Story last updated at 3:03 p.m. Friday, August 9, 2002

A scan of state news from the past few weeks might point to signs that Alaska is slightly off kilter lately. A South American penguin turned up in a seine net near Prince of Wales Island in Southeast, a record commercial-caught king salmon was stolen from a processor in Sitka, and a recent public radio story talked about depression hitting northern Alaskans as the days begin to grow shorter, though there's still 19 hours of daylight in parts of the state. The Betster's advice is to seek solace in the things you can count on, like comfort food, good live music and a walk on the beach.

BEST MUSICAL FRUIT BET: This fruit comes not from your garden, but from Australia, and if you thought the Betster meant something else, shame on you. A hit locally last time the four-woman, one-man band played Homer, the group one critic called "destined to be one of the great acts of the new Millennium" is back. Down Under's acoustic pop band returns to the Homer area this week, with an 8 p.m. show tonight at the Seldovia Native Village tent, and a 9 p.m. show Friday at Alice's Champagne Palace. The band's eclectic blend of pop, folk, rock and harmonies give them a distinct style that had Homer crowds dancing last time it was here, doctors recommend a healthy diet of Fruit, and the Betster agrees.

BEST ALTERNATIVE-TO-FRUIT BET: If you're not interested in seeing Fruit tonight -- or you plan to see them Friday but still would like to get out and about for some live music on a Thursday evening -- your options run the gamut from blues to mules. Chicago blues musician Eric Noden will take the stage at Alice's Champagne Palace 9 p.m. tonight. Also at 9 p.m., local band Three Legged Mule, whose name sounds like the punchline to a joke, will be playing at Duggan's Waterfront Pub. And Latin guitarist Andres Condon and friends will perform at the White House earlier in the evening, with a show beginning at 8 p.m.

BEST TUGGING-AT-YOUR-HARP-STRINGS BET: The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra's summer string festival continues through Sunday. Featuring a variety of events from concerts to cruises, the festival's intent is to bring classical music to the people of Homer and Seldovia. Festival musicians also work with area instrumentalists through workshops, lessons and rehearsals. The noon concerts are wrapping up, but two remain: the DeVere Quartet plays today at Land's End Resort, and Thistle plays Friday at Captain's Coffee Roasting Company's new location. Saturday is the annual Gala Concert, this year featuring cello soloist Lindsay Groves, at 7:30 p.m. at the Mariner Theater. Tickets are $15. Sunday, the DeVere Quartet will play at the Bunnell Street Gallery with pianist JulieAnn Smith. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets cost $12.

BEST NATURE-MADE-EASY BET: Walking along area beaches is pleasant enough, what with the stunning views and calming sounds of nature. But have you ever stopped to look around, and wanted to know more about what you saw? Naturalists from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge will lead free bird walks, tide pool exploration walks and guided beach walks this week for those of you who want to know more about the environment -- and micro-environments -- around you. The bird walks are every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:30-11:30 a.m., and the tide pool explorations from 9-10 a.m. today, 8:45-10:45 a.m. Friday, and 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday. Rubber boots are recommended. Guided beach walks are held from 2-4 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday.