Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm sorry, folks, but every time I've been seeing the Rising Tide tweets warning everybody that the cost of the conference goes up on August 1st, I've had this song in my head:

So, if you don't want the biggest earworm in your life plaguing your brain, do two things:
You'll thank me later. Last chaaaaaance....last daaaaance....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Alaska Journal

So, here we are. Amid the natural beauty surrounding this city is the fact that oil drilling, transporting, and exporting is a big part of what makes this state tick, despite its fairly recent, halfhearted efforts to change.

A Juneau paper Dan found on our first day in Alaska had John Minge, the chair of BP exploration in the state, taking pains to reassure all the Alaskans employed by his company that their jobs wouldn't go away just because the corporation criminally screwed things up much farther south. It's a "nothing to see there" attitude that burns me up, because it's working here. Up here, BP is the good, philanthropic, environmentally friendly neighbor sponsoring everything from the Imaginarium's kinetics room at the Anchorage Museum to the Alaska Native Heritage Center to an example of creek restoration near a trail edging the Cook Inlet. Distance and money make hearts here less likely to be sympathetic to the oiling of the Gulf of Mexico's shores, sea life, and bird life - well, except for the folks most affected by the Exxon Valdez spill in all the years since that day in 1989.

We move from this hotel to another in Anchorage tomorrow, where I'll hopefully be spared the sight of BP's Alaska exploration headquarters from our hotel room window, nor will I see any electronic agendas in the lobby containing dates and times of BP meetings. It felt good to give that building my middle finger as we passed it by earlier this evening - but their hold on Alaska won't be easily loosened.

Today was marked mostly by my son's general misery - not that it was a complete concoction of his stubbornness. He awoke in hurt, complaining of pains in his hip joint, which instantly had me thinking, "Oh, NO. Not again. Not here, not now," as I stumbled out of bed. He's had joint problems before, and I hoped the complaint was of that nature. An ice pack in the right place seemed to be of help - until we were off to breakfast and his misery really began.

The worst part of today was trying to juggle my husband's semi-dogged adherence to the trip's agenda and the little guy's physical ailment dictating how much the kid was into the day's activities. Truth be told, I lost it. The kid was milking his pain some as an excuse for not wanting to check out the Alaskan Native Heritage Center, but I also wasn't sure of Dan's approach to the kiddo's discomfort-into-major misery, which was to act like the whining and crying were no reason for the little guy not to walk around some and take in the exhibits and performances. I felt stuck, powerless to do very much except to try to smooth some sharp edges in the head-butting between them and to try not to lose my own mind - but I lost it anyhow when it came to going to Friday night services.

My feelings were irritated in general by the kid's attitude towards attending Friday night services anyplace; he'd have behaved the same way if we'd told him the playroom had disappeared from our synagogue back home and he had to attend the service with us. The whining and the cries got to me and I lashed out at my son. By this time, he seemed to have mostly gotten over his joint pain, even walking on some trails edging the Cook Inlet with us and playing at some playgrounds along the way. I thought he was being ungrateful and insulting to his upbringing and told him so. Anger coursed through me, lingering even after Dan told him we were going anyhow and our son ran to the bathroom, cried it out, then joined us in the car, a look of still-not-quite-pleased resignation on his face.

As it turned out, the kid conked out part way through the service...just when the rabbi was sharing his theory concerning what he really thinks the Exodus is - an allegorical retelling of Jeroboam's triumph over Judean king Rehoboam in the days after King Solomon's death...but, over the centuries, the allegory was held up as the major epic on which Judaism (and Christianity, to a different extent) is based. "Egypt" replaced "Judea", Moses took the place of Jeroboam - and the only clues that the Exodus might not have much to do with Egypt are in comparisons of the geography mentioned in Numbers 33:1-37 with what we've found, archaeologically, in the present about those places - all of them far, far away from Egypt.*


Also mind-blowing? Taking my son out to a bench to finish his nap, a bench in view of the windows looking out onto the front parking lot and the gardens - and then spying a mother moose and her baby walking amid the shrubs and chewing on the leaves as though their lives depended on it, all while everyone else was grazing at the oneg Shabbat in the room behind me. Just incredible.


