Archive for February, 2008

The act of taking a 2-3 foot diameter net, on the end of a 10-15 foot pole, attaching a dip to the end of the pole opposite the net, wherein said dip inserts the net end into a raging, dangerous river while perilously perched on rocks hanging from the side of a canyon, hoping to catch salmon migrating upstream in said net.  It has been known for 30 salmon to be caught in 2 hours, but not uncommon for 2 salmon to be caught in 30 hours.  The intelligence of dips can be observed by how securely they are tied off to canyon rocks, to preserve their bodies for burial should they fall into said river.  Dipnetting is most frequently used when referring to the Copper River, though “dipnetting light” is allowed on a few other Alaskan rivers.  Dips must be Alaskan residents.  (Please note; author is a mid-level intelligence dip, but don’t tell his wife.)


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My mind has taken a turn towards Alaska today, and what our geographic location contributes towards making us culturally unique. I think living here requires a certain amount of humor and fortitude, both of which combine for some useful nuggets of wisdom.

I’d like to start this post with a few of my own nuggets of wisdom, and then encourage any readers, Alaskan or otherwise, to add their own so that we can create a thread of Alaskan knowledge here.

Note, the wonderful thing about folk wisdom, by my definition, is that it was learned the hard way.

I’ll confess to learning some of the below the hard way, but not all.

  • Don’t eat the yellow snow. (Enough said.)
  • When riding as a passenger on a dog sled, keep your mouth shut.
  • Don’t pee into the wind.
  • Don’t dive for anchors.
  • Always keep a sleeping bag in the car, you never know when you might break down.
  • When in Chitina, always clip the tails on your king and reds before you string them.
  • When in Chitina, always fill out your harvest card before leaving the rock you were perched on.
  • Don’t buy a cheap tent.
  • No matter how bad your voice may be, always sing when picking berries. In fact, it is a little know fact that the best singers are always the first to be eaten by bears. So sing, but do it poorly.
  • Shaggy manes don’t grow on horses.
  • Highbush cranberries aren’t really cranberries.
  • When hunting, never kill anything more than a mile from your vehicle, boat, etc.
  • Don’t try to drive across the tundra to rectify ignoring the above. Story
  • Don’t crash the riverboat with your in-laws on board, if you like them. If you don’t, go for it.
  • Don’t set your glasses on top of the car to glass for wildlife. (Especially when they are prescription glasses, I still haven’t had the nerve to ask my wife if I can replace them. Again.)
  • When swarmed by mosquitoes, don’t breathe deeply.
  • Don’t play in the cow’s parsnip before lying out in the sun.
  • Don’t eat the mussels until someone else has, and survived.
  • Off bug repellent, when used liberally enough, doubles as fingernail polish remover. (Who knows, it might give your children that genetic defect that proves to be an advantage someday.)
  • Don’t stash goods next to the trail and expect to remember them, or even find them, later on. (True outcome yet to be determined.)
  • Cold porches work well as freezers from October to March, and refrigerators in September and April. Longer, if the weather holds out.
  • That fishy smell never really goes away.
  • When visiting a village, and somebody offers you smoked salmon, don’t eat the whole jar or bag. The plane ride home can be awfully long.
  • Driving upstream against flowing water is more difficult than driving downstream. Better yet, don’t drive in the stream at all, despite how much fun your 7-year old is having.
  • When the oil industry starts running advertisements, more than they normally do, watch your back and check into your legislator’s bank account balance.
  • Never mistake and orange construction cone for a caribou, you will never hear the end of it.
  • Never take hunting advice from a fellow hunter, particularly if they are hunting the same thing at the same time.

I could go on, but I’ll give others the chance add their points of wisdom.

Potential contributors, I’ll keep your identity secret if your wisdom is embarrassing.

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I’m participating in a religious exploration group, known as a Chalice Circle, at our local UU Fellowship. For about 8 weeks we are meeting one evening a week to discuss Unitarian-Universalism, our own beliefs, and how they mesh. Its a wonderfully diverse group, with a wide range of opinions, religious experiences, and beliefs. Amazingly, unlike many places on the earth, we can all sit down together and talk about it without resorting to violence.

Therein is where the beauty of UU lies, that while we may have Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, Agnostics, Humanists, Naturalists, possibly even a Unitarian or Universalist in the group, we are all together on a search for greater knowledge and meaning. So what if we have each chosen a separate path.

For me, it has been and continues to be a challenge emotionally and intellectually. In short, I’m enjoying it immensely.

Last week I put the following blurb together for our newsletter, and thought I would share it here today (since I’m home with the flu and not attending Fellowship).

