Monthly Archives: April 2009

Scouting out new paths — Boy Scouts evolve, values still the same

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Pushing 100 years old, the Boys Scouts are showing their age, and yet they’re still as youthful as ever.

Saturday was Pinewood Derby day for area Scouts, with seven packs from Nikiski, Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling and Homer — about 50 kids in all — attending the annual Scout-O-Rama event at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

Aspiring engineers swarmed around the track waiting their turn to test their attempts at aerodynamics, construction, mechanics and judicious use of graphite. The derby itself is 89 years old, and probably looked much the same Saturday as it has in all those years — hordes of 7- to 10-year-olds dressed in blue or tan (if they’re older) shirts and plaid neckerchiefs that seem to defy all attempts at straightening, holding homemade cars ranging from bare-bones economy models to souped-up roadsters looking like they got detailed at Outlaw Body and Paint.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Vincent Brown, left, and Jacob McConnell watch their cars hurdle down the track at the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby races during the Scout-o-Rama on Saturday at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Vincent Brown, left, and Jacob McConnell watch their cars hurdle down the track at the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby races during the Scout-o-Rama on Saturday at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

But there were changes, too. A digital timer clocked races down to fractions of a second, and all the times went into a computer to determine the winners. Some of the boys wore merit badges that didn’t exist nearly a century ago, ones based on mastering computers and other technology, or demonstrating updated science skills like rocketry.

“The requirements have evolved. The same type of idea is still there, but we build upon it,” said Jodi Stuart, executive for the Tustumena District, which covers the Kenai Peninsula, including communities across Kachemak Bay, and Kodiak.
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Weather doesn’t cool fire fears — Beetle-kill fuels no match for La Nina summer

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

2008 in Alaska could officially be termed “The Summer the Sun Forgot.” The average temperature from May through August was 52.5 degrees, making it the coolest summer on record since 1982. Overall, 2008 was Alaska’s coolest year since 1999, according to the National Weather Service.

2009 is shaping up to be a little better. Perhaps, “The Summer the Sun at Least Had the Courtesy to Stop By for a Brief Visit?”

Nate Hardin, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast office in Anchorage, said Alaska is in the midst of another La Nina year, which has a cooling effect on the state.

“We’re in a slight La Nina, which we were in last year, but not nearly as intense. So, generally, you expect a higher probability of some cool weather condition,” Hardin said.

In a La Nina, cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific cause a semipermanent, low-pressure system in Alaska, mainly along the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, to intensify, which results in cooler conditions, Hardin said. Last year’s La Nina effect was stronger than this year’s is expected to be, so Alaska should be in for only a slightly cooler than usual summer.

“There’s pretty much a usual chance of precipitation. Should be slightly lower-than-normal average temperatures,” Hardin said. “By below average, you’re maybe talking, if you average out the whole summer, talking a quarter to a half degree below the normal average, so not real perceptible. Even with that, we will still have periods where temperatures are higher than average and couple days lower than average.”
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‘Wet Dog’ race makes splash — Personal watercraft riders venture on 2,000-mile Alaska expedition

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Another first for Alaska is coming soon. This time, it’s a race not with dogs or snowmachines or even motocross bikes, but on watercraft in what organizers hope catches on as a worldwide competition on par with the IditarodTrail Sled Dog Race.

A half-dozen enthusiasts, including Iditarod champ Martin Buser, will set out May 19 on a 2,000-mile expedition through the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea on the Paving the Way journey.

John Lang, who has pioneered watercraft uses even in wintertime Alaska, brainstormed the idea. He initially wanted to route it through Kachemak Bay, with an overnight stop in Seldovia. However, those waters are off-limits to personal watercraft, following city legislation about 10 years ago to ban their use on the bay.

Lang’s group, traveling aboard Brenda Hays’ Memory Maker and captained by Bruce Lozekar, will cross Cook Inlet instead.

Photo provided. John Lang, Wet Dog organizer.

Photo provided. John Lang, Wet Dog organizer.

“For now, we want to make friends and find support centers for an annual Alaska Wet Dog Race,” Lang said. “It’s also a chance to help boost local economies because we intend to buy our fuel and food at stop points along the way.”

This summer’s trip is a chance to do “recon work to decide if it’s all going to happen or not,” Lang said. Stops along the way include Anchor Point, Point Graham, Kodiak, Old Harbor, Karluk, Chignik, Sand Point, Cold Bay, Igiugig, Port Heiden, Egegik and Iliamna, including the area where the proposed Pebble Mine is planned.

