Out There

Cool Alaska Homes

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on October 29, 2012

We’ve thought of building a home where we live in the bush for quite some time.  There are some, no many, major hurdles though, like how do you acquire land when everything is native allotments or federally held?  I was also told by a guy who has built scores of homes in the Alaska bush that no bank will fund (loan) a home project in any village like ours.  They are ok with Nome, Barrow, Kotzebue, Bethel, etc, but not the outlying villages, unless you qualify for funding under some government programs targeting native home ownership, which we don’t.

Homes built and lived in by kassaq families are basically unheard of in our region, other than Bethel.  I can’t speak for all 50-something villages that call Bethel their hub, but I’m familiar with at least a dozen of them and have never heard of it happening.  One obvious reason is outsiders don’t live in these places, other than teachers.  And teachers would have to move from teacher housing with it’s subsidized rent, running water, and free heat to the reality of what their neighbors face:  crazy high building costs, outrageous heating bills, and probably no running water (although that is slowly changing, village by village in this area).

I say all this as a backdrop to three homes I’ve read about over the years and thought were pretty cool as they address the water, heat, and power issues.   Here is the first one, and here is the second, designed by the same guy.

This third one is a home built in the 1980s that “makes” its own water.  That link is a bit “fluffy,” so if you want the  good details see this narrative by the guy who designed it, including lots of free plans telling you how to go about doing something similar yourself.

Of the three, the last is the coolest to me personally because water is such a bedeviling challenge out here on the YK Delta.  HUGE money is spent trying to put in piped water systems that won’t freeze up in the winter.  This house uses rain water and reuses its own “grey” water and requires no external pipes.  Admittedly, all three of these designs require big up front investments, but I don’t think the payout period is too outrageously long.  At least not here where we pay $7/gallon for heating fuel, over 50 cents a KwH for power, and who knows what per gallon of running water which mostly doesn’t even exist yet.

Speech Therapist Spam!

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on October 19, 2012

Wow – this is a first.  Appeared in my inbox 23 minutes ago.

Greetings from Sydney!

My name is Dr Robert Coren I live and work as a plastic surgeon here in Sydney, I am originally from Milan, Italy, I have been a plastic surgeon since 1996. I do face lifts and breast lifts also known as Mastopexy, Nose lifts, Neck Lift Surgery. I have lots of happy clients here in Australia.

I have been looking for a Speech therapist for over a week now till i met an old friend Mrs Sarah at the Cosmetic Surgery And Beauty Conference that was held yesterday here in Australia, I spoke with her about my client and was referred to you. She gave me your contact details, she said she came to your office with a friend some time ago before she relocated with her family to Sydney, so i decided to contact you to know if you will be able to give my client some Speech therapy sessions.

My Clients name is Ms Laura Debenedictis,A model here in Sydney, her vocal quality has changed in such a way that it is thought to be abnormal and has lasted for two weeks now, She constantly clears her throat and she also smokes a lot, I think this might be the reason this problem occurred so i would like you to pencil her for 8-weeks course of Private therapy, including 3 biweekly, 45 – to 60-minute speech therapy sessions per day, when she arrives the States, She will be coming to the U.S in 2 weeks time for a modeling job and will be residing in your Area temporarily until the necessary arrangement for her job has been made before she leaves.

Pls tell me a little more about your self, how long have you been a speech Language therapist? Would you be able to provide her with the therapy sessions in two weeks time?

I need you to get back to me with the amount you charge per Private session and also let me know if she can pay you with a Certified check drawn from a US bank? So you can have her scheduled from the 30th of this month to 14th November, hope you would be able to work with the time frame?

You can view some of Ms Laura Pictures from the link below:

I’m not putting the link in (duh).  Ended with:

Till I read from you remain blessed.

Dr Robert Coren
NSW 2000, Australia

Mrs Sarah?  Who came to my office with her friend?  Ha!  Mister Coren, have you seen my office?  The (very) few who have can appreciate the imponderable depth of humor here!  While impressive that you know my profession, this email is a bit lacking in accurate and specific detail.  ; – )  I charge $1M per hour, up front, wire it over ASAP please.  

politics today – personal power over serving others

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on October 19, 2012

Politics is important.  We need to pay attention, be informed, and vote for people who will help lead our country where it should go.  Tons of people don’t vote today, and this is especially true in Alaska, and even more so in the villages of bush Alaska like Kasigluk.  Why?

I think partly because articles like this and this are essential.  You can turn on the presidential debates like we did here on our XM radio, and really gain very little useful and true information as to the candidate positions on the important issues.  Because the most important issues may or may not be discussed (while frivolous or largely symbolic issues grab headlines), and because even when they are discussed the candidates so often speak in duplicitous half-truths or even out and out lies.  Example from the first link above (CAPS are my insertion of the actual truth and I crossed out the lies):

ROMNEY: “As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year FROM 2010 TO 2011 on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters.” OF THE MORATORIUM ON NEW OIL DRILLING IN THE GULF AFTER THE APRIL 2010 BP OIL SPILL, AND BECAUSE ALMOST ALL NEW GAS DISCOVERIES ARE BEING MADE USING NEW AND CHEAPER “FRACKING” TECHNOLOGY ON PRIVATE LANDS.

