reasonably priced and provides more protection for you and others you may injure. If you cause serious injuries because of an accident that is your fault, buying only the legal minimum amount of insurance may put you and your assets at financial risk for any portion of a court judgment that exceeds the amount of your insurance coverage.
  • Check your auto insurance policy to see whether you have purchased separate medical payments coverage, which pays medical bills for you and your passengers, even if you are at fault. This separate coverage is not very expensive and is really worth the extra premium.
  • Check your auto insurance policy to see whether you have purchased separate Uninsured-Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. UIM coverage protects you if the other party is at fault for a serious accident and is not insured or does not have enough insurance to cover the full amount of your claim. This separate coverage is not very expensive and is really worth the extra premium.
  • Be sure that your automobile third-party liability insurance is always in force and current. This is required by state law and you can be prosecuted if you do not have the mandatory minimum insurance in force in the event of a traffic stop or accident.
  • In addition to receiving a citation, if you are driving without current insurance, you will probably lose your driver’s license for several months even if the other party is completely at fault for an accident. You will also likely be required to purchase very expensive, high-risk SR-22 insurance. A second offense is punished more severely and leads to a longer time when your driving license is suspended. If you knowingly drive with a suspended license, you will likely be jailed.
  • If you do not have third-party liability insurance in at least the statutory minimum amount, then Alaska Statutes prevent you from recovering any losses from an automobile accident except medical expenses and lost income, even if the other party is completely at fault for the accident.

Joseph Kashi received his law degree from Georgetown Law School and has practiced law on the Kenai Peninsula for the past 32 years. He is admitted to legal practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Alaska Supreme Court and all lower state and federal trial courts for Alaska. His Web site, www.kashilaw.com, contains more information, including legal tips and links to legal, government and community resources.

Plugged In: Printers — A big decision for small businesses

Large-format printers are a breed apart. They’re physically larger, with a higher initial purchase price but lower ink costs, and can produce very high-quality prints at least 13-by-19 or larger.

All affordable large-format printers, even those designed for professionals like engineers and graphic designers, are based upon inkjet technology.

Only a few vendors make consumer-grade, large-format printers. Should you consider a large-format printer? A surprisingly large number of businesses might find one useful, even if you don’t need photographic-quality printing.

For example, most real property documents, such as aerial photos, plats and surveys, and most construction plans are intended to be printed at 11-by-17 or larger, and smaller copies are hard to read and use.

Most home and small-business printers can print letter-sized documents and photographs with varying degrees of quality. Such printers are usually relatively inexpensive to purchase but have very high ink costs per print.

For the routine printing needs of a small business, an inexpensive laser printer makes the most sense. Laser printers are faster and less expensive per page compared to low-end inkjet printers, but laser printers have two glaring weaknesses.

Even fairly expensive laser printers are limited to prints not wider than standard 8.5-inch-width letter and legal paper, although an office store like Soldotna’s UPS store can often print the occasional larger image, for a price. Secondly, laser printers do not do a very good job printing color images, especially photographs.

If you want to make high-quality, large, color images at home or in your business, then you’ll need a large-format printer.

There are several good models currently offered in the $200 to $800 range. Unfortunately, since the bankruptcy of CompUSA last year, you can’t find any of these products on Southcentral store shelves for immediate purchase. You’ll need to buy them from a reliable Internet vendor like www.amazon.com or www.newegg.com.

Consumer-grade large format printers usually make prints up to 13-by-19. Somewhat more expensive printers can use 17- or 18-inch-wide paper while professional models can handle 24-inch or wider rolls of high-end paper.

Only three vendors, HP, Canon and Epson, sell readily available, consumer-grade, large-format printers. All of them produce quality systems but the right choice depends upon your needs.

HP pioneered several of the most important printing technologies, including laser printing and photo-grade inkjets. For many years, HP basically owned the market for business printers.

Epson focused upon very high-quality photographic printing. Canon put out excellent models in both of these areas but tended to be underappreciated.

There are a few basic printing concepts that are useful in determining which printer is best for you. Generally, printers with a larger number of separate ink colors produce more natural-looking photographs and detailed color images.

At least six different ink colors, including light magenta and light cyan, are needed for high-quality results. Printers that use larger (27-milliliter or more) separate cartridges for each color are much more economical to use. If you want to make high-grade, black-and-white prints for exhibition, then you’ll need a printer with at least two, preferably three or four, shades of black, gray, light gray, and light, light gray. Almost all printers now use the USB 2.0 computer interface.

Paper handling is important, too, because paper jams and scratched prints are a true annoyance. Printers with a straight-through rear paper feed, like that used by Canon and Epson, are usually more reliable. HP’s tray and folded paper path approach is usually more troublesome when making larger prints and photographs.

Using rolls of paper with an automatic roll feeder attached to the printer is much more reliable and far more economical in the long run, sometimes saving as much as 75 percent to 80 percent in paper costs.

There are two general types of high-grade printing inks: dye-based and pigment-based. Pigment inkjets are generally usable on many different brands of photo and fine art paper and are considered to be less prone to fading.

Dye inkjets are a slightly older technology that often can provide more brilliant colors but generally must be used with certain types of paper specified by the printer’s manufacturer. Dye-ink prints are more vulnerable to moisture damage and thus must be handled with greater care. Except for HP’s archivally rated Vivera inks, dye-ink images are not very resistant to fading over the years.

However, in comparison, traditional color prints made from film usually fade more quickly than dye inks.

For consistent and economical results, the entire printing system from monitor through printer should be regularly checked, calibrated and “color managed” so that what you see on the monitor is what you get on the print. Printers should be used, or at least cleaned and calibrated, regularly to avoid problems.

