Administrators race to break red tape — Battle of Binkley draws healthy participation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Battle of Binkley organizer Bobbi Lay shows competitors Paul Ostrander, center, and Sean Dusek how much coffee they must use in the first round of the challenge.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Battle of Binkley organizer Bobbi Lay shows competitors Paul Ostrander, center, and Sean Dusek how much coffee they must use in the first round of the challenge.

By Redoubt Reporter

There was still a score to be settled when the Salmon Run series of community races finished up Aug. 5, but this one didn’t require running, except for running a coffee maker.

Participation was better than ever in the fourth year of the Salmon Run Series, with each of the five weekly races topping 120 participants, and one week nearly drawing 170.

That’s thanks, in part, to increased participation from Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district employees who squared off in the Battle of Binkley participation challenge. Each Salmon Run, the number of school district vs. borough employees was tallied. Whichever side of the borough administration building — located on Binkley Street in Soldotna — tallied the most participants in all five Salmon Runs would win. The prize? Bragging rights. But also the health benefits that come from being active.

In an added twist, there were five extra points in play, and it was up to the administrators of the borough and school district to settle which side got them. That was determined Aug. 12, prior to the Fountain of Youth run at Tsalteshi Trails, as school district Superintendent Sean Dusek squared off against borough Mayor Mike Navarre’s proxy, Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander, as Navarre was delayed in Anchorage testifying in a hearing.

The tally was neck and neck as the administrator challenge came to a head.

“The borough actually had more people participate, but the school district had more repeat offenders, so it is extremely close, and these gentlemen have a chance to win five points for their team,” said Mike Crawford, with Tsalteshi Trails Association and creator of the Battle of Binkley with borough co-worker Bobbi Lay.

As Crawford explained, the score would be settled through bureaucratic, rather than athletic, prowess.

“First off, they are going to make an entire pot of coffee, because, as we know, caffeine is an integral part of any meeting,” he said, as Lay demonstrated how the coffee pots worked and how much grounds must be used.

Multitasking was the order of the day. While the coffee brewed, the competitors moved onto the stiff collar competition — unrolling and putting on a frozen t-shirt — and the Ding-Dong challenge.

“Sustenance. What bureaucratic meeting does not need sustenance? So here we have Hostess snack cakes, enough to power you through any meeting,” Crawford said. A brief conference ensued to determine the number of snack cakes to be consumed. “How many do you guys want to eat? One?”

“OK, they’ve decided to eat one Ding-Dong,” Crawford announced to the crowd.

Newly fueled, the competitors would find a stack of 10 cards bearing names to be alphabetized. Finally, once enough coffee was brewed, it was to be poured into a cup, the lid secured and the vessel carried through a series of barriers strung with flagging tape — red, of course. Whoever cut through the red tape with a full cup of coffee first, would win.

“Are the administrators ready for the bureaucratic beatdown?” Crawford intoned. “OK, timers are you ready? Racers are you ready? Let’s go!”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under exercise, government, health, Tsalteshi Trails

Common Ground: Don’t mind man’s best friend

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Remember — man’s best friend doesn’t have the mind of a man, though he won’t mind of you forget the distinction.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Remember — man’s best friend doesn’t have the mind of a man, though he won’t mind of you forget the distinction.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

Dog behaviorists caution us not to assign human thoughts and feelings to our canines. It’s dangerous, they say in books on the subject, to treat dogs as if they have human reasons for doing things.

As I read the examples recently, I realized that a dog behaviorist could get a lot of material at my house. Not only did I practice all of the examples, I had a few more that were even more ridiculous. My anthropomorphism (the projecting of human characteristics on nonhuman entities) was difficult for me to realize at first. Ironically, I had to think like a dog in order to not think my dog was thinking like a human.

My favorite motive to falsely assign to my unsuspecting dogs is revenge. If they do something bad, such as poo in the house while I’ve been gone too long, it is because they want revenge. Upon further investigation, it turns out that dogs do not think of poo as a disgusting tool of revenge. They think of it as a wonder of nature, a secondary food source in survival situations, and an object of fascination for dogs and humans alike. The fact that I go into their yard and collect poo tells them that it is highly valuable. What I think of as a disastrous mess, they think of as presents. I do not know what to do about this revelation.

