Daily Archives: January 22, 2014

Melt felt — Area carvers struggle to save ice sculptures for Peninsula Winter Games

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. An ice sculpture of a butterfly, carved by Ben Firth, of Anchor Point, in front of the Peninsula Community Health Center in Soldotna has held up well despite the rain and temperatures in the 40s late last week. Artists and organizers are working hard to create and preserve their sculptures.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. An ice sculpture of a butterfly, carved by Ben Firth, of Anchor Point, in front of the Peninsula Community Health Center in Soldotna has held up well despite the rain and temperatures in the 40s late last week. Artists and organizers are working hard to create and preserve their sculptures.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Rain. Not a torrential downpour, but a constant steady stream of water falling from billowing gray clouds that choked out the sky all of last week and through the weekend. The rain dripped from eves and gutters, collected in murky puddles on the ground, and nearly sapped the spirits of organizers and artists participating in the annual ice sculpture-carving event that leads up to the Peninsula Winter Games.

“This is about the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Anchor Point carver Ben Firth, in regard to the 40-degree weather Friday. “Anything above freezing is bad and rain is the worst. Tools don’t work and the water just runs down the sculptures.”

Firth was working on three pieces this year — a butterfly on a leaf in front of Peninsula Community Health Services, an oil lamp at the entrance of Soldotna Mini Storage and a Fred Bear, the mascot for Fred Meyer, in front of the store.

Photo courtesy of Ben Firth. Silas and Aurora Firth, of Anchor Point, work on carving of a lamp at Soldotna Mini Storage.

Photo courtesy of Ben Firth. Silas and Aurora Firth, of Anchor Point, work on carving of a lamp at Soldotna Mini Storage.

The weather has presented myriad challenges to Firth, who worked on his sculptures last week from Wednesday to Friday, then took the weekend off to evaluate the weather pattern.

“The lamp has lost some parts, but still looks like a lamp. The Fred Meyer one was worse. It dropped an arm. On the butterfly, we carved the wings way fatter than if it were cold, so they’d hold up to melting,” he said.

Hope is not lost. Compared to wood, ice is more forgiving. It can be reshaped or even “glued” with hot water, so Firth will do everything he can to finish the sculptures and in a way that they’ll hold up to the above-freezing temperatures predicted during the day this week.

Tami Murray, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce organizer of this event, said that some of the artists contracted to create 25 sculptures as well as a huge ice slide in front of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex had been told to knock off through the weekend and not carve until the weather cooled from the rainy 40s to drier days closer to 32 degrees.

“Right now the local carvers are on hold and will work at night,” she said. “Before the melt we had four carvings pretty much done. Those will be repaired as best they can and we’ll go from there. We have a few extra blocks so if we have to we’ll replace the ones that are too far gone.”

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Filed under outdoors, winter

Link in with HEA outage updates — Technology powers connectivity

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Few things kink our technology-entwined lives these days like a power outage. But as computers and electronics continue their integration into all aspects of our work and play, they also offer additional ways to be informed about outages.

Homer Electric Association recently rolled out an outage map on its website, www.homerelectric.com, showing outages as they occur and are resolved throughout the HEA coverage area. Currently the map is only available during business hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, because it requires someone in the dispatch center to input and update outage information and the dispatch center is only staffed during regular hours. But by the middle of June the dispatch center’s hours are to be expanded so that it’s staffed around the clock, and the plan is to expand the outage map’s operational hours, as well.

“The goal is that it will be a 24/7 tool, but it’s just going to take a little bit more work on our end here to make that happen,” said Joe Gallagher, HEA spokesman.

Just knowing about an outage is useful, but being updated on progress to fix the problem is even more comforting. For that, technology — specifically, social media — again offers improvement.

“Over the past year or so we have used Facebook and that has just been a huge tool for information,” Gallagher said.

The standard procedure for letting members know about outages is to send press releases and updates to local media outlets, which distribute the news but with an inherent time lag. Newspapers take at least a day to distribute, and even radio stations can have a delay, particularly on nights or weekends when staffing is low.

“We work closely with all the media outlets and they do a good job but there’s always that time lag. The availability to get that information out quickly was not always there and we would just do the best we could,” Gallagher said.

