Tuesday, May 27, 2008

258. B 4 U DIE

One of Alaska's slogans is B 4 U DIE. This means you should see Alaska before you die. To help, here is an list I stole from the anchorage Daily News of 7 things you can do in Alaska, with my comments in brackets.

Midnight baseball [see my entry # 225]
...Watch a genuine semi-pro baseball game played at midnight -- without any lights on the field. Don't worry, this game won't get called on account of darkness. It happens in Fairbanks on Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. On June 21 here, not far south of the Arctic Circle, there'll be nearly 23 hours of daylight and enough twilight in between so that visibility is not a problem, unless the low-rolling sun blinds the first baseman.
...The Midnight Sun Game has been a tradition since 1906. The Alaska Goldpanners team has hosted it since 1960. Future major-leaguers who've participated include Tom Seaver, Dave Winfield and Barry Bonds.
...The gates of Growden Memorial Park will open at 8 p.m. for those with $10 early entry tickets available online at goldpanners.com, 9 p.m. for the rest of you. The game starts around 10:30 p.m. At midnight, the action will pause while the state song is sung in Inupiaq in the fading light. But the sky will brighten as the game resumes and runs until 1:30-2 a.m.

Arctic Swim
...You've surfed in Hawaii, snorkled in the Bahamas, splashed in the Seychelles. Now there's only one ocean left for your lifetime list -- the really, really cold one. So drive up the Dalton Highway (big spenders can take a plane or bus, but it's actually on the road system) to the Arctic Caribou Inn (907-659-2368) in scenic Deadhorse. There you can catch a tour bus for $39 that will get you past the Prudhoe Bay security gate (driver's license or passport number required) and right to the edge of the freshly thawed sea where you can don your trunks and wade way, way out there until the shallow water finally gets deep enough to swim in.
...Make sure you have towels and dry clothes waiting for you on shore. If polar bears are cavorting in the water, stay with the bus.

Zipper down [In my plans, if I don't chicken out. Roller coaster drops make me sick.]
...Zip lines -- cables stretched from point to point that you can clip onto and glide down -- have popped up all over Southeast. Juneau and Ketchikan each boast beautiful, relatively leisurely tours through the canopy of the northern rain forest with routes that include both zip lines and suspension foot bridges.
...But the Icy Strait Point Zip Line in Hoonah is the King Kong of the big zippers. Said to be the longest and tallest zip line in North America. Harnessed into the seat, you cover a distance slightly more than one mile in about 90 seconds, plunging 1,330 feet in a screamer of a ride that makes all the amusement park thrill machines and roller coasters seem downright perambulatory.
...The scenery, if you notice it, is stunning. The whole event, which includes a guided tour from the village up the mountain to the starting tower, takes about an hour. The cost is $90 per person, and each rider must weigh between 90 and 275 pounds. The trip is only available on the last Saturday of the month now through August and on days when cruise ships call on Hoonah. Check the schedule and book online at http://www.icystraitpoint.com/.

Snow battle on July 4 [I took one of this flightseeing tours and landed on Mt. McKinnley, but I do't think it was on July 4.]
...America's fight for freedom started with a snowball fight that led to the Boston Massacre that led to Yorktown. So what better way to celebrate the nation's independence than with a good-humored brawl with frozen ballistics? And what better place for that battle than on the flanks of the nation's highest mountain?
...The benefit of planning your Fourth of July snowball fight on Mount McKinley is that there's always plenty of snow available, even on the hottest summer day.
...Take a flight-seeing trip on a ski plane from a Talkeetna-based service like Talkeetna Air Taxi (talkeetnaair.com) or K2 Aviation (flyk2.com) and arrange for a landing on a glacier at the base of Denali. You can run around hurling snow at your friends for a few minutes or a couple of hours at rates ranging from $75 to $340 tacked on to their regular Denali tours.
Uncle Sam wants his take, too, though, so you'll need to either have a National Parks Pass or pay a $10 entrance fee ($20 for a family) to Denali National Park and Preserve.
...All patriots hate taxes, but we love users' fees.
...One of the biggest parties in Alaska, Celebration is a three-day festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribal members that takes place in Juneau every other year. Lucky for us, this is one of those years.
...The event will start with the Grand Entrance Procession -- thousands of Alaska Indians in traditional garb, dancing, singing, drumming, smiling and waving, at 8 a.m. on June 5 and wind up with the Grand Exit at 9 p.m. on June 7.
...Sponsored by the Sealaska Heritage Institute (sealaskaheritage.org), Celebration includes performances, Native crafts, contests for the best red ribbon seaweed and the best soapberries and other Native foods, the oh-so-cute Baby Regalia Review and many other excuses for melding tradition, culture, education and fun. All are welcome, and you won't see anything like this in the Lower 48. A three-day pass is $25, $12 for seniors and students. One-day passes are $10 and $5.

Fish with the bears [I prefer to stay far away from the bears]
...It doesn't take courage to catch most fish. But only truly determined anglers will keep their lines in the water while a 1,200 pound brown bear demonstrates interest in the same fishing hole. Alaska is full of places where you can cast for stupendous salmon or trophy trout, places that also just happen to be prime bear viewing spots.
...Ursine-human co-mingling is generally discouraged, but sometimes it's unavoidable and, as long as you mind your manners and keep your distance, most bears are inclined to do the same. All the same, better outfitters will have a guide to keep an eye on your clawed companions and tell you to reel in your lure and depart, real peaceable-like, if anything seems amiss.
Peak season double occupancy three-night stays at accommodations in Katmai National Park (katmailand.com), among the more famous of these double hot-spots, are hard to come by and run about $1,542. That doesn't include the flight in.