I also tend to think my dogs feel guilt when they do something wrong. Why else would the guilty party make the classic guilt face when I ask, “Who ate the entire ham?”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Common Ground, pets

Plugged In: Shed some light (or dark) on the subject

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Each of these images is of same subject, one at the intermediate base calculated exposure, one photo bracketed at -.7 EV exposure less than the base exposure, and one photo bracketed at an exposure of +.7EV brighter than the calculated base exposure, showing how a JPEG file would look in different lighting conditions when exposed at base, brighter and darker.

Photos courtesy of Joe Kashi. Each of these images is of same subject, one at the intermediate base calculated exposure, one photo bracketed at -.7 EV exposure less than the base exposure, and one photo bracketed at an exposure of +.7EV brighter than the calculated base exposure, showing how a JPEG file would look in different lighting conditions when exposed at base, brighter and darker.

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

As I wrote this week’s article on a rainy Sunday evening, I found myself reviewing dozens of intensely colorful fireweed photos taken on sunny high-summer days. I’m not ready for winter after such a nice summer, but reviewing those photos and remembering those lovely days is the next best thing. Isn’t that reason enough to photograph?

Properly exposing any image is critical, particularly with JPEG files, which have little or no capability for later correction of slightly off exposures. As little as 1/3 EV (1/3 f stop to traditional film photographers) can make or break a JPEG image. When using JPEG files directly out of the camera, you need to really nail the exposure and bracket the exposure of each important shot.

Several factors affect the accuracy of any exposure. Virtually all cameras expose a bit differently despite allegedly being set to the same ISO sensitivity, shutter speed and lens aperture. Look at images made by several different cameras and you’ll find a noticeable variation in the amount of light reaching the sensor, with each image brighter or darker than those made by other cameras.

This generally results from how each camera manufacturer decides to calibrate and set their cameras. For example, my Olympus E-M5 Micro Four-Thirds cameras generally require that I set a -0.7EV exposure compensation for best results in most circumstances. If I had used that camera at its factory default settings, most of the images would seem overexposed and too light directly out of the camera.

That’s not a fatal problem with correctable RAW images, but results in serious degradation of JPEG images. Even with RAW files, though, overexposing the image reduces the amount of highlight detail salvageable in post-processing. With the E-M5 cameras, there’s less margin to recover overexposed highlight detail while more detail can be salvaged from dark shadows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith these Olympus cameras, then, using less than the metered exposure works best. Conversely, my high-end Pentax K-3 handles overexposure better than underexposure.

Because each camera meters differently, you should do some informal tests with your own cameras to find the exposure compensation settings that produce the best results, particularly when using JPEG files straight out of the camera. Use those settings when encountering similar situations. Exposure compensation can be adjusted on most midtier and better cameras by turning the wheel control or arrow control that’s dedicated to exposure compensation. It’s likely different with each camera model, so you’ll need to check your manual.

Your optimum exposure will also vary depending on how you or the manufacturer set the camera’s metering. For most casual photographers, the default multiarea metering works best in typical circumstances. The camera simultaneously meters many different areas of the photo and then calculates the exposure that best fits the overall situation. It’s a compromise approach, but often a very workable compromise.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under photography, Plugged in

Ripe for the brain picking — Berry walkers harvest abundant knowledge

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna, points out low-bush lingonberries, pictured below,  to a crowd of participants in a berry identification walk Monday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event was held as part of the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival, ongoing through Saturday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna, points out low-bush lingonberries, pictured below, to a crowd of participants in a berry identification walk Monday afternoon at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event was held as part of the Harvest Moon Local Food Festival, ongoing through Saturday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Thirty-four people combed the forest floor Monday afternoon, eyes peeled, attention piqued, senses alert. Their quarry was stationary and abundant but the hunt still held challenges. Not so much in the finding, but in telling one specimen from the wide variety of others.

“What’s this?” “Here’s some red ones!” “Are these any good?”

Variations of those comments formed a background of chatter for the hour-and-a-half walk on Tsalteshi Trails, ebbing and flowing like waves on a shoreline, quieting as the hunters became engrossed in their task and crescendoing when someone found something new, exciting and hopefully delicious — or at least safely edible.

“Alaska is blessed with many varieties of berries that are good to eat and very few that are berries lingonberriesbad for you,” said Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna.

Chumley served as guide for the berry walk, one of a slate of talks, workshops and other activities offered as part of Harvest Moon Local Food Festival. The 26 adults and eight kids who participated Monday did so to expand their knowledge of local edibles, or start to build it from scratch.