Each Monday evening since early January, a group of 15 strangers has come together at UUFF to participate in an adult religious exploration group, known as a Chalice Circle. We all share one thing, that we chose to be there, to participate in an opportunity to explore our chosen faith, Unitarian-Universalism. We are quite a diverse group, with an equally divergent path of arriving at UUFF. We have people who are new to the Fellowship, having just discovered UU after a lifelong quest for spiritual meaning. There are lifelong UUs. And, like any good UU group, there are at least few recovering Catholics, myself included.

Our group is led by, facilitated by, and participated in by Jeff and Rebecca. They open each meeting by having one of us light the chalice, then each of us shares a high and a low of our week. We’ve had some great highs, and some tragic lows in our short time together. Our early meetings focused on sharing our spiritual journeys with each other, learning to trust one another with some of our most intimate thoughts and fears. We sit quietly, intently listening to each other’s stories, alternately laughing and crying together.

In our short time together, I think we’ve come to understand how we further our religious and spiritual understanding by sharing our questions, insights, and experiences with one another. Together, we’ve discovered many commonalities among our spiritual stories, despite all our other apparent differences.

We are close to the midway point of the eight week schedule now. As the tide slackens, we are turning away speaking about our spiritual past, and becoming more focused on the future. What we don’t know, but want to. What lies ahead for us in our spiritual journey. And what guidance we can provide one another as we move forward, and learn more about UU along the way.

When our Chalice Circle ends, what began as a group of strangers, I expect will be a group of friends. A group of people who have explored the past, but will share the future, in Fellowship.

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I find in my writings on Alaska life, that I am constantly clarifying my writing with definitions for ‘Alaska’ terminology. It is a wonderful thing about living here, or anywhere, that a local vocabulary develops. A vernacular, by any account. Its fun, creative, and at least a little bit exclusionary.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I like knowing what Alaskans are talking about when we say ‘outside’, or ‘village’, or ‘breakup’, and that outsiders (there I go again) don’t. And of course I enjoy explaining it to them, as much as they (I think) enjoy hearing about it.

We’ve earned the right to use those words, surviving the Alaskan initiation rituals of isolation, darkness, and cold. We should celebrate them, what makes us different and unique, why we choose to live here over anywhere else.

In keeping with that line of thought, I’ve added a category “alaska vernacular” to discontinuous permafrost. I hope that my readers will add definitions as they see fit. I’ll post them and credit them to the source. I’d like to accumulate something of the local lexicon here, that we can link to out of our blogs, instead of adding a definition every time a bit of alaskspeak shows up in our writing. I’ll also add the words and definitions below as they accumulate.

And if anyone has already done this, let me know. I’d be glad to link this right to their work!

Thanks, dc



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Greenup is that brief period of time, sometime in May, that all the trees turn green (commonly called spring in the lower 48). This time varies, usually starting in early May in south Alaska and getting a little later as you move north. Literally overnight, we go from the brown world of mud, limb, and dirty snow bank, post breakup, to the lush yellow-green of a newly reawakened boreal forest. In Fairbanks, this can happen in a matter of days, you can see changes in the hillside colors from morning to night. Recent years have seen a change in schedule, with greenup appearing to come earlier and earlier each year. (You guess the reason, I’m sure it isn’t human caused.)

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This is the second part of what I expect to be a series of articles where I propose aligning the constitution with god, mine. This post builds off of the first installment, which you might want to read first.

A few minutes watching TV, especially male focused TV like sports, and one gets assaulted by the advertising for ED prescriptions and male enhancements pills. The ads are more than a little suggestive, and hard to explain to my 4 and 9 year old daughters when and if they watch hockey games with me.

Nurses (Ali’s coined term for breasts, as in that is where a mommy ‘nurses’ her baby) slipping out of a top during the Super Bowl, easy to explain. A male erection, not so easy.

Thank you Ali, for adding a new term for breast to the American language. I can hear it already. (Insert surfer accent here, think Spicolly from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.) “Whoa, dude, check out those nurses!” And he isn’t talking about hospital employees either.

I digress. Lets get back to the sin at hand.

The advertisements are offensive to me, and therefore god.

A few years ago the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was arrested when re-entering the country because he had a prescription bottle of Viagra, written for someone else. Eventually the charges were dropped, apparently the doctor had requested a different name be placed on the bottle to protect Mr. Limbaugh’s privacy. Fine, I can live with that. And god tells me she can too.

What God and I can’t live with is, regarding a little discussed fact of the case, is that RUSH LIMBAUGH WAS/IS AN UNMARRIED MAN!!!!!

An unmarried man, traveling with a prescription for Viagra, a drug meant to raise a man’s flag when they can’t do it themselves. Why would a single man go to the Dominican Republic with a prescription for ED?

Google “Dominican Republic sex industry“.

Oh, that’s why. Well that clears that up. At least the reason for the trip, if not the sordid details.

Imagine it, a conservative pundit not living up the standard he so callously pushes on everybody else. The shock. The horror.

Actually, it seems like this happens at least once a week to one of them.