Be sure that you know what you’re getting into with a larger-format printer. They’re big, heavy and need a lot of tabletop space, with sufficient room to allow top loading of 19-inch or larger cut paper. Getting consistently high-quality prints and good economy from large-format printers will require some study and effort on your part.

Unlike cameras, whose models usually change from year to year, specific printer models are usually marketed without significant changes for two to four years. High-grade inkjet printing is a fairly mature technology and improvements from model to model are usually incremental, rather than revolutionary.

Be careful when purchasing: The real cost for these printers is in the ink and many of them ship with low-capacity, quickly exhausted “starter” cartridges. Before you know it, you’ll be spending another few hundred dollars for real ink cartridges. Such practices are something of a scam that vendors occasionally do with some large-format printers.

The following models are among the more common large-format printers, warts and all. All prices were current on Amazon.com as of March 2. There were no new printers of consequence introduced at the annual photo marketing show, PMA, last week, so printers listed here should be current through at least early summer. There is no one perfect choice, so shop carefully and know your own needs and technical limitations. Replacement ink sets for most printers listed here can be ordered through Stub’s Office Supply in Soldotna.

  • Canon Pixma 9000 ($410). This is an eight-dye ink printer that is excellent for color photos up to 13-by-19. Because it does not have a second gray cartridge, it’s less useful for exhibition-grade, black-and-white prints. I own the predecessor to this model and it has been fast, reliable and easy to use, so long as you use Canon’s own printer software to control the look of final output. This would be an excellent choice for most users. My only complaint is that Canon’s small ink cartridges increase the price per print.
  • Canon Pixma Pro9500 ($760). The Pixma Pro 9500 is a 10-pigment ink, 13-by-19 printer that includes several levels of black. This printer has been criticized for very slow output speed but the output is very nice. Given the choice in this price range, though, I would get the Epson 2880, especially if doing a lot of black and white.

  • Epson Stylus Photo 1400 ($214). This is the least-expensive, large-format, 13-by-19 printer from a major vendor. It uses six dye inks and is a good choice for a low-cost, general-use business and photo large-format printer for color images. It is not intended to print exhibit-grade, black-and-white images. Low-capacity ink cartridges significantly increase the cost per page.
  • Epson Stylus R1900 ($549). The R1900 is a 13-by-19 printer using seven pigment inks plus a gloss optimizer. It’s basically designed to produce high-quality, glossy photos and includes a manual roll feed that allows you to print longer panoramic photos while reducing your paper costs. Similar to the Epson 1400, the R1900 does not have an intermediate gray level ink, reducing its suitability for fine art and black-and-white photos. Low-capacity ink cartridges significantly increase the cost per page.
  • Epson Stylus Pro 2880 ($735) includes the full Epson K3 eight-pigment photo ink set, including three levels of black and gray. Its output is considered to be the best of any printer under $1,000. If you need to do occasional 13-by-19, exhibit-grade photos, including black-and-white images, then this is the printer for you. However, it has been criticized because its expensive, low-capacity ink cartridges increase the cost per page.
  • Epson Stylus Pro 3800 ($1,095) is a 17-by- 22 printer that, although a 3-year-old design, is still considered to be the best all-around fine art printer in its size and price range. The 3800 is a large printer using much more economical, high-capacity ink sets that include three levels of black/gray for optimum black-and-white printing. Unfortunately, it does not have a roll feed option but paper handling is considered to be quite good. Output quality is excellent, but this is really intended as a high-quality, fine-art printer rather, than a production business machine.

  • HP 8350 ($290) is HP’s least expensive, 13-by-19 large-format printer that includes a photo gray option for better black-and-white images but it has mixed customer reviews.
  • HP B8550 ($304) This printers uses five-dye inks, prints up to 13-by-19, and has decent customer reviews. Ink is a little less expensive than equivalent Canon and Epson printers.
  • HP B8850 ($472) is a 13-by-19 printer that uses eight-pigment inks and includes a straight rear paper path, although HP does not include the very useful fold-down rear paper loading trays included with the Canon printers. This is a somewhat newer, slightly stripped-down version of the highly regarded HP B9180 professional printer. It has received excellent reviews and would be a very good choice for an amateur photographer intending to print occasional exhibit-quality photos. It uses higher-capacity ink cartridges for better economy.
  • HP B9180 ($594) is another 13-by-19 printer quite similar to the B8850 but includes an LCD panel and network connection. This is also a highly regarded choice for a semiprofessional photographer, with excellent quality color and black-and-white output, but the B9180’s paper handling has been criticized on occasion.
  • HP DesignJet 90 (Q6656A, under $1,000, Q6656B with roll feed, list $1,150) is an interesting printer that includes six long-life, Vivera dye inks. This is the least expensive printer for 18-inch wide paper. I have the 24-inch DesignJet 130 version with roll feed. If you get the roll feed version and use HP’s Professional Plus papers, you will find this to be a very economical 18-inch-wide printer that’s able to produce exhibition-grade color images with a rated 82-year archival life. Because it does not include a second black/gray ink, it is not as useful for black-and-white images.
  • DJ 110Plus, ($995). This printer uses four Vivera dye inks and prints up to 24 inches wide. It’s useful for making big posters and signs in a business setting, but not for high-quality work. It uses economical, high-capacity ink cartridges.
  • DJ 130 ($1,150 but also get $450 roll feed for best reliability and economy). I use this 24-inch printer regularly to make very high-color images for exhibit. In fact, I used it so regularly that I finally wore one out. It’s the DesignJet 90’s big brother and the most economical all-around large-format choice for the color photographer or business requiring high-quality color images up to 24 inches wide. Because it does not include a second gray/black ink, black-and-white image quality is decent but not spectacular. It uses economical, high-capacity ink cartridges.

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.