According to Lang, quite a bit of money has already been sunk into the idea: Each racer, or “ambassador” of the race, pays his or her own way. Era Aviation will provide helicopter filming from Anchorage to Anchor Point, and Memory Maker Charters will carry the film crew that will document the trip. Expedition members of varying professions will include Lang, expedition leader; Martin Buser, four-time Iditarod champion, of Big Lake; Ralph Perez, of Los Angeles; Gina Poths, of Anchorage; Petr Bucinsky, of Anchorage; and Ron Paye, of Wasilla.
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Letting it ride — Randonneuring sets a course for the peninsula

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Don’t call it a race.

It is a serious athletic endeavor — cycling a set course of 200, 300, 400, 600 or even 1,200 kilometers in a certain time limit, no matter how hilly the terrain or how nasty the weather.

Participants can qualify for longer, more prestigious rides, and the accolades that come with completing them, by finishing each leg and the overall course in the allotted time.

But it is not about competition as much as camaraderie. And it is not a race — it’s randonneuring, and it will happen on the Kenai Peninsula this weekend and next.

“There a huge camaraderie component to it. A lot of people are still very worthy athletes, but the gouge-your-eyes-out type of road racing just doesn’t have much of an appeal anymore,” said Kevin Turinsky, of Anchorage, who heads up Alaska Randonneurs. Turinsky is planning the first-ever central and lower Kenai Peninsula randonneur rides in Homer on Saturday and the central peninsula May 9.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Turinsky At top, riders head toward Palmer with the Twin Peaks in the background in a May 2008 300-kilometer brevet.

Photos courtesy of Kevin Turinsky At top, riders head toward Palmer with the Twin Peaks in the background in a May 2008 300-kilometer brevet.

Turinsky said randonneuring’s popularity has exploded since about 1997, but the activity is no new kid on the block. The oldest organized cycling event in the world, predating even the Tour de France, is the granddaddy ride of the randonneuring realm —the Paris-Brest-Paris. Held in France every four years, with the first one in 1891, it’s a 1,200 kilometer ride in France between Paris and Brest and back, with a time limit of about four days. To qualify to ride it, cyclists must successfully complete a series of shorter randonneur events — 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers — called brevets, the French word for certificate.

The activity itself dates back to the 1800s. It’s an outgrowth of European culture and countryside, where cycling was a way to travel through communities. The point was to get there, which meant dealing with whatever came up — road conditions, inclement weather, bike repairs, and finding food and shelter.

“European geography is a lot different than here in America. Cyclists could live off the land going from village to village, just going, going, going,” Turinsky said. “The self-supportive aspect is really important. Here in North America, where all the fundraising events, charity rides, triathlons — most of those have support. The thing about randonneuring is you’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Randonneuring today retains that sense of self-sufficiency. There are checkpoints, called contrôles, with some services available, but they’re usually spaced about 50 kilometers apart. Riders carry their own food, water, clothing and bike repair, safety and emergency gear, and they aren’t allowed any outside assistance on the road. As if riding 200, 400, 600 or 1,200 kilometers wasn’t challenging enough, in randonneuring, if something breaks, the rider has to fix it — and still finish each leg of the ride in the time allotted.

“There are several of these big rides out there that capture people’s sense of adventure and sense of challenge,” Turinsky said.
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Art in the works — Gallery owner takes creativity to new space

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

“I hate drop ceilings with every fiber of my being,” said Zirrus VanDevere, known to many as Marty, the owner of Art Works gallery in Soldotna.

Sixteen years working under those oppressive ceilings is enough. VanDevere is moving Art Works up the Kenai Spur Highway to the Mooring Plaza, which houses Odie’s Deli, the Tikahtnu Gallery and Ron Moore Real Estate office. The gallery will have a grand opening the next First Thursday, May 7, in conjunction with an opening reception for Pat Lytle’s show of paintings and mixed-media work.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Zirrus and Dyer VanDevere hang out on a ledge above the new space that will become the home of Art Works gallery in Soldotna, in the Mooring Plaza on the Kenai Spur Highway.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Zirrus and Dyer VanDevere hang out on a ledge above the new space that will become the home of Art Works gallery in Soldotna, in the Mooring Plaza on the Kenai Spur Highway.

VanDevere said that Linda McClain, who used to own Mooring Plaza, mentioned a vacant warehouse space in the plaza on the side of the building around the corner from the real estate office that had been rented as storage space.

“We thought it would be great to be neighbors. It’s a really funky little space, very industrial on the ceiling, which I’m going to retain a lot of the funkiness. It makes me think of a lot of New York galleries with refurbished industrial spaces,” she said.

The space is about 1,400 square feet, which is similar to Art Works’ current home in the strip mall next to Mykel’s. The new space is already segmented, with a hallway, bathroom and inside room that can be used for an originals exhibition gallery. But it’s got more storage space and parking than the previous location, and the high ceiling — oh, that vaulted, exposed-beam ceiling.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” VanDevere said.
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Plugged In: The race is on — are upgrades really worth it?

By Joeseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Over the years, I’ve upgraded my computer systems on a regular basis but I’ve always retained a certain skepticism that any upgrade would make much real-world difference. That’s now changing.

Why?

Although standard computing performance benchmark programs like Passmark Performance Test often indicate that upgrading computer hardware results in quantifiable improvement in theoretical performance scores, such apparent improvement historically did not seem evident to most business users. Generally, business users do not have a subjective sense of faster computing unless there’s at least a 50 percent performance improvement.
Over the past decade or so, personal computing hardware has matured. As a result, achieving a 50 percent performance increase historically has been elusive. That has been particularly true as increasingly bloated versions of Microsoft Windows, particularly Vista, soaked up any performance improvement for Windows’ own internal use, rather than delivering increased application program performance.

However, some recent tests suggest that it’s possible to achieve real performance improvements, particularly with current-generation hardware.

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Art Seen: ‘49th at 50’

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

This year’s all-Alaska contemporary art exhibit at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center opened with a packed house and an energy-filled reception for the 54 artists invited to respond to the theme “Reflections on Alaska Statehood: the 49th at 50.”

More than 600 people came to celebrate the art and the opening event Friday evening. Some of the pieces have already sold, but will remain on exhibit throughout the duration of the exhibit. Many of the revelers will need to come back at some point because the great number of attendees made it difficult to view all of the art sufficiently.

Photo courtesy of Zirrus VanDevere Visitors and artists examine the artwork at the opening of “Reflections on Alaska Statehood: the 49th at 50” show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on Friday. The show asked artists to find and display personal meaning in the statehood anniversary theme. The show is on display until Dec. 31.

Photo courtesy of Zirrus VanDevere Visitors and artists examine the artwork at the opening of “Reflections on Alaska Statehood: the 49th at 50” show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on Friday. The show asked artists to find and display personal meaning in the statehood anniversary theme. The show is on display until Dec. 31.

Exhibiting in conjunction this year is the “Heritage Portrait Project: Foundation of Our Future.” Student artists from Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus teamed up with longtime Alaska residents, who have seen the last 50 years on the central Kenai Peninsula. The students created portraits and gathered information in order to contemplate the reasons people have come to this place and stayed. The homesteaders apparently felt a sense of belonging to a place that is the intersection of landscape, resources and culture. The portraits, a mix of painting, collage and photography, and indeed the corresponding write-ups, are thoughtfully and professionally represented. Laura Forbes, director of programs and exhibits at the center, headed up the project and worked closely with KPC student Chelsey Dorman.

Bill Heath, who did the lighting, labels and photographed all the artwork for the summer show, remarked, “I think straightforward and concrete targets play well with the public at large, which makes this show very approachable.”
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Last Frontier to final frontier — 1950 Kenai grad went on to see the world, and beyond

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

In 1948, when teenagers Anne and Charles Lewis began attending the Kenai Territorial School, travel between Kenai and their home in Kasilof was so difficult they went to see their parents only twice during the entire school year.

Now, after a life and a career in which she has traveled millions of miles, when Dr. Anne Kahle looks up into the clear dark sky at night, she can acknowledge an additional triumph: that she is partly responsible for one of the objects up there orbiting the Earth.

Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.” Anne Lewis (in checked shirt) poses in the late 1940s at the family’s home in Kasilof. In the photo, Anne is flanked by her mother, Freda Lewis, to the right, and her aunt, Florence Burton, to the left. Also pictured are other members of the Lewis and Burton families.

Photo courtesy of “Once Upon the Kenai.” Anne Lewis (in checked shirt) poses in the late 1940s at the family’s home in Kasilof. In the photo, Anne is flanked by her mother, Freda Lewis, to the right, and her aunt, Florence Burton, to the left. Also pictured are other members of the Lewis and Burton families.

As a member of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kahle (pronounced like the vegetable, kale) was the lead scientist in the joint Japanese-U.S. effort to put the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) into space. Launched in December 1999, ASTER is being used to obtain detailed maps of the Earth’s geophysical system to discover how it is changing, to better predict change and to understand the consequences for life on Earth.

But Kahle, who retired from JPL in 2003, was not always aimed skyward. It took her many years, she said, to discover what she wanted to do.

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Water, water everywhere — Kenai River fed from many sources

Science of the Seasons, by Dr. David Wartinbee

This weekend I was flying over the Kenai River and I couldn’t help but notice how low the water levels were. There were all kinds of gravel bars and spits that directed the river channel into a series of sharp turns and meanders. It would be a challenge to take a drift boat through the shallow, tortuously twisted watercourse and virtually impossible to keep an intact prop on a motorized craft.

Low waters are perfectly normal in the Kenai River at this time of year. The water levels will slowly rise as we head into summer. We generally see the river levels peak sometime in midsummer, and then the water volume slowly drops as fall approaches. When fall gives way to winter, the lowered river levels will again reduce boat traffic to canoes, drift boats and rafts.