*Michael D. Oblath, "Of Pharaohs and Kings: Whence the Exodus?" - article in The Book of Kings in Recent Research, Vol II

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The two things that really made me angry yesterday:
  1. I saw this machine at a mall near the in-laws' house and I instantly wanted to take a bat to it and throw it over the nearest railing, which, incidentally, wasn't too far from the machine itself. Like we go around putting earthquake simulation machines in the malls down south...I did see that a Hurricane Simulator is located at The Esplanade Mall, though. There are many others in malls in other Gulf states, judging from the website, and I just want to shake my head and wonder why there aren't at least some booklets with some information about the damage storms can do accompanying the machines. At least there's some of that with the 40-below simulator that was at the hotel we stayed in while in Denali. The hurricane ones simply have you pay $2 for the privilege of having your head nearly blown off in a person-sized container. Know what I now want? An oil disaster simulator. It may be the only way we get funding for the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico and its shores. I think we should begin by inviting Tony "Frodo" Hayward to cough up his pension for the privilege of getting dunked.
  2. The Louisiana Science Education Act has ensured that this state can add urine to its education pool in the form of teaching creationism alongside science if a school district desires - and now that some in this state actually want to get it going, it makes me want to vomit. Link via Suspect Device.:
    At its July 22, 2010, meeting, the Livingston Parish School Board announced its interest in teaching creationism under the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act. Actually, they did more than announce their interest. They proclaimed it. There are more Discovery Institute connections to this development than you can shake a stick at....If there was any doubt that people in Louisiana understand exactly why the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) was enacted into law in 2008, those doubts have now been dispelled. Our citizens have clearly connected the dots that link the LSEA and creationism....
    How did they connect those dots? Barbara Forrest gives us the gory details.
Incidentally, one day the little guy had to get out of the swimming pool in which he was taking lessons a little earlier than usual, ostensibly for a safety lesson...which turned out to have been spurred on by someone vomiting in the other end of the same pool. We keep mixing water with too much crap these days. When will it stop?


There's a few more Alaska journal entries to come, don't worry. Our trip didn't end in Anchorage. Hang with me, readers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ummm...Wynton? Dan Pritzker?

Question for you.

This looks great:
“Louis,” a silent film directed by Dan Pritzker and starring Jackie Earle Haley, Shanti Lowry and Anthony Coleman, will premiere in US cities in late August with live musical accompaniment by Wynton Marsalis, renowned pianist Cecile Licad and a 10-piece all-star jazz ensemble...Shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond as a modern re-imagining of early silent film, “Louis” is an homage to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, beautiful women and the birth of American music. The grand Storyville bordellos, alleys and cemeteries of 1907 New Orleans provide a backdrop of lust, blood and magic for 6 year old Louis as he navigates the colorful intricacies of life in the city.

Looks great, fellas.

*twiddling of thumbs*

I'm waiting...


Big thanks to Roger Ebert's Ebert Club newsletter for cluing me in. Incidentally, he recently wrote a great column on the oil disaster in the Gulf.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Alaska Journal

Early morning wake-up call from the cell phone alarm - the call to get up and off my sleeping spot on the floor and pack everything in the roomette to depart the boat at Whittier. I jump in the shower, towel off with the miniscule cloth they gave us when we rented washcloths, bars of soap, and bedding. I take a peek out the window and notice that the weather's the grossest it's been since we've been in Alaska. I dodge my husband and son in order to stuff clean clothes and laundry to be done in the same bag, put the room to pre-arrival rights, and make sure all the rest of our crap is out of the room.

It's off the docked boat and into the van ride that almost wasn't - because 2 other people who'd made reservations by email like Dan did were no-shows, the shuttle service thought we'd be leaving them low and damp, too - but thanks to some deft work with credit card information transferred to the dispatcher through the driver's cell phone, we piled in with some backpackers from France and the UK in time to get a short tour of Whittier. We waited in line for the only way out by car: the over 2 mile long, one lane vehicular and railroad tunnel that connects Whittier to the Seward Highway. Yes, I said ONE LANE FOR CARS AND TRAINS. Cars are allowed out twice a day, but if a train comes along, it has priority. Thankfully, there are no problems getting us into and through the tunnel (25 mph speed limit - slow and steady won out). We were told about a guy who got into the tunnel and took the opportunity to use one of the turnouts within to change his clothes, never suspecting that there were security cameras mounted in the tunnel. Ooops.