Obama appeared to make similarly false statements, like about implementing a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens when in fact such a pathway does not exist at this time.  And Romney was clearly dissembling when he accused Obama of bringing down the auto industry, when in face Obama’s plan that Romney publicly opposed then and now saved much of the domestic auto industry.  

What if we had a candidate who could only be honest, like Jim Carrey in the 90s movie “Liar Liar.”  Yes, he would probably get killed on election day, but man would it be refreshing.  

I remember when republican Frank Murkowski defeated democrat Fran Ulmer here in Alaska in the governor’s race in 2002 or so and it was largely because he painted her as someone who wanted to implement an income tax and “steal” people’s PFD (permanent fund dividend – the state was in a budget crisis at the time due to low oil revenue).  Those were just fear mongering out and out lies, but they got him elected, with signs that said “Vote Frank Murkowski – Protect your PFD.”  Murkowski was a millionaire with a banking background, while Ulmer was an educator.  Guess which one had a lot more to lose from an income tax and would prefer to fund government using the permanent fund?

After his victory Murkowski called together the “Conference of Alaskans,” 55 bipartisan leaders and ordinary citizens to meet and agree on a way out of the budget crisis.  I actually taped the proceedings that were aired live.  Their initial conclusion was that the most fair way to help balance the state budget was an income tax that would kick in only if oil revenues stayed down and reserves ran out.  The Republicans freaked out and descended on the conference, and within 24 hours the conclusions were changing.  From the Juneau Empire, The Conference of Alaskans eventually “recommended spending some permanent fund earnings on state government, but also said the Legislature should consider balancing that with other sources of revenue, including a personal income tax and other broad-based taxes.  Another conference recommendation is that permanent fund dividends be guaranteed in the state Constitution.”

Murkowski and republican majority in the legislature pushed for the POMV plan, using more of the permanent fund earnings for government spending, and even a statewide sales tax, but never touched the income tax idea.  Anyway, all this to say that Murkowski ended up showing what was obvious from the start – he was much more of a threat to the PFD payouts than Ulmer ever was, despite his campaign signs to the contrary.

All of this leads me to this article in Time magazine by Michael Grunwald, which is unfortunately blocked behind a pay wall which most of us don’t pay.  But it basically details how the republicans were in disarray after Obama’s victory over McCain, and how they came together to plan stategy, and decided that everything hinged on denying Obama the bipartisan, “reaching across the aisle and working together” Washington DC that he sold to the voters.  By saying no.  To everything.  Here are some quotes lifted from the paper copy of the article in front of me.  “”We’re not here to cut deals and get crumbs and stay in the minority for another 40 years,” Cantor said.”  And “A few weeks later, [Pete] Sessions began his presentation at a House Republican leadership retreat in Annapolis, Md., with an existential political question:  “If the purpose of the majority is to govern…What is our purpose?”  The answer was not to promote Republican policies, or stop Democratic policies, or even make Democratic bills less offensive to Republicans.  “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority,” Sessions wrote.  “That is the entire conference’s mission.”  And they decided they would get there by saying no.

So if Obama had a plan to end world hunger and war forever by lowering taxes on everyone in the country by ten cents, they would vote no.  From an add-on to the article:  ““If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”  And “Republicans recognized that after Obama’s big promises about bipartisanship, they could break those promises by refusing to cooperate. In the words of Congressman Tom Cole, a deputy Republican whip: “We wanted the talking point: ‘The only thing bipartisan was the opposition.’ ”

This is so so so nauseating to me.  Shouldn’t you vote for each proposal on it’s own relative merits?  Not how your party tells you to vote.  Not in the way that will most hurt the opposition.  Vote in the way that most represents the people of your district (all of them), and in the way that most serves the people.  I know I’m hopelessly naive, but this is how we all want it to work, right??  And to me it is what Obama represented and what he actually tried to do.  This (“party of no” stonewalling) sort of garbage is why people hate politics.  Why they don’t vote.  And this specific instance is why I and hopefully many others won’t vote for a republican for national office for a long while.  I’ll show the party of no the voter of NO, and I hope most of the country is with me.  Throw the GOP out!!  (Where’s my paper bag??  About to hyperventilate!)  Honestly this gets me waaay too worked up and my mind goes in many irrational directions at once (get the pitchforks!  Light the torches!  Get a rope!  Get lots of rope!  Off with their heads!!!).

I’m an independent.  I have voted for people from both parties, and even a couple of 3rd party candidates, for local office, for president, etc.  I actually voted for the old George Bush, the W Bush, AND Obama.  I know, weird.  Anyway, I’m just trying to give context to my anger at the republicans for this “strategy.”  I’m not saying this as a hard-core democrat, I’m saying it as a normal, free thinking person and someone who tries to be a conscientious voter.  The republican “party of no” strategy actually succeeded in hurting Obama politically because he couldn’t get much accomplished.  But the GOP clearly put their own personal power ahead of working together for what was best for the country.  For 4 years.  That is reprehensible.

Now, I’m not so naive to think that dems have *never* engaged in this type of hyperpartisanship, putting themselves before those they are elected to serve.  Of course they have, countless times at various levels over the years.  We’re all screwed up.  But this is a recent example, on the biggest political stage there is.  And it was just wrong.