Photo courtesy of David Wartinbee The Kenai River is fed by several sources, some seen, like the Killey River, shown here flowing into the Kenai at Kenai Keys, and some are unseen, like ground water seeping up into the river in the winter.

Photo courtesy of David Wartinbee The Kenai River is fed by several sources, some seen, like the Killey River, shown here flowing into the Kenai at Kenai Keys, and some are unseen, like ground water seeping up into the river in the winter.

The Kenai River has about as many different water sources as are possible and these sources vary in importance as the year progresses. During the cold winter months, a major source of water is from lake outflows. There are several lakes in the Kenai River watershed, like the obvious Kenai and Skilak lakes. However, there are many others, like Upper Russian Lake, Trail Lake, Hidden Lake and Cooper Lake, whose water eventually enters the Kenai River. These lakes continue to release water even when everything seems completely covered with a thick layer of ice in the “dead of winter.” Continue reading

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Volcanic verse

Mount Redoubt inspires
eruptive show of local
creativity

Editor’s note: The Redoubt Reporter invited readers to submit photos and haiku poems of and inspired by Mount Redoubt’s eruptions. One photo and one poem were chosen as winners, and those submitters receive a T-shirt, a year’s subscription to the paper and are mentioned below. The Redoubt Reporter thanks everyone who participated. Photo prints are available for purchase from the photographers, or contact redoubtreporter@alaska.net to get in touch with the photographers listed here.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

As Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, jokingly wrote in response to The Redoubt Reporter’s contest of poetry inspired by Mount Redoubt’s eruptions (with due credit given to John Donne and John Kennedy): “Ash not for whom it blows, it blows for thee.”

In a sense, he’s right (albeit a little corny). The volcano’s unrest has inspired curiosity and creativity in onlookers on the central Kenai Peninsula, and around the world, for that matter. It’s provided excitement, a topic of conversation, some celebrity status among friends and relatives down south, a reason for volcano-watching outings with the family, and motivation to pick up a camera or put pen to paper.

The Redoubt Reporter invited readers to share the results of their creativity with the paper, and is pleased to publish those submissions here.

While Kashi’s whimsical haiku poetry submission:
Redoubt volcano
Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom
Twenty times to date
— didn’t rank tops in The Redoubt Reporter’s haiku contest, one of his photos of the smoldering mountain got top mention in the photo division. The shot was taken at sunset March 31 at the top of the hill on Robinson Loop Road.

At left is the winning photo, taken by Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, showing Mount Redoubt at sunset from Robinson Loop Road on March 31.

Above is the winning photo, taken by Joe Kashi, of Soldotna, showing Mount Redoubt at sunset from Robinson Loop Road on March 31.

“I live at the base of the hill. I heard the volcano was simmering so I went up to take a look with my kid and took my camera,” he said.

He used a Kodak z1012 long zoom camera, which he has been keeping with him in his car, in case Redoubt erupted while he was driving somewhere, he said.

“I had that happen during the iconic April 1990 (Redoubt) eruption, which I saw that morning from start to finish, without a camera,” Kashi said.
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Rally aiming for firearms protection — Second Amendment takes top priority for local group

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

“If we don’t know our rights, how can we demand them?”

Scott Hamman’s question was rhetorical among the crowd it was posed to — a group of about 55 Nikiski and other central Kenai Peninsula residents gathered at Hamman’s Metal Magic shop in North Kenai the evening of April 14. Their purpose is to bring attention to a portion of the Bill of Rights they feel is particularly under fire — the Second Amendment.

“We need this sort of effort here because we understand our right to keep and bear arms is being threatened,” said Bob Bird, a Nikiski resident, government and history teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School and unsuccessful Alaskan Independence Party candidate for former Sen. Ted Stevens’ seat in the 2008 elections. “We understand that threat is from the federal government, so we now have to ask for redress and remedy from state government.”

This is a group that is armed with knowledge as much as firearms. In the hour and a half meeting, discussion ranged from current events to the ramifications of the 1938 Federal Firearms Act, scholarly debate over the wording and intention of the Second Amendment — that it recognizes pre-existing rights granted by “Natural Law,” rather than grants rights itself — a treatise on the corrosion of the 10th Amendment, which dictates that the federal government is the agent of the states, and quotes from the Founding Fathers and ancient Greece sprinkled in to illustrate points.

Members of the Second Amendment Task Force, as the group calls itself, are out to share knowledge of the right to keep and bear arms, draw attention to their cause and gain support for their purpose — to protect that right from encroachment by the federal government, Bird said.

“To give courage to our state legislators and to let our law enforcement personnel know that we are awake and we know what our rights are. This is not an organized, 501(c)3 thing. We’re just citizens who understand we have a common purpose, and that common purpose is our right to keep and bear arms,” he said.

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