We saw some sun for the first time in days after that. Along the highway to Anchorage, we saw lots of mountains (the Chugach range), the 20 Mile River and its mud flats, the tips of a few glaciers, and some blessed blue sky before we dropped everything off at a hotel and grabbed a late breakfast in downtown Anchorage. Got a table at the cafe just in time to see a fire truck pull up. Firefighters entered the place and headed for a room behind the to-go counter. Turned out an employee needed some medical attention - but while the wait was on for the paramedics, I spied some people using the sight of a parked Anchorage F.D. rescue truck as a background for a family photo op. Once the EMTs came, it looked like those people were going to go one crass step further with their cameras and take some shots of the employee heading into the ambulance, too. Who does that? I told Dan about it and he took it as an opportunity to inform me about which nations boasted the worst tourists (i.e., people from _______ country going to other countries). Although Americans are up there in the bad traveler department, the French are apparently the worst. It was of small comfort learning that as I watched the picture-happy crew pulling out in their SUV with local plates on it - the older ones, not the newer, spiffier Alaska Gold Rush Centennial ones.

We walked along touristy 4th Avenue (can't decide if it's Schlock Street or Tchotchke Row - but it's quite trappy) and found only one shop that had anything of interest - coloring books based on a parody of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and t-shirts that said Alaska: I Can See Russia From My House on them. Our true destination: the postmodern-looking Anchorage Museum.

The little guy picked some tiny strawberries off the plants at the entrance, then, after our ticket purchases, proceeded to the Imaginarium, where, aside from one walk through the Alaska history exhibit, he stayed until we went to eat at the museum restaurant. Dan and I took turns with the viewing of the rest of the place.

We finally extracted our son from the interactivity and settled down to a nice meal, marred only by the presence of a mouse in the dining room. A nearby construction site was responsible for some of the little creatures sneaking into the place in recent days - we got free dessert as a result of discreetly telling the servers about the furry guest without alarming fellow diners. A brisk after-dinner trek was livened by a quest to find the Sun and the first four planets in a solar system "planet walk" that began at 5th Avenue and G Street and ended at Elderberry Park - which just happened to have a playground.

More thoughts later. I'm still feeling as though I'm at sea on the Kennicott, especially when I'm sitting down. Plus, we were informed while in the tunnel that a 5+ scale earthquake had hit the Anchorage area last night. Guess I'll have to take my cues from the moving furniture if an aftershock occurs - because something in me thinks the waves are, even now, softly rocking the earth on which I sit.

Anchorage Museum Shop books of interest:

Cold - Bill Streever
Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land - Walter Borneman
anything by Heather Lende
The Thousand-Mile War - Brian Garfield
Johnny's Girl - Kim Rich
Extreme Conditions - John Strohmeyer
The Spill - stories from local folks affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Trying to be a responsible girl and wait 'til I get back to a library so I can check the books out instead of buying them. We're now thinking of redoing the attic room in the house, since a) we saw my sister-in-law's nice basement renovations and b) we've invited a number of folks from the ferry down to our place for Mardi Gras. It's going to take some bucks to transform it from a repository for throws, miscellaneous crap, and a cat box into and actual guest area.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We just keep finding new, more novel ways to keep doing this to the public schools.

Missed this study that the Golden Gophers' Institute on Race and Poverty did of New Orleans public schools post-8/29/05...but not by much:

The University of Minnesota Law School's Institute on Race and Poverty (IRP) evaluated the success of the rebuilding efforts in a new study -- "The State of Public Schools In Post-Katrina New Orleans: The Challenge of Creating Equal Opportunity" -- which found that the rebuilt public school system fails to adequately provide equal educational opportunity to all New Orleans students.
The study finds that the state-driven reorganization has created a "separate but unequal tiered system of schools" which sorts white students and a relatively small share of students of color into selective, high-performing schools, while steering the majority of low-income students of color to high-poverty, low-performing schools.

