If it seems like the world has gotten dimmer, don’t despair, Betsteroids. Last week the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that the universe is brighter than we thought. Observations from the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment have detected more infrared light in the dark space between galaxies. Scientists now think the space between galaxies is filled with stars flung adrift by galactic tidal forces, kind of like driftwood logs cast up on beaches.
In this week’s election, some estimated that backers of Mark Begich or Dan Sullivan spent $50 million on the U.S. Senate race. That’s about $200 a voter, or the price of a 23-year-old Highland Park single-malt Scotch whisky. More practically, $50 million is Homer’s general budget for five years or the cost of five HERC buildings.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Just when you thought it was OK to go out of the house, oh my, our town is about to be invaded by unimaginable horrors. Yes, it’s that time of year, Betsteroids — election season. Well, that and Halloween. Consider the parallels:
People disguised as something they may not be knock on your doors;
Said people plea for treats they wish you to give them, and depending on their doorstep street theater, said people may leave you slightly scared or somewhat amused.
Let us pause now and consider the glory of sunrises and sunsets. Holy electromagnetic spectrum! Have we been having some awesome turnings of the planet recently. Except for those bright summer days where the sun barely rises and sets, Alaska can be counted on to deliver respectable sun shows. October has given us some shows that would make the tourists in Mallory Square, Key West, Fla., drop their margaritas.
The Betster deeply regrets last week’s mention of The Precipitation That Will Not Be Named. Apparently, even not saying a certain word wasn’t enough to keep that event from happening.
But what did you expect, Betsteroids? It’s mid-October. By this time of year as the daylight hours fade and temperatures dip into the 20s, events associated with such conditions happen. Don’t like it? Move to Portland, where you can experience bone-numbing, wet rain, but usually not TPTWNBN.
If you happened to be cruising the Homer hillside on Sunday, you might have seen little white flakes fluttering down from the sky. No, that was not a jet spilling corn starch, but The Precipitation Whose Name We Dare Not Speak. The weekend forecast calls for more of The Precipitation Whose Name We Dare Not Speak, but only in amounts less than a quarter-inch. In Florida they call that a natural disaster, but to Alaskans that’s just a minor inconvenience.
Every October we enter the cusp of winter, or winter as we Alaskans define it. Alaska doesn’t cycle through the seasons in neat and tidy three-month quarters. Regretfully, the evidence shows us summer has gone. No motorhomes on the Spit? Fishing over in the Fishing Hole? Shops boarded up? Sandhill cranes departed? Trees turning glorious yellow? Farmers Market ended? Yup.
You know that metaphor about trying to nail Jell-O to a table? The Betster has had a week like that. That’s situation normal here in the news business, where every week some story comes up that wants to be slippery. Some weeks, though, the gelatin dessert fights back and your hammer turns to rust. It’s enough sometimes to make you want to go all TV reporter on the job, like the woman who delivered her resignation live, on camera and with an f-bomb tossed in to make sure she’d never work in broadcast journalism again.
Today, history will be made. Today, a northern region rich with oil and populated by cantankerous individuals votes on its independence. Aye or nay? Freedom or union?
No, no, that’s not the Alaska Independence Party’s dream come true, but the Scottish independence referendum, when Scots decide if they want to end their 307-year-old union with England or continue to be British. The polls look close, with “yes” ahead by a few points but within the margin of error.
Thirteen years ago evil men flew planes into tall buildings and changed our world. One plane of heroes fell from the sky. Towers fell. Thousands ran down the streets of lower Manhattan trying to escape dust and devastation.
Two wars later, security alert after security alert, we muddle through this brave new world. Thousands died on Sept. 11, and thousands more have died from combat and from hundreds of smaller acts of violence — car bombings and beheadings and endless random shootings.
Concerned citizens following statewide elections might have noticed how things have begun to heat up. Here at Latitude 59 degrees and some change, we don’t burn up precious electrons reporting on all that stuff. Newsroom central gets about a dozen emails a day from the elephant and donkey U.S. Senate campaigns. Knowing how sensitive Homer people can be, we’ve been sparing you this political sniping. Most of it’s like “You’re a big doo-doo head” and he like goes, “No, you’re a bigger doo-doo head,” and then he goes, “Yo’ mama” and then stuff really gets ugly.
Once again it’s time for the annual Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report that ranks the 200 largest cities in terms of car-collision frequency. The rankings also factor in things like precipitation. The rankings don’t include the southern Kenai Peninsula area, but it does include Anchorage. Since many of us find ourselves driving in Anchor Town, we might want to know what to expect.
Now that the August primary has ended, school has started, the silver salmon run has slowed down and the Kenai Peninsula Fair is over, it seems calm around here. Almost too calm, you know, like that scene in a Western film where a tumbleweed blows down a dusty, deserted street and an old cowboy plays a mournful tune on his harmonica.
Holy Sergio Leone! You know how that turns out. A bunch of bad dudes ride in wearing black dusters, Clint Eastwood steps through the saloon door and stuff happens.
Starting next week we enter the Twilight Zone of not-quite summer but not yet fall. Here in Alaska, traditional definitions of fall like the autumnal equinox don’t always work. Alaska, living true to its motto of “North to the Future,” starts fall early. Consider these upcoming dates:
• At 12:01 a.m. Friday, snagging for silver salmon starts in some parts of the Spit;
• At 1:30 p.m. Saturday is the first Homer High School Mariner football game of the season;
Now would be the time when the Betster does the annual summer punch list column. As kids prepare for school and voters steel themselves for round one of elections, you’d expect the B. to get all snarky about the chores not done.
Nope, not gonna do that.
If you’ve been seeing coworkers and friends walking around bleary eyed and in a daze, no, they haven’t been attacked by zombies. Considering we’re at high summer, there can be only three possible explanations:
• They’ve been entertaining VFRs — that’s visiting friends and relatives;
• They’re employed in the tourism industry; or
• They have salmon fever.
Have you noticed how some Alaskans like to drive glossy black trucks with tinted windows, jacked up tires and not a hint of chrome. The Betster gets that no-chrome thing. Chrome can be a pain to polish. Big, black truck are part of the tactical trend — you know, silver is the new black. You don’t want a lick of bright as you drive down a backwoods road like a superninja heading toward that secret fishing hole.
A recent article in Slate magazine reported that the Associated Press has begun using robots to write business stories on corporate quarterly earnings. Well, the stories aren’t written by actual robots, but a computer software program called Wordsmith. Many corporations already have replaced human workers with robots or computer programs, so it seems appropriate to have earning reports generated by computers. Next thing you know robots will be buying the products made by corporations and we humans can get jobs serving double skinny WD-40 lattes to them.
Not that the Betster actually saw it, but observant citizens reported that last weekend tents covered every square foot of beach above the high-tide line on the Spit. A campfire haze circled Kachemak Bay from Point Pogibshi to Bluff Point, which probably had some homesick Californians pining for LA.