“I’m a Native from Arizona and I relocated here and I was very active in my community, which is the Sonoran desert, because our survival in all the hundreds of years depended on that we knew — the plants and the system and what we could eat and what we couldn’t — and so I’m going to do that here in my new home,” said Elizabeth Spinasanto.

She was looking forward to harvesting berries to use in healthy breakfasts — smoothies or with homemade yogurt, which she had learned about in a previous Harvest Moon workshop.

Elizabeth Spinasanto compares a photo she took with her cellphone to a printout Chumley brought along. The convenience of camera phones make them a great tool for berry identification.

Elizabeth Spinasanto compares a photo she took with her cellphone to a printout Chumley brought along. The convenience of camera phones make them a great tool for berry identification.

“I’m taking the fermentation class, as well. I have not missed any of the classes. I’m kind of excited about it,” she said.

Prior to the walk in the woods, the group met at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank for a quick course on berry processing with Linda Tannehill, health, home and family agent with the Cooperative Extension Service. Processing doesn’t need to be time-intensive, she said. Berries are usually good to eat straight off the plant — the key word being “usually.”

“You don’t have to wash them depending on where you pick,” she said. “But if it’s a place where there is a lot of dogs or traffic, you might want to rinse them off.”

Pick as cleanly as possible to save work later, but removing detrius from most berries is generally a simple affair. Some people pour their harvest from one bowl to another on a windy day or in front of a fan to blow off any leaves, stems and other debris. Tannehill prefers more control in her cleaning method. She rubber-bands a terrycloth towel onto a cutting board, rolling the edges to form a channel down the middle of board, then holds the board at an incline and pours the berries down it and into a baking pan with raised edges. The knap of the towel grabs the litter while the berries roll down into the pan — and hopefully no farther.

“I have to have bumpers,” she said. “I’ve chased blueberries across the floor and my dogs get there first. And so I’ve learned to put bumpers on my towel here.”

Sometimes berries contain insects. They aren’t harmful, but soaking firm berries in a solution of salt water can draw out any creatures that might be lurking inside.

“If you’re grossed out by bugs then maybe you want to soak them. It’s all your own comfort level,” Chumley said.

Frozen berries keep for a few years, especially when vacuum-packed in a good-quality bag with a good seal. But freeze the berries first to avoid a squished mess, spreading them in a baking pan and putting them in the freezer for a few hours.

“Do not try to vacuum-package berries unfrozen. There’s no problem if they’re frozen. It’s a big problem if they’re not frozen,” Tannehill said.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under community, Food, food bank, outdoors, Tsalteshi Trails

View from Out West: Bad conditions ripe for good stories — Lack of control leads to lack of limitations

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Yvonne Leutwyler fishes for lake trout on the western end of Nishlik Lake in the Wood-Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Yvonne Leutwyler fishes for lake trout on the western end of Nishlik Lake in the Wood-Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

If I had the power to command all aspects of an outdoor adventure — ensure my safety and good weather and avoid biting insects and unwanted surprises — I doubt I’d use it. It’d be tempting, sure, but adventures wouldn’t be very adventurous if I wielded full control. Spontaneity would vanish, as would conflicts, which would be too bad. After all, uncertainty is part of the allure.

Besides, conflict gives survivors a story to tell.

Some of my best outdoor stories involve lousy weather, poor judgments and bad luck — from hiking 60 miles on a sprained ankle in western Canada to trying to outrun a lightning storm in the Mystery Hills east of Sterling.

In fact, the time I joined the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club for a February slog in a

This blizzard march, during an unfortunate Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club trip to Portage Lake in February 2012, spawned the Portage Scale.

This blizzard march, during an unfortunate Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club trip to Portage Lake in February 2012, spawned the Portage Scale.

blizzard across the overflow on Portage Lake, in a vain attempt to locate the glacier, became the measuring stick by which I now calculate the level of all outdoor misery. We called that hypothermic death march a 10 on the Portage Scale, and we’ve been out in nothing worse than an eight since.

Fortunately, I am not a masochist — I do not require misery to have fun. Not all conflicts require tragedies, and good stories sometimes emanate from good fortune. Also, I am pleased to say that I have rarely allowed irrational fear to dissuade me from opportunities, even some that I originally believed had major Portage Scale potential. Usually, the actual experiences turned out far more pleasant than they had appeared in my imagination.