The study also finds racial and economic segregation in the city and metropolitan area to be a continuing concern, still undermining the life chances and educational opportunities of low-income students and students of color. It documents that school choice in the form of charter schools does not by itself empower students of color to escape the negative consequences of segregation, especially when it leads them to racially-segregated, high-poverty, low-performing schools.

The detailed PDF is here, all ninety pages of it. Some key conclusions:

  • Under policy recommendation #1, on pages 7 and 8: The charter school sector has been growing in a haphazard way in response to strong financial incentives and not because of their superior educational performance...There are also indications that the recent rapid growth in the charter sector cannot continue...Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that, in the long run, a fully charterized system is not sustainable.
The differences are not all that great between the performances of the traditional schools and the charters, but there are significant "tiered" differences between the OPSD schools, the BESE schools, and the RSD schools in the area...and "white students and a relatively small share of students of color" tend to be steered into the higher tiers of the OPSD and the BESE in New Orleans, while the majority of the low-income, nonwhite students go into the RSD.

These conclusions are not incredibly new...but they do come from studies of the schools in 2009. I don't think too many people will complain that they were done at a time when it was too early to tell how the "experiment" done on New Orleans public schools was working. Bottom line: we're coming up on the fifth anniversary of the Federal Flood next month, and we're still experimenting on the area's children.

I don't know how seriously the current "system of schools" will take this study; the fact that the study notes that the charters are set to expand even further in the city is a good indication that the various public school entities will keep taking a Social Darwinian approach to public elementary and secondary education for a long time to come simply because it's tough to stop a machine like that once it starts...and because funding for education is being eviscerated in this state in general. The testing, testing, and more testing kicked up too many notches by No Child Left Behind's policies doesn't help matters much, either. The region's unwillingness to diversify its economy will ensure that a pool of the poor will be constantly stirring about aimlessly in its own brackish waters unless many things change for the better.

How long will it take us to see that a willful ignorance and suppression of diversity will be our undoing? 'Cause I want to be alive when it happens. The way things are going, however...well, my optimism is a-fadin' fast.
All illustrations come from the Library of Congress' exhibit on "Brown Vs. Board of Education at Fifty".
Cross-posted at Humid City

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alaska Journal

The M/V Kennicott, built in Gulfport and working its way up the Alaska Marine Highway with us aboard, is in the fishing village of Yakutat...or it was. We exited Yakutat Bay and are now on the nonstop leg of our journey to Whittier.

Dan told me Yakutat wasn't much to look at - his reaction had been along the lines of this without the blizzard. He then heard a strange announcement on the ship just before it moved away from the dock...something about asking all nonticketed passengers to leave within ten minutes, when Dan thought nonticketed passengers weren't allowed on in the first place. Turns out the Kennicott's mess had been used as a prime restaurant location by some of Yakutat's residents, who had themselves a nice brunch on the boat in the early morning while the ship was docked. That was what passed for fine dining in the village, I guess.

The name of the game for getting one's sea legs is simply to get on the boat and roll with its punches - and I do mean roll - when the ship kicks itself up to 16-plus knots on the open sea. I'm sitting by the padded kids' area of the forward lounge, looking out the windows and marveling at how much the railing at the bow of the ship is bobbing up and down.

Yesterday, the boat's slow, calm amble out of Auke Bay and through the straits of the Inside Passage, combined with the fogginess clouding the horizon, contributed greatly to my feeling that I should head on back to our roomette, set up the lower berth for sleeping and hibernate in that den for the duration - meaning, until dinner came along. The ride was so calm at the beginning, and I'm so short, that, while sitting in a forward lounge chair and taking in the panorama framed between the top rail and a lower section of the deck's barriers, I could almost fool myself into thinking I was seeing blue sky peeking through all the fog. Alas, it was only the bases of the mountains closest to us that were visible, not clear skies.

All sorts of people are traveling with us: a Russian couple; adventurous, young backpacking twentysomethings; whole families. Dan met a family from Kentucky biking their way across the country on a five person tandem bike - they've nicknamed themselves the Pedouins, complete with a website and dispatches of their travels on a radio show. A couple from Ontario is looking to put their homemade canoe into the waters of every Canadian province. A pair from Kansas City hopped the ferry at Bellingham, took a tour of the Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau for a few days, and hopped back on the Marine Highway system the same day we got on the boat. Lots of people, many stories, many travels.

So here we are, bobbing along the coast, keeping ourselves amused in any way we can. It'll be my turn to sleep on the floor tonight. There are movies playing in the theater almost all day. There's no cellular service out here. The Coast Guard requires us to hear the safety announcements every time we leave a port - the important things are to get your warmest clothes on, pull on your life jackets, and head to the designated emergency areas of the ship for further instructions by the crew. Examples of Alaskan art, awards and citations garnered by the Kennicott's crew, and blurbs on Alaska's history line much of the wall space of the boat and sun decks. It's important to remember not to take a shower until the ship is out to sea. Don't let your kids play on the outside decks or in the stairwells. You can visit your vehicle at the designated time each day.

And watch for whales.

You just never know.


Oh, and a nifty find in my online travels? Check this fan site of the Washington State ferries (and many other Pacific Northwest ferries). The supercool, now-retired art deco M/V Kalakala is prominently featured on its home page. Where is she now? Ummm, not in a good way.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alaska Journal

We're sitting in a lounge a deck below our roomette waiting for the ferry to move off into the Auke Bay and head up the coast towards Whittier. This morning has already been a busy one - a walk through the state museum and a partially self-guided tour through the state capitol building took up most of it. Juneau has been rainy and foggy, with the mist lifting only a little to show the nearest evergreen-encrusted hills. The Travelodge's van driver told us she'd been born and raised here until she turned thirteen, and, as she put it, her mother got tired of the rain and moved them to Hawaii. Dan says the skies will be blue tomorrow, but by then, we'll be far from Juneau, halfway to our ferry's destination.

The ship has begun a slow turn away from the dock, and it seems most of the passengers are watching it from here. Everyone has settled in to varying degrees, whether it's people in their appointed cabins with private baths, those like us on the "sun deck", with our 2-berth rooms and our communal bathrooms (yes, I said 2 - Dan plans to snooze elsewhere on the boat or sack out on the floor of the room), or the folks on the solarium deck claiming a lounge chair or pitching a tent secured onto the deck floor with duct tape. TVs in the lounges show where we are on our journey and how fast we're traveling. There's a cafe, a bar, a gift shop, a video arcade, a movie theater, a vehicle deck, and a dining area in addition to the lounges. It's the Super 8 of cruises, I guess. Dan thought there'd be more people on board, but I guess the lure of a Norwegian Cruise Line package is too great for too many.


We're excited. We're really excited.

The keynote speaker at this year's Rising Tide will be human rights journalist and Mother Jones' correspondent on the Gulf oil disaster at "The Rights Stuff", Mac McClelland. All the more reason to register for the conference, especially before the cost goes up on August 1st. Get it going, 'cause it's going to be a good year.

Need more on Ms. McClelland? Check some of Alex Woodward's interview with her at The Gambit's Blog of New Orleans, some extra outtakes from this article addressing the media blackout concerning the events in the Gulf. Contrary to what Jeffrey thinks, though, I don't think we'll be having to bail her out anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I've never been a big diary-keeper. I know that comes as a surprise to people who are reading this blog. There are many reasons and no reasons at all for why I never kept one - I see now that there are times when I probably should have written some things down if only to protect the innocent and give the guilty a mighty slap upside the head, but I've always been a person who thinks that pure emotion in writing tends to be more histrionic than meaningful unless you're talking about the person doing the writing. Also, I've been a busy individual most of the time; it took being stay-at-home mom with internet access for me to start in on words.

This is just to say that what follows are excerpts from a first-ever journal I wrote in. I knew I wouldn't have any contact with my corner of the interwebs, or even a computer, for many days at a time. That's how my husband plans his trips, and I am a willing, mostly enthusiastic participant because he is a good travel planner, keeping in mind what each of us likes as individuals as well as all together. The first blank book I thought I'd devote to the purpose was co-opted by the little guy, who started to draw pictures of natural disasters in it at the airport in New Orleans when we were waiting for Joe Biden to take off and allow the rest of the flights to leave in his wake. It begins in a notebook I got at Powell's in Portland, after we stayed with my sister-in-law for a few days.


