Wed 29 Oct 2008
I’ve had this variants of this conversation a dozen times with native Fairbankian Alaskans:
me: It’s freezing!
them: It’s not bad– you should be here when it’s forty below!
me: (no thanks!) It’s feels pretty cold to me now…
them: At forty below your spit will freeze before it hits the ground. You can even pick it up!
me: uh, okay. (Q. why would anyone want to pick up frozen spittle?)
The moral of the story, I suppose, is that it can nearly always get colder. Also, it’s futile to talk to Alaskans about the weather– they’re proud of their long-suffering.
Since my stay in Alaska has practically turned me into Mr. Alaska, I thought I’d profit from this public forum by revealing some fast facts and by debunking some common Alaskan myths.
Myth: Everything is bigger in Texas
Fact: Not so fast Texans, Alaska is 2.3 times the size of Texas. So large, in fact, it’s bigger than the next four largest states combined.
Myth: Alaska is weird.
Fact: While Alaska does has it’s fair share of odd laws (It is considered an offense to push a live moose out of a moving airplane. and you’re not allowed to wake up a bear for the purpose of taking its picture), you’ll actually find normal people in the larger cities.
Myth: Everyone lives in igloos.
Fact: Only two in five Alaskans list an igloo as their primary residence.
Myth (started by me): It’s a million degrees below zero in Alaska.
Fact:The coldest ever recorded temperature in Alaska was -80 degrees F at Prospect Creek in the Brooks Range. What is also true is that everyone plugs their cars in (well, they plug in a heating element on the engine block) — not just the diesels, so the vehicles will start in the cold. That means that nearly every parking lot features waist-high power towers lined at the top with electrical outlets.
Myth: Alaska is filled with hillbillies.
Fact: They might be rugged outdoors people, but they ain’t no dummies. They’ve exercised smart fiscal policy from the beginning. You’ll recall Alaska was bought from Russia in 1867 for only 7.2 million dollars (2 cents an acre). Thirteen years later gold was discovered there. Later, they drilled and found mega quantities of oil. Suckas! Alaska has so much money, you get paid to live there– this year–$3,200 for every man, woman and child!
Myth: No one lives in Alaska.
Fact: 614,000 people – that’s about 1 per square mile. If you can’t see anyone, walk a few miles.
Myth: No one famous has ever come from Alaska.
Fact: Renowned artist and orphan child, Bennie Benson, brilliant designer of the Alaskan flag, was Alaskan. Bennie was only 13 at the time (1926)
What you don’t know is that many people in Alaska live quite simply. It’s common to heat your house off heating oil. It’s common to have no running water (there are weekly water deliveries to a tank which connects via a hose to a sink in the house. For the used water, while sometimes drainage exists, ofttimes a bucket under the sink (emptied daily) does the job.) As well, it’s not too strange to still have an outhouse.
So while Alaska might be intentionally primitive, like a perpetual campground, it is home to some great people. I met one, Kinsey, while I was arguing with a born-again minister in the student center at the University of Alaska. Hi Kinse! Everyone’s favorite archeologist, Jules, is even a native. Obviously, our very own William Attwood is also from Alaska. See, Alaska isn’t all bad.
Mon 27 Oct 2008
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, minister, author, militant abolitionist, and soldier, was a literary mentor to Emily Dickinson and was key in the effort to publish her works after her death. He also wrote awesome letters, something many English teachers see as a dying art. Here, below, is a scorcher he penned to William Jennings Bryan upon reading racist comments by Bryan in the newspaper The Commoner:
I have yours of November 23 and perhaps it justifies me in writing to you with a frankness which I might not have otherwise regarded as proper. You asked me to assist in finding efficient agents for The Commoner, excuse me if I reply that although I headed your electoral ticket in the state during the last presidential election I never could have done it had you taken the position assumed of November 1st in regarded to what you call the “social equality question”. In this number [in] the paper you take a position that appears to me utterly retrograde and medieval and wholly inconsistent with your general attitude.
You also show in your way of arguing either ignorance or indifference in respect to American history when you say that no man or party has advocated social equality between the white man and the black man. The simple fact is that no man concerned in the great antislavery movement in its early days ever advocated anything else. In my own case from the first time I had house of my own in 1847 a fugitive slave always had a refuge there and was treated as a social equal. And when in the year 1857 I raised immigrant parties and accompanied them into your state in Kansas it was always under the same fiat.
It’s humiliating to me to think that a newspaper calling itself democratic in a region must [sic] made free should take such an attitude as you now assume. It is my opinion an essential part of democracy that social distinction should be merely individual not racial. Character is character, education education. What social gradations exist should be based on these and these alone and even these should be effaced as rapidly as possible. What are you or what am I that we should undertake to advocate any social law that should place us above men like Frederick Douglas or Booker Washington.
No point which The Commoner advocates so important as this and whatever its other merits it seems to me so utterly in the wrong that I have no wish to subscribe for it myself or to have it sent me and can only wish if it holds to this attitude that it may be discontinued.
(transcribed by me from today’s Diane Rehm show on Brenda Wineapple (Higginson’s biographer))
Sun 26 Oct 2008
In this time of financial uncertainty, it can be tempting to give in to the hypnotic yet poisonous rhetoric of the MLM advocates that swirls around in Utah communities. In previous posts, I’ve exposed the dulcet lies which underpin network marketing/multilevel marketing, providing lists of reasons why I believe them individually dangerous and collectively a blight on society. Those RBDN blog entries are so popular, that RBDN now comes up #1 in Google when one searches for some Utah specific MLM keywords (e.g. “Lennon Ledbetter” (Teambuilder’s founder)). I’m sure he’s thrilled about that.
Back in April of 2007, Candice over at Kaleidoscope Pictures contacted me about seeing the release screening of Believe “a hilarious movie about network marketing.” I didn’t attend the screening, but finally did get around to watching the movie (available On Demand from Comcast.) Believe is okay, as Utah movie standards go, and is filmed in the same Mormony humor you’d expect (think God’s Army, The Best Two Years or Baptists at the Barbeque.) The cinematography isn’t going to blow you away, but the accuracy of the noxious MLM culture definitely hits the mark. From the smarmy initial introduction in the rented hotel meeting rooms, to the complexity of the flowcharts and down line formulas, the screenwriters should be praised for their research; they’re dead on. In fact, for a good time, you might invite all your MLM friends over to your house for movie night and see how uncomfortable they get watching this relentless mocumentary. That’s karma my friends.
As for Utah MLMs, here is a short list of some of the companies to avoid. I urge you to not participate in any of these companies and to refuse to purchase their products. Let’s run them out of this state.
- Amway (aka Quixtar or Teambuilders)
- Tahitian Noni Juice
- Nu Skin
- Nature’s Sunshine
- Agel Enterprises
And, for a good time at your next ML M recruitment meeting, try playing MLM bingo
Sun 26 Oct 2008
The Alaskan mini van…
Brought to you by my iPhone, which is just like your phone only a lot better. Except I can’t take videos. and the iPhone freezes a lot. and apps make my phone crash.
Fri 24 Oct 2008
Posted by me under travels Comments
It didn’t snow today so I finally got to get out and explore a little. I went to the North Pole and ate crab. It was better than sitting in an old hotel room watching The Office reruns and eating Doritos and Oreos. I also had escargot. And pasta. And a loaf of bread. And a nice salad. I’ve gained 300lbs, which is important insulation to stave off the bitter glacier winds and to attract a suitable Alaskan wife.
North Pole AlaskaClick the image for the complete gallery
Wed 22 Oct 2008
This pic taken this morning. -2 degrees Fahrenheit. 6 inches of snow in 24 hours. So far, while driving, I ran into a curb and slid off the road. Don’t I look thrilled?!?
Mon 20 Oct 2008
Posted by me under food Comments
Of course it doesn’t help that it’s horribly cold and pitch black outside…
Sun 19 Oct 2008
My Alaskan Air flight just touched down here in Fairbanks, Alaska. Yes, it’s cold here. But how cold, you ask? I’ve decided to introduce the RBDN CRS (Coldness Rating Scale). Here’s how it works. There are seven increasing tiers, with four levels each:
I. Chilly (windbreaker recommended)
II. Visible breath (a real coat will make things better)
III. Face slap (parka needed)
IV. Nose hair /snot freeze (add gloves, scarf)
V. Bone chill (throw on thermals, and layered sweaters as well)
VI. Deep freeze– uncontrolled body shivering, fine motor control in extremities impeded (you need to get indoors fast)
VII. Absolute zero (all molecular motion ceases. You’re dead)
And, in case you’re wondering, it’s a Level 2 Face Slap on the RBDN CRS here in Fairbanks right now.
Sun 19 Oct 2008
Today is a travel day. I’m currently sitting in the Seattle airport, gate D9, on the first of two layovers. Seattle charges you for wireless internet access, but thankfully I have my handy Sprint card with me! Incidentally, this might be my last blog entry for a while, as I’ve heard that Alaska doesn’t have the Internet yet.
Flying to Seattle, I came up with a short list of terms you might come across as you travel:
- Galley — the area where food is cooked and prepared on an airplane
- Purser — the Cabin Manager (or chief flight attendant)
- Steward — a Flight attendant
- Tarmac — a tarmacadam runway for airplanes
- Deplane — to disembark from an airplane
- Smug-faced — how the first class passengers look sipping their beverages as the coach class files on by
- Compacted Cardboard — the primary ingredient in the complimentary cheese crackers
- Mental Retardation — the reason why airlines continue to show a safety video on how to buckle your seatbelt
- UberShoehorn — what I needed to fit into my seat betwixt two large people
Sat 18 Oct 2008
Posted by me under awesome1 Comment
Salt Lake City’s very own Odyssey Dance Company performs a Halloween-themed dance concert each year at the Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus. It’s quite spectacular, moderately priced and well worth the two hours. Candidly, I only learned about it from a dancer friend I met several years ago, as my social circles don’t normally overlap with non-nerds.
The dozen or so high tempo performances are at times irreverent, slightly frenetic, brilliant choreographed and expertly performed. The visual effects will leave you spell-bound and awestruck. You’ll laugh out loud, startle at the well-timed surprises and groove to the hip hop music. Be grateful you don’t have an isle seat (there is um, forced audience participation.)
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