Daily Archives: January 7, 2015

Deport, depart — KSRM Radio loses news director to visa problem

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. KSRM Radio’s former news director, Catie Quinn, announces her departure on the station’s Sound Off program Tuesday morning. Quinn got word Dec. 23 that her immigrant work visa was not being renewed and she must return to Australia.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. KSRM Radio’s former news director, Catie Quinn, announces her departure on the station’s Sound Off program Tuesday morning. Quinn got word Dec. 23 that her immigrant work visa was not being renewed and she must return to Australia.

Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For the past two years KSRM radio listeners have become familiar with hearing the station’s top news stories delivered in a Down Under accent. But this week, the public safety announcements, political updates, developments in fishery issues and other churn of the news cycle are no longer being conveyed in the unmistakable, rhythmic cadence and vowel-heavy pronunciation of news director Catie Quinn, as her tenure at the station came to an abrupt and unexpected end at the end of last y-EAH.

On Dec. 23, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services informed Quinn her application for visa renewal was denied and she must return to Australia. She was ordered to immediately leave the U.S., the country in which she’s been working and paying taxes, and the Kenai community in which she’s been laying roots and building relationships. She’s got a one-way ticket back to Sydney booked for Jan. 27.

“It was a shock when we got the letter,” Quinn said Monday. “It’s five pages of small print, and the only things I could see is, ‘Does not satisfy … may not be appealed,’ these kinds of words. And I think, ‘Whoa, I don’t think this says what I expected this to say.’”

Quinn has been in the U.S. on an E-3 work visa, which is specific to Australians due to a trade agreement with the U.S. It’s similar to the more standard U.S. immigrant work visa, the H-1B, but it only applies to Australians so the waiting period for approval is significantly shorter and E-3 visas aren’t under the same cap as the H-1B program. The E-3 must be renewed every two years and doesn’t lead to a green card, but can be renewed indefinitely. The H-1B must be renewed in three years and is generally the first step in applying for permanent residency. If a green card isn’t issued, the maximum length of stay on an H-1B is typically six years.

Getting her initial E-3 approval to work at KSRM in 2012 was a breeze, Quinn said, done at a U.S. Consulate in Canada. She first came to live in the U.S. after high school in 2006 on a student visa to attend Colorado Christian University.

“I wanted to go somewhere and do something that really matters,” she said.

She took a weeklong trip to Alaska in 2007 and was immediately enthralled.

“I though maybe I’d like to come back and spend some time here,” she said.

Her student visa allowed 12 months of work experience, so she came to the central Kenai Peninsula and worked as an office manager in 2009-2010, while finishing her college studies in communications online.

Quinn’s student visa expired in April 2010, so she returned to her hometown of Tumut, a small town about four hours from Sydney. She started working in marketing, which morphed into a journalism job at the local newspaper. In the summer of 2011 she came back to visit the peninsula with her parents, who had their first taste of Alaska visiting Quinn in 2009.

“I stopped by KSRM, stuck my head in the door and said, ‘Hey, just wondering if you guys would have any jobs available.’ I had kind of gone everywhere — anywhere, anyone that might have anything going — and no one was really willing to even consider going through the immigration process,” Quinn said.

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No snow, no go — T200 2015 race faces uncertain forecast without better weather

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A dog sled team trains on the Cook Inlet beach in Kasilof recently. Mushers are having to be creative to run their teams as snowless conditions persist this winter.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A dog sled team trains on the Cook Inlet beach in Kasilof recently. Mushers are having to be creative to run their teams as snowless conditions persist this winter.

By Joseph Robertia
Redoubt Reporter

If it’s not one extreme, it’s the other — clear skies and hard, slippery sheets of ice encasing the landscape, or warming periods bringing rain, thawing lakes and rivers, and creating puddles that return to ice when the mercury swings back below zero. What this winter hasn’t brought is snow. At least, not much for skiers, snowmachiers, dog mushers and other snow-sport enthusiasts to enjoy.

The current weather pattern is now calling into question whether the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race will occur, or be canceled for an unprecedented second year in a row.

“Getting these questions a lot now,” said Tami Murray, executive director of the T200.

The race, an Iditarod qualifier, is scheduled to begin Feb. 7 this year, and has only been canceled due to weather twice since its inception in 1984 — in 2003 and 2013.

Despite a lull in signups a few years ago, interest in the race has since bounced back. This year, a full field of 50 mushers signed up on the first day of registration, and there is an active waiting list.

“The field overall is pretty strong,” Murray said, adding that there are several past T200 winners and Iditarod champions registered this year.
But even the most skilled mushers need enough snowcover on the trail for it to be safe for their 14-dog teams. The T200 is known by the moniker, “The toughest 200 miles in Alaska,” for a reason. The race features numerous steep ascents and descents that can be treacherous without ample snow. High-country areas in the Caribou Hills that are usually smooth with feet of snow by now have only a thin crust of white, leaving the miniature forests of bushes exposed, which can poke and whip at the dogs. Also, some of the several large creeks that are crossed during the race are currently still open and flowing.

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View from Out West — Food familiarity serves up mixed reactions

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair and Yvonne Leutwyler sample the offerings at the new Subway in Dillingham last month, amid a line of other patrons. It’s the first chain restaurant to come to the rural community.

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair and Yvonne Leutwyler sample the offerings at the new Subway in Dillingham last month, amid a line of other patrons. It’s the first chain restaurant to come to the rural community.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

In the Dillingham Post Office the other day, I overheard a woman tell a friend that the best thing about the new Subway restaurant in town was that it was exactly like every other Subway.

I couldn’t help myself. Even though she wasn’t talking to me, I had to ask, “Why is that the best thing about it? Doesn’t that mean it’s nothing special?”

“No,” she said. “Since all Subways look the same inside, when I sit in there I can pretend I’m anywhere I want to be that has a Subway. It’s like a fantasy that lasts as long as I’m eating.”

“But eventually you have to step outside,” I argued. “Then you’re still right here in Dillingham.”

“Until then,” she said with a smile, “I can travel the world.”

The comfort of the familiar, I guess.

I was reminded of the time in the early 1980s when I toured Ireland with a college friend of mine. One day, as we were driving around the country, we found a Burger King, and she wanted to go inside and eat.

Although Ireland wasn’t known for fine cuisine, I hadn’t flown halfway around the world to consume a Whopper with fries. I could do that in Anchorage. I suggested we amble down the street to a pub, order a meat and cheese sandwich and sample a pint of Guinness with the locals.

(Later, my friend also wanted to shop in a Montgomery Ward store, but that’s another story.)

Many people are attracted to a restaurant by knowing exactly what they’re going to be eating. No guessing games. From Philly to Kenai, from Homer to El Paso, a Big Mac is a Big Mac is a Big Mac. Some people love such consistency, especially when it comes wrapped in colorful paper, bears a cute name (such as “The Big Carl”) and requires no courage or experimentation.

Such sentiment explains why a fuss was created back in the 1970s when the first fast-food restaurant — a Dairy Queen in Kenai — came to the central Kenai Peninsula. Local newspapers trumpeted the event and folks familiar with DQ burgers and Dilly Bars lined up out the door. The same combination of new and old invigorated the populace of Soldotna a few years later when residents received a Dairy Queen of their own, and then the excitement hit a fever pitch in 1983 when a McDonald’s franchise opened next to the new Safeway.

A crowd of excited customers crammed themselves into the lobby, ravenous for over-salted french fries and large sodas. At the drive-thru, the line of cars stretched across the asphalt parking lot nearly to the grocery store. One of the local radio stations interviewed patrons live on the scene.

Not wanting to appear part of the herd, I steered clear of McDonald’s for months. But eventually I succumbed to temptation — and to a cardboard container of deep-fried McNuggets and the requisite variety of dipping sauces.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Don’t begrudge the beer judge — Taste is subjective, style stays true to brewing form

Graphic courtesy of Elaine Howell.

Graphic courtesy of Elaine Howell.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

One of the benefits of being a semiprofessional beer writer is that people frequently offer you beer to drink. Such offers are usually prefaced with something along the lines of, “Tell me what you think of this one.”

The underlying assumption is that because I write about beer, I must by necessity have a superior palate or sensory perception when it comes to evaluating how a beer tastes. While I will confess to having a great deal of experience when it comes to drinking different beers (some might even say a little too much, but that’s a discussion for another day), I don’t believe there’s anything special about my capacity to taste and evaluate beers.

Much of what we think of as taste is actually smell — anyone who has eaten with clogged sinuses knows firsthand just how important a component smell is to perceiving the flavor of any food, including beer.

Smell is also the sense we have the least handle on, when it comes to analytical ability. We understand vision well enough to make artificial eyes (called cameras) that almost everyone has in their cellphones. We understand sound quite well also, and can capture and reproduce it with great fidelity. Our sense of touch and the functions of the taste buds on the tongue are no great mysteries, either.

But the human sense of smell is still over a thousand times more sensitive than our best artificial analogue, and our olfactory cortex also receives inputs from the limbic region, amygdala and hypothalamus, which are all areas of the brain that deal with emotion. How we perceive a particular odor or flavor is tied not only to the chemical perception of the molecule being sensed, but also how we feel about it and how we feel in general. All of which means our perception of both smell and flavor is ridiculously individualistic and subjective.

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Plugged In: Pretty cool photography

Images courtesy of Joe Kashi. Illustration 1 is shattered ice on Skilak Lake.

Images courtesy of Joe Kashi. Illustration 1 is shattered ice on Skilak Lake.

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Bright, clear, late winter days will soon return and they’re definitely picture weather in Alaska. This week, we’ll discuss some basic ideas about making outdoor winter photos.

First, though, I’d like to remind our readers that Kenai Peninsula College’s Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at the Kenai River Campus is again hosting Alaska’s annual statewide fine art photography exhibit, “Rarified Light 2014,” from Jan. 14 through early February. The opening reception is Jan. 15 between 4:30 and 6 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

Winter exposures can be tricky. Use the slowest ISO sensitivity that allows a fast-enough shutter speed at your desired lens aperture. Low ISO settings tend to have more dynamic range and leeway for later corrections. That’s important when photographing outdoor winter scenes.

Give yourself as much leeway as possible by saving all image files in an RAW format, because jk illustration 1 Histogramyou’ll need the extra dynamic range to retain detail in bright, snowy scenes. RAW image files, when processed in Adobe Lightroom, often allow you to recover a fair bit of detail in those highlights, using the “Highlight” slider, or provide extra brightness to highlight areas when needed. You don’t want snowy scenes with blown highlights devoid of any significant detail. JPEG image files do not retain any recoverable highlight detail because the JPEG compression process discards highlight detail, among other losses.

Many consumer cameras have a variety of “scene modes,” special automatic settings designed for specific kinds of photos, such as beaches, snow scenes, etc. If you are unsure about the best way to set your camera for a particular situation, then start with an appropriate scene mode. These are comprehensive settings determined by the camera’s manufacturer to work reliably in those specific situations. Snow scene modes tend to work rather well and might be the best starting point for beginners.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Illustration 2 is a poorly lit scene of frosty grass.

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