And it was my imagination, mainly, that nearly caused me to back out of an eight-day outing with Yvonne Leutwyler into the northernmost reaches of the massive Wood-Tikchik State Park, near Dillingham.

The plan called for us to be flown on July 27 to the western end of Nishlik Lake, to camp, fish, hike and paddle our way eastward down six miles of shoreline to the headwaters of the Tikchik River, and then to float that 60-mile stream to its terminus at Tikchik Lake, where we’d be picked up Aug. 3 and flown home.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under outdoors, View from Out West

Out and all about it: Nurture kids’ love of all nature

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

Photo by Joseph Robertia. This black bear was seen on the appropriately named Bear Mountain Trail in the Skilak area.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

Bears and butterflies carry exactly the same weight in my daughter’s estimation. I learned of this equality on a family outing this spring in the Skilak Wildlife Recreational Area.

My wife, 2-year-old Lynx and I had been canoeing Hidden Lake in the morning, getting up at dawn to beat the heat and breezes that come up as the day waxes on. By midday, the cloudless sky stretched in a spacious canvas of blue, and the sun hung at its zenith. A breeze as soft as a first kiss caressed our still winter-white skin, but it offered little relief to the three of us not yet used to temperatures topping out at 70 degrees.

With our watercraft securely tethered to the top of our car, we set the compass for home, but before we had even dusted our way a few miles down the gravel road my wife grabbed a fistful of my shirtsleeve and shouted, “Stop the car!”

Like most husbands in that situation, I stomped the brake hard enough to nearly put a hole in the floorboard. The car slid to a grating halt on the loose gravel surface, while I — wide-eyed and with adrenaline spiking — machine-gunned at her all the obvious questions: “What? What is it? What’s wrong? What’d I hit?”

Never turning to face me, she switched to a hushed tone and said three of my favorite words to hear while in the wilderness, “Look, a bear.”

We were at the aptly named Bear Mountain Trail. The bruin, black as midnight, seemed completely unconcerned by our presence and swaggered through the parking area and started up the hiking trail. We stared for a few seconds before it rounded a bend and went out of view.

We wanted — we needed — more.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under bears, outdoors, wildlife

Cast iron chefs show their cooking mettle

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ray Wall, of Anchorage, visits with a spectator at the Soldotna Progress Days Dutch Over Cookoff on July 25 at Soldotna Creek Park.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ray Wall, of Anchorage, visits with a spectator at the Soldotna Progress Days Dutch Over Cookoff on July 25 at Soldotna Creek Park.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Olive rosemary asiago cheese rolls, paella with saffron rice, caramel pecan cinnamon buns and three varieties of tenderloin, stuffed with everything from asparagus and spinach, to pine nuts and lemon zest or feta cheese and prosciutto.

It sounds like the menu from a fussy, five-star establishment. That wasn’t quite the case July 25. Picture, instead, the breeze shooing off mosquitos in Soldotna Creek Park, gingham-patterned plastic drapes over picnic tables and disposable utensils.

As for the setup to produce such fine cuisine? No state-of-the-art kitchen with all the latest gadgets here. In fact, only one gadget was used, and it’s been in roughly the same state since its invention in the last 1700s. Enter the humble, but honored Dutch oven.

Wall checks the pork roast he planned to serve with sushi for his team’s main course.

Wall checks the pork roast he planned to serve with sushi for his team’s main course.

“Anything you can cook in a kitchen, on a range or a regular oven you can cook in Dutch oven,” said Rod Hutchings, of Anchorage, who, along with Ray Wall, was one of five teams competing in Soldotna’s annual Progress Days Dutch Oven Cooking Competition.

Wall recently submitted paperwork to start a new Dutch oven cooking chapter in Anchorage, and was half of a team representing Alaska at the International Dutch Oven Society World Championship Cookoff in Utah last year. In regional competitions, as in the state-level event at the Alaska State Fair and the world cookoff, each team makes a bread, a dessert and a main dish, and everything has to be prepared and served to the judges in a Dutch oven or on its lid.

“In this particular case I’m looking for 17 on the top and seven on the bottom, which will hopefully get me about 350 degrees. It’s very particular. (Counts to 15.) So I’m two short,” Hutchings said.

It’s part exact science, and part best guess.

“It’s fairly predicable but it depends on the wind. Like right now the wind’s picked up so that’s probably blowing a lot of our heat off,” said Stefanie Ferguson. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Soldotna