I can accept a man who chooses medicine over god’s will to lower his flag. Though I find it hypocritical to trust in god then medically treat the ailments she gives you. It’s not right, but I can accept some people are less virulent (god’s will) than others and need a little man-made help.

But not if you aren’t married.

To a woman.

If you are a man.

Not a dog.

Or a cat.

Or a woman.

Dogs and cats, go read something else.

OK, I’ve confused the issue. Let me begin again, marriage between a man and woman, Viagra OK. Not good, but OK. All those other marriages, I’ll discuss in another post. Single men, NO Viagra. (Sorry Rush, god has determined you need to keep your flag in your pants.)

And so, as my first proposed amendment to the constitution, to align it with god, we shall limit the distribution of ED prescriptions to any male or female with a VALID marriage license. I, I mean god, will determine what is valid. Through me, of course. And we’ll throw in a blurb limiting all advertisements for ED drugs, and for that matter anything remotely sexual or doing with female hygiene, to C-Span. They need the viewers.

Who said god isn’t merciful?

For those of you wondering why I said females can get the prescription, let me just add that a properly subservient wife will notice when her man gets a little down, and will slip these pills to him without him knowing it. Good for his ego.

Please note, I don’t advocate this for the woman’s benefit.

Though god might, she’s big on women’s issues.

(Go figure).

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The other day while dropping Jolie off at the orthodontist for their monthly adjustment to my bank account, I came across an ugly but all too common site.

Cigarette butts.

Not just a few, but a pack’s worth. All right there, in one pile.

I found myself looking around for the cancer riddled corpse that left them there.

Nobody. Someone that smoked that much at one time certainly would perish, wouldn’t they?

I expected someone without the decency to throw their trash away would have hung around, hacking and wheezing in our faces as they collapsed into their soft deathbed of cigarette butts, not even showing us the common courtesy of dying in private.

But then, why should they. All their smoking life, they have fouled our air, tossed cigarette butts out the car window, sparks flying into the dry roadside grass, even as smoke from forest fires nearby roll into town. Outside the grocery stores, convenience stores, schools, offices, and yes, even hospitals. Cigarette butts. Everywhere.

If I stood outside a public building, throwing gum wrappers on the ground, would people look the other way. I chew gum like some people smoke, 10 packs a day. That’s a lot of gum wrappers. Chances are I would get reported and ticketed for littering. Or at least asked to clean up my mess.

That’s what was on my mind as I walked out of the orthodontist’s office, through the drift of butts and back to my truck. Thank goodness I have a 4-wheel drive or I may have gotten stuck.

Of course, the other thing on my mind as I left the orthodontist’s office was money. In my mind, the two came together in an instant of shear brilliance. Either that, or I slipped and fell, completely missing the cigarette butts and cracking my skull against the pavement, returning to consciousness dreaming of money, eyes focused on cigarette butts.

Pick whatever story you like, personally I like brilliance.

The light bulb, we should tax cigarette butts. More accurately, we should tax cigarettes and offer a rebate for butts. 10 cents a butt. Not only would it clean up the streets, but I could collect enough cigarette butts right there in the orthodontist’s parking lot to pay Jolie’s bill, and probably have enough to make a down payment for Ali.

I could just go home, get my wheel barrow, a rake, and maybe a broom. And rubber gloves. Certainly rubber gloves. I could fill it up and wheel it up to the counter, redeeming my 10,000 cigarette butts for orthodontia for Jolie.

On second thought, maybe I should get that law passed first. They may not want 10,000 butts until they are worth something.

So, I came home and did a little research on the Internet to see who had stolen my idea. Google “cigarette butt tax“.

Wow! Apparently I’m not the only one to regain consciousness staring down a cigarette butt. Some people were so moved by the event they even acted on it. While I found people with the idea, I didn’t find anywhere that had actually passed an ordinance. If anyone out there knows of one, please share it along with news of the tax’s effectiveness.

What did catch my eye was the alarming amount of waste the butts generate and the negative environmental impact they have. That raises the stake from a momentary lack of reason to something worth getting worked up about.

Please check out the following links for some facts on the problem and it’s environmental impact.

Now, back to idea of a tax. Taxes work. In this instance consider every smoker paying 10 cents more per cigarette funding butt cleanup. Redemption could be done through machines (maybe Diebold could retrofit all those ‘reliable’ voting machines they’ve been selling us) so that nobody would have to handle the butts when redeemed. Smokers could get their money back when they turn their butts in.
Think about it.

“Hey dude, I’ll give you five butts for that last swallow of Thunderbird. Ten butts if you got any I-90 left.”

It would be like a new currency. People would wander the streets picking up cigarette butts instead of throwing them down.

And I could pay for my daughters to get their teeth straightened.


Pure brilliance.

(I didn’t really hit my head.)

(At least not that I remember.)

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