Feast on a king
...Many gourmets attest that there is no food on earth so fine as Alaska king crab. And king crab is never so fine as when fresh. And it is never so fresh as when hauled kicking and snapping straight from the ocean, slaughtered onshore and hurled into a pot of water boiling on a driftwood fire.
...There is no guide service or tour package we could find that guarantees this experience for any amount of money. It is free. Priceless, you might say. But it helps to know the right Alaskans, those who have devoted vast time and fortune into the acquisition of boats, crab pots and life on the Alaska coast.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

257: quote from Barak Hussein Obama Jr

Obama was being interviewed for Atlantic magazine.

Question: "Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?"

Obama's answer: "No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically."

Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef told WABC radio his group hopes Obama will win the presidential election

Sunday, May 11, 2008

256. Happy Mother's Day!

A local radio station asked people to call in and say why their mother is special. I called in. So, here is why my mother is special.

When I lived in New York, I had irregular working hours, and I got hooked on "The Bold and the Beautiful". Then we moved to Portland, OR, where B&B was not shown. My mother taped B&B every day and mailed me the tapes. She's great, not just for sending me the tapes themselves, but this shows that she is willing to humor me on silly things.

She won a dessert coupon from some restaurant around here, but since it is a bit out of her way (she lives in NY) she said I could have it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

255. Happy Yom HaAtzmaut # 60 !!!

My daughter has a weekly column in the Oregon Daily Emerald, "The Independent Student Newspaper at the University of Oregon". Here is today's column (Cartoon is from from Dry Bones, and is 18 years old, but I like it.)

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Zionism misunderstood

In today's political climate, you might think I am hesitant to admit I am a Zionist. The very word itself carries a heavy stigma. Still, after years of broken dialogue, incessant violence and determined defense, I am happy to say that today Israel turns 60, and despite how you might feel about my homeland, I am hopeful for the future of a dynamic and thriving Israel.

You might not agree with me. In fact, many of you might even go so far as to equate Zionism with racism. Perhaps you blame the entire ideology for the suffering of the Palestinians. Or, maybe you just go out of your way to deviate from Bush's ideas and America's policies. It's okay; you're a self-proclaimed progressive; you root for the underdog.

I wish I could say that your stance is unique, but it's not. In fact, it's fairly common to disagree with the establishment of Israel. After all, if a major point of reference is a biblical text and the claim that God promised the land to Abraham, then who, in liberal, free-thinking academia, can possibly acknowledge this idea? We're skeptical, and for all we know, the Bible could be a result of some profound, inspired psychedelic trip.

One could also argue against the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the League of Nations Mandate, the UN partition of 1947, the admission of Israel into the UN in 1949, the diplomatic relations Israel has with most other states and most importantly, the stable democratic society that flourishes and continues to thrive today. I mean, honestly, how ethical are governmental institutions anyway?

Still, it is worth nothing that, despite contrary propaganda and common misconceptions, the Jewish people have every right to their homeland. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Russian Pogroms and the Holocaust have actually demonstrated that the Jewish people need a homeland. They need a less formidable answer to "The Jewish Question."

It's not as though, after the Romans forced them into exile in 70 CE, the Jews returned 1,800 years later demanding their home back. In actuality, Jews maintained ties to and a continuous presence in their homeland for 4,000 years, including a language and a distinct culture. Throughout history, Jews have cultivated present-day Israel, planting the seeds for economic opportunity for Jews and Arabs alike.

Pursuant to the 1947 Partition Plan, the British Mandate of Palestine was divided into two countries, and while the Jews accepted this proposition, the Arabs rejected it outright and sought to destroy the Jewish state.

For more than 30 years, until the peace treaty with Egypt, the surrounding Arab states maintained a state of war with Israel, including boycotts, the support of terror attacks against the civilian population and the open proclamation of an objective to destroy them. Yet, Israel did not attack or retaliate except in self-defense. In fact, it has returned land to Syria and withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula. It has withdrawn from the Gaza strip and several parts of the West Bank. The only reason that the Israelis have attained more land than the Palestinians is due to actions taken in self-defense.

These cooperative gestures, rather than being effective as precursors to a peace, were taken as signs of weakness. Withdrawing from the Security Belt in Southern Lebanon only brought Hezbollah 20 miles closer to Israel's northern border. The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip resulted in terror for the citizens of the Israeli city of Sderot as Gaza became a launching pad for long-range missiles.

How ironic is it that despite the fact that terrorist organizations fund suicide bombers and launch rockets into Israel, Israel is constantly berated for not cooperating with them?

It is unfortunate that the Palestinians are so misrepresented by their own government and are forced to live in difficult circumstances, enduring checkpoints and shortages of necessities. While Israel welcomed and absorbed Jewish refugees forced out of the Arab countries, the displaced Palestinians have become pawns in the hands of Arab countries anxious to promote hatred of Israel and Jews throughout the world.

Israel is one of the smallest and youngest countries in the world. Yet it has become an epicenter for medical and technological breakthroughs, economic prosperity and a vibrant culture, and has done so in the face of a constant struggle to defend its people and justify its very existence.

While the word "Zionism" has evolved into a demonizing pejorative, the concept itself actually has nothing to do with the Palestinian people, warfare or the displacement of others. It is a declaration of support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland. It is a statement of solidarity among the Jewish people and an outcry against several millennia of oppression and genocide. It is necessary and legitimate. It is anything but racist.

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