Even posting information on a website isn’t always a direct means of distribution. It is available instantaneously, but only to those who are actively visiting the site. But with Facebook — or Twitter, on which HEA also operates an account — anyone who follows HEA has updates show up automatically.

“With the advent of Facebook it’s able to pretty much be instantaneous. When we have information about an outage it is immediately put on our Facebook page and it’s available to thousands of people right off the bat,” Gallagher said.

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Halibut quota drops again — Commission tweaks catch allotments for 2014

By Hannah Heimbuch

Homer Tribune

Pacific Northwest halibut fishermen are looking at another year of lower catch limits, according to a recent announcement from the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

In the Alaska Gulf — Area 3A, including Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Valdez — fishermen are allotted a total harvest of 9.43 million pounds — 7.31 million commercial and 1.782 million for the guided sport sector.

The catch limit in 2013 was 11.03 million in Area 3A for commercial alone, but a new management plan combines commercial, recreational and wastage allowances in 2014.

“It does not compare with 2013 directly because the guided recreational and wastage is part of the Catch Sharing Plan implemented by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council beginning this year,” said local halibut fisherman and commissioner Don Lane. Lane has been fishing halibut out of Homer for more than 30 years, and is the newest commissioner on the IPHC.

“2013 IPHC catch limits only included commercial-directed halibut fishery,” he said.

The total allowable catch for Pacific Northwest fishermen in 2014 is 27.515 million pounds. When the sport and wastage numbers are backed out, Lane said, that represents a 20 percent drop for the commercial sector compared to 2013. In Area 3A, that drop is closer to 33 percent for commercial fishermen. The guided sport sector also will have strict limits, holding them to two fish, only one of which may be longer than 29 inches.

The numbers put up by the commission last week are appropriate, Lane said, given the regionwide decline in biomass and the catch and weight reports coming from commercial logbooks. Policymakers hope that sufficient cuts to harvest volume will help the declining halibut resource turn a corner back toward healthier numbers.

The commission is starting to see signs that this strategy is working in Southeast Alaska.

“There are encouraging signs from Area 2C, which have had substantial cuts in previous years,” Lane said. “The 2C survey (weight per unit effort) and catch (weight per unit effort) are positive in 2013. That uptick was positive enough in a number of indicators that the commission felt additional cuts were not warranted and a slight increase was allowed. However, the 2C catch is still at very low levels compared to the last 20 years.”

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Filed under commercial fishing, fishing, sportfishing

Tragedy parody of ‘Troutanic’ proportions — Triumvirate stages annual movie spoof

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Capt. Smith, played by Chris Jenness, is asleep at the wheel of Alaska’s premier new ferry, the Troutanic, in treacherous ice conditions.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Capt. Smith, played by Chris Jenness, is asleep at the wheel of Alaska’s premier new ferry, the Troutanic, in treacherous ice conditions.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When it came time to pick the target of Triumvirate’s annual fish-themed movie parody show, the question wasn’t, why not “Titanic?” It was how, after eight of these shows, have they not already spoofed “Titanic?”

“‘Titanic’ is just begging for it, it’s just begging for parody. I’m surprised it took us this long to get to it, but it just occurred to us one day. We were thinking of what we could do this year and all of a sudden I thought, ‘Oh, of course,’” said Chris Jenness, with Triumvirate Theatre.

The 1997 James Cameron movie presents as big a target as the original ship did — the swooning of star-crossed lovers, the crooning of Celine Dion’s hit song (that now causes people to want to hit their radio if it comes on), the buffooning of an overly dramatic storyline. Any movie that takes itself so seriously is ripe for being lampooned.

“Another ice warning, sir. This one from the Princess Cruise lines vessel Arctic Princess,” warns First Officer Murdoch, to Capt. Smith.

“Humph. Probably too busy dumping a toxic mix of darkroom chemicals and sewage in the harbor to actually check their radar. I’m not concerned,” Smith replies.

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Filed under comedy, entertainment, theater

Almanac: Early Kenai principal caught up in controversy

Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part story about the early days of the Kenai School, and the upheaval under the quick-tempered Principal Cleve Magill. The first part of this story, published Jan. 8, can be read at www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.

By Brent Johnson

For the Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai School was weathering some turbulent times after the turn of the century. Funding was being held up in territorial government. As a result, hiring and retaining teachers was becoming a difficult task.

There was controversy brewing, as well, with Kenai School Principal Cleve Magill firing off missives attempting to foment a coup.

Distress over the school board seems to have been a fixation for Magill. On Dec. 27, 1916, he wrote to territorial Gov. John Franklin Alexander Strong.

“My dear Governor: Owing to the immoral condition and the unresponsibility of the people in general living in Kenai; we wish to elect, at the next school election, a board of directors that will be permanent until our school is substantially organized, or until our new school building is erected.

“The law … requires that a new board of school directors be elected every year. This, as you well know, causes a great deal of trouble and friction in such places as Kenai, as there is always an unworthy and irresponsible set aspiring and trying to gain control of not only the school, but the people in general.

“We have here in Kenai five ex-convicts who, with a number of others, are continuously plotting and fermenting trouble. We want reliable and responsible citizens connected with our school. Experience last year has taught us that the majority of the white men living here are not to be trusted in any way. … It is our intentions to put in a permanent school board for three years or in accordance with the 1915 Sessions laws. This is for the good and the progress of the community in general.”

“The school is the only moral uplift and social center that the community has and to have it shifted from good to bad hinders the progress of the school as well as the good influence it is attaining. As it stands, I’m pretty much alone in this matter. Being the only representative of the law within one hundred miles everything falls upon my shoulders. It is quite a strain but all I care to know is that I will be sustained by your office, of course providing that I am right, in my efforts to better and build up this community.”

The letters from Magill are all typed, but his grammar is hardly commensurate with his office. Magill’s frequent references to convicts might be part of his own background, because he also had a record. In 1911 in Washington he had a one-way love affair and sought solace by waving a gun and threatening some people. He was arrested. In spite of that event, in November 1915 he became the U.S. commissioner for Kenai.

Immorality in Kenai seems to have been another preoccupation for Magill. On Jan. 11, 1917, he again wrote to the governor:

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Filed under Almanac, Kenai, schools

Plugged In: Get light right when shooting and showing photos

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Nearly everyone has some favorite pictures or artwork hanging in their home or workplace. Most often, those pictures and artwork are not displayed to best advantage due to poor lighting.

Look around at nearly any good art gallery or other professional display space. The lighting of exhibited work is bright, simply done, aimed at whatever is being displayed, and has good color rendition. As a result, shadow area details are clearly visible and colors are correctly rendered and true to life.

Although I certainly believe in energy conservation, most “energy saving” light sources in current use are quite unsuited for lighting and displaying any sort of pictures and artwork, especially photographs. That’s particularly true for every type of florescent light and nearly all LED lights. Our eyes and brains are very good at seeing a wide range of lighting yet interpreting that light as being white. Artwork and photographs are not nearly as forgiving, mercilessly showing the effects of bad lighting through poor color rendition.

Without going too deeply into the physics of the matter, our eyes and brains have evolved and function best with natural daylight. Every rainbow shows us that natural sunshine has a continuous color spectrum in which there is a smooth distribution of light containing a mix of all colors of the visible spectrum. That continuous spectrum results in accurate color rendition.

In contrast, florescent and LED lights, even those that claim to be “daylight spectrum,” have an inherently discontinuous spectrum that actually uses only a few sharply delineated colors, mostly green. Such light sources rely on the human eye and brain to make florescent and LED light appear whiter and more neutral than it really is. Photographs and other artwork can’t be fooled. As an example, the neutral gray areas of even a well-made color print will have a greenish tinge when viewed under florescent light.

In many ways, digital photography eases our workload, at least about ensuring acceptable color balance. Traditional camera films were particularly sensitive to the overall color characteristics of the light in which they were used, with uncorrectable color errors when used with the wrong sort of light. In contrast, the auto color balance of a digital camera acts rather like the human eye and brain, reinterpreting the light actually recorded by a camera to make the final recorded result appear more nearly white and correct.

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Filed under photography, Plugged in