There's nothing like waking up to the uniquely sad, horrifying feeling of your butt in hurt. That's some serious pain, for certain. Nothing says "out of shape" and "overexertion" in concert quite like your tush screaming at you to give walking, and especially sitting, a rest. But that's what I get for indulging my son and tagging after him on a 2-plus mile round trip hike to the top of Multnomah Falls and back. 11 switchbacks up a trail hugging the side of the mountain, with nothing to hold us back from a mighty tumble down into the Columbia River Gorge as we dodged folks going the opposite way on the same slim trail.

I guess I ought to be happy I'm still alive to experience such exquisite gluteal pain, in retrospect. Kinda hard to be grateful for that, though, when it hurts to sit down.

So today we head to Alaska. We've already left Oregon in our couple-hour trek up I-5 to a plane at the Sea-Tac Airport that will take us up there. We've left my sister-in-law, her husband, and my 15-month-old nephew behind after a nearly week-long stay in Portland at their home.

The last time I saw my SIL was at her wedding over two years ago, and now she's a mom in a mostly pristine suburban bungalow of a house. She looks great, but being at home alone most of the time taking care of her child and being hemmed in by his sleeping schedule is wearing on her. If it had been up to her, I know she'd have been traipsing around town with my son and I and taking in some of downtown Portland anew - perhaps she'd have gloried in the Ira Keller Fountain, or she'd have browsed some shelves at Powell's, or she'd have taken public transportation with us to the OHSU's nifty aerial tram that my son loved so much. But, in a way that was all too familiar to me, Amy's husband would be working or out of town, leaving her housebound when my nephew was taking his naps. Why didn't we stay home with her more? Try keeping a seven-year-old quiet in a small house in which the youngest child is so sensitive to sounds that he won't sleep or nap properly even with a white-noise machine or electric fan on in his room. That kind of thing wears on a mother's psyche after a while.

Our busiest day yet came up after we'd gone to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville and tasted some not-very-good wines on the way back. We toured the Bonneville Dam, checked out the varieties of fish swimming their way up the fish ladders, walked through the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, then hit Multnomah Falls on the way back to Portland.

Dan told me once, as a boy at the Falls with his paternal grandparents, he'd actually gone behind the Falls, his grandmother leading the way.
"Grandma, I don't think we're supposed to be here."
"Oh, nonsense, we'll be fine."
Dan is still here...but I don't think there ever was a passage, Park Service-sanctioned or no, behind Multnomah Falls, from what I could discern from the pamphlets in the exhibit at the Lodge or from the literature in the gift shop. There is a Tanner (Wahclella) Falls in the Columbia River Gorge area that had a behind-the-falls passage, but who knows? Considering that, at one point, Multnomah Falls had a bus-sized boulder fall off its rock face in recent years, I don't think any passage behind its waters would be a good idea.

Over breakfast yesterday morn, Dan mused over the traveling adventurousness, or lack of it, in his family tree. There's a certain amount of it in my family tree as well, but I felt that timing, the constraints of work, and financial and family situations play just as much a part in where one goes as well as one's openness to adventure. Plus, there does need to be some planning involved when it comes to a jaunt like the one we're taking. I'm fortunate, in some ways, to be the wife of someone who finds it fun to look all that stuff up, to make all those off-the-beaten-path travel reservations, to pore over the maps and keep an eye out for the bargains, all while keeping in mind the things that my son and I would be interested in along the way. Dan has a real talent for it and a joy in spending time on it. Not everybody does - which is why we hear of more people taking package tours and cruises to faraway places.


Last time I was in the Sea-Tac Airport was 17 years ago, when mechanical problems brought me there at a much later time than I'd anticipated...but I was just in time to get my glassblowing pipes off the same oversized luggage container as what looked like a huge mess of boxes. On closer inspection, the mess turned out to be a set of hastily and badly packed caribou antlers. Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.

I also remember there being much more art on display throughout the terminals, but that seems to have changed some. I am instead at a fairly typical gate, sitting before a television set that just informed me that vuvuzelas used to be used to scare off baboons in Africa, but the plastic versions sold for $8 at this year's World Cup. I now know at what price to sell the one my son got off a Mardi Gras float.

The same TV is telling me now that tar balls from the Macondo blowout have reached Galveston's beaches in Texas. Dan tells me that BP is a much better neighbor to the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska...but he got annoyed when a BP-affiliated ARCO station made him pay cash to top off the rental car before its return. Activists from Greenpeace at the New Seasons Market in northeast Portland were trying to work the shoppers for "save the earth from the oil disaster" funds, and a sign on the road to McMinnville outside a cleaners said SPILL? IT'S A GEYSER while marking the days. Aside from that and CNN, the Gulf oil news is out of sight, out of mind here.

Sadly, it will take tar balls on Long Island beaches before we all really change.


Made it in to a rainy Juneau after a stop at single-gated Ketchikan airport. The Where magazine in our hotel room has an article on the Kenai Peninsula that states:
Despite the massive 1989 oil spill of the Exxon Valdez into the waters of Prince William Sound, beaches are pristine. Most of the affected wildlife has made a comeback, and the waters remain still and silver, as they have been since earthquakes and volcanoes finished creating this secret world of tiny islands and glowering mountains.
Purple, nothing-to-see-here prose.

We'll be starting a boat journey from here to Whittier at the end of the Sound tomorrow, so I guess we'll see.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No sooner do I get back to the lower 48 and slog through the hundreds of emails in my virtual mailbox than I find a nifty podcast that happened on Crystal Kile's WINGS show on WTUL, featuring Dangerblond, Varg, and yaller blogger Jeffrey, which you can all listen to here. If it doesn't get you registering for Rising Tide V yet, then check this out:

Still no impulse to get your registration on after seeing that sweet Greg Peters-designed image that will be on our posters this year? Head to the RT blog to check out some airfares to New Orleans from wherever you are and our first-ever conference hotel rates. Bring some canned food with you, too, as we are going to get some big shipments of it to those in need through Second Harvest Food Bank.

Bottom line? You're running out of excuses. Organizers have been working their tails off on this while I've been freezing my kishkes off and on in Alaska's midnight sun. Go sign up. Today.
So, what the hell's going on with you, Missy Blogger? You don't write, you don't check your comments, you don't bother to post... what kind of maideleh are you???

Really, I can explain...

I guess I can hear you out a little.

I've been out of town.

A likely story. You've been out of town before and haven't had any problems checking in. What's different this time?

Let's see...some time with my sister-in-law, her spouse, and my nephew in Portland...a plane trip to Juneau....

Alaska? Oh, this ought to be fun. The excuse you concoct is going to be entertaining, at least.

...hopping the ferry from Juneau to Whittier, with a stop in Yakutat along the way...disembarking at Whittier and making our way into the one lane combo train and car tunnel...

Oh, you're putting me on so nicely and having so much fun with it, I can almost be amusingly bitter instead of incredibly furious about your abandonment as of late. Go on...

I wish you wouldn't interrupt. We went on to Anchorage and then got a car for a day or two to get us down to the Kenai Fjords...

Fjords in America? Oh, this is just perfect.

...and to Seward, where we had the worst beef hot dog ever at their SeaLife Center...then we hopped an Alaska Railroad train to Denali National Park and spent some time there...

I suppose you'll tell me you saw moose and squirrel can get that from watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, too, you know.

Actually, we did see moose and ground squirrels, and many other animals was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day in the park. Then we got back on the train to Fairbanks and headed home...well, Dan headed home. I'm on the Left Coast with the in-laws, ambassador for the little guy once more.

It's going to take a lot more than that elaborate, elegant mess of tangled travel tales to get me to be nice to you again, kid.

But you at least accept that I've been away, right?

Oh, I guess I can give you that. I don't have much choice, do I, the way I've been sitting idle, twiddling my virtual thumbs, waiting with bated breath for your attention once again...

Enough, already. I'll just have to tell you my story.

Oh, you think I'm going to sit still long enough for that?

I'm going to tell it anyway whether you sit, stand, or turn cartwheels, anyhow.

All right, fine.

Thank you. It's coming soon.

Just don't leave me hanging.