Friday, 30 January 2009

Woo! We rock!

Woo! Go us! We're not dead last in teacher retention! So long as we keep Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont in the United States, we'll look slightly less worse!

AK's got some problems in teacher retention. Especially in the bush. The average life expectancy of a teacher out there is somewhere between twenty seconds and a year, as too many teachers go out there from the lower-48, lured by reasonable salaries and a somewhat misplaced sense of adventure, only to find out they're god-awful in over their heads. Most don't hack it. There's rarely anything that passes remotely for continuity in education.

NCLB is just plain stupid to begin with, but is even worse for these sorts of situations. Imagine this: A school fails to make adaquet yearly progress for one too-many years in a row. It now faces having the staff booted to the curb. But of the staff, only a tiiiiny handful have been there the whole time - maybe one, two max. What the heck good is getting rid of an already transient staff? Hint: squat all.

So I, like a frat who crammed all night for a test in a subject they never went to class - feel great about our D- in teacher retention.

Keeping it Fake

This picture is unabashedly altered. I used photoshop to remove the background, which seriously detracted from the sculpture. (When I do anything serious in photoshop, I'll let you all know). I'll post the original on my Wednesday `Pictures` rotation some month soon.

Sculpture: Arctic Shadow (1996), by Jacques and Mary Regat
UAF Museum of the North.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

"Some Chicago Toughness"

If I grumble about the big what-you-do they're having about the weather in the lower 48, people'd accuse me of being a grump.

If Barak Obama said it, people would start accusing him of being insensitive to the inclimate weather's effect on people.

But if Sasha and Malia Obama said it, it's speaking truth to power. :p



This is what I imagine they were thinking when they heard reporters on Inauguration Day call it `frigid` every other word. ;)

Naturally, John Kelly at the Washington Post takes issue:

Not being able to handle ice and snow--fishtailing on highways, rioting for toilet paper, shutting down schools--is an integral part of Washington's charming folkways, the way rampant corruption is part of Chicago's. We snarl at tourists who block the Metro escalators, we happily get gouged by sports team owners, we elect drug addicts, we make desultory attempts every few years to fix our public schools and we freak out when it snows. That's just what we do. And now you want us to start doing something different?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Pictures

Conservapedia is useful

So there I was, hunkered in front of the toyo (some reason my home was frigid when I woke up) playing with the laptop and reading the morning news when, in my internet wanderings, some kind soul pointed me to where Wonkette picked up a lovely factoid about the beloved conservapedia:

Well stop it, now, and Porn Block every site that’s not Conservapedia, the home of conservative pedophiles “The Trustworthy Encyclopedia.” For example, say your home-schooled-in-Christ kid needs to do a report on which states would benefit from Dem senators who, tragically, “were unable to complete their terms and were replaced by qualified Republicans by their Republican governors.” Where to go? That homosexual devil box “Wikipedia” surely would be of no assistance, to Patriots!
That's great! I was going to do a blog post about which senators we should assassinate, and the list will surely speed things along.

Sadly, some of my `Conservapedia's greatest hits` have been taken down out of embarrassment. Use of commonwealth Enlish (which is what I learned to use, you might have notice) is apparently a sign of flaming liberal bias. On this page, there used to be a picture of Jesus riding a dinosaur (as he often did in the bible) stroking an iguana. Luckily, the internet has saved it for me:

Jesus approves you assassinating senators. So does his pet iguana, Pookey.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Pub Line

This looks to be the best idea to reach Fairbanks, ever.
Even better than electricity and occasionally working American Automobiles.

FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks entrepreneur wants a license to sell alcohol in an old school bus he uses to shuttle bar-goers around Fairbanks on the weekends.
My only concern is making sure that the driver is separated from the people on the crawl. Other than that, it's an even better idea than having the Pub on Campus. They should hook up with the bus system, so they can stop at the central terminal. People could come in the bus-lines and go home without driving! It's brilliant!

Sadly, things seem to have broken down in the comments sections, between people who thing the only thing wrong with this plan is there isn't enough blackjack involved, and people who want to get all moralistic and impose their religiosity on others.

Repost: What the heck is up with Luna Bars?

Here's an old post I dug up from my previous blog, that I think a couple of you folks would find interesting. It also gets me off the hook for writing a post for a whole day. Score!
I should be getting my notebook up to snuff, so I can hand it over for a data review tomorrow. Instead, I'm answering that age old (okay, 3 years old) question that's plagued many a backacker: What the hell is up with Luna bars?

They market them as the energy bar for women, but as far as anyone can tell with a casual inspection, there's squat all different between them and normal energy bars. An inspection of their literature reveals that Luna bars are "Specifically formulated to provide women with the nutrients that are often harder for them to get." Further review reveals that they include, in this list, folic acid, soy protein, calcium, and 'vitamins and minerals' (How nebulous does that get?). While I'm not a nutritionist - I never had the required lobotomy performed - I feel it's safe to categorically say that Soy Protein is not a required nutrient by any stretch. And I should strongly question as to whether soy protein is more bio-available specifically for women, thought an attempt at a search on this subject through the usual databases showed no scientific articles suggesting or disproving this (I would argue that this, however, is not lack of evidence, but evidence of lack).

What of folic acid? While the amount of folic acid in Luna bars is higher than several flavours of traditional Clif Bars (used for comparison, as they have a related manufacturer), the crux of the problem becomes the fact folic acid requirements for adults over 19 are, according Suitor and Bailey (Dietary folate equivalents: interpretation and application. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Jan;100(1): pp.88-94), identical, unless one is currently pregnant or nursing, at which there's an increased need. Therefore, while there is less folic acid in select flavours of Clif Bars, both genders are at a loss.

The difference in Calcium between most energy bars and Luna bars is similarly barely worth noting. In fact, while Clif Bars seemed to contain slightly less, on average, several groups of Power Bars contained significantly (assuming 33% variance for either, p=.05) greater dosages of calcium (Not to mention I rather like the PowerBar Harvest Toffee Chocolate Chip flavour :d).

Compared to Clif Bars, the largest difference between them and Luna are 1) caloric density (2.7 cal/gram wt. vs. 3.9 cal/gram) and 2) more vitamins overall. This difference, however, disappears when one compares Luna to other brands. It is my firm opinion, barring the inclusion of additional information currently not in my possession, that there is no additional benefit for women by eating Luna bars over other energy bars on the market.

And to the men: Yes, they're safe to eat (And a couple of the blends are nice!). If anyone questions why you're eating a 'women's' energy bar, point out it's pretty much the exact same thing as a Boulder Bar, except with more pastels on the wrapper.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Microblog: Ads

Why does the TV spend so much time advertising restaurants that aren't in Fairbanks?
Am I supposed to go `oh, gee, I'm going to take a flight to Seattle to have marginal quality fast food?`

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Beer Notes from... today! Live!

I couldn't find James Boag's Premium Lager at any of my usual haunts, but I'm not yet to declare defeat just yet. Gold Hill says they can possibly find some. As a thanks, I grabbed one of their seasonals, that they're trying to clear out (20% off). Among them was Delirium Noël, which is a heady beer that can keep for a bit. I've just finished writting up my notes, and here we are!

Delirium Noël, Huyghe Brewery. Ghent, Belgium. A-, 4.1 of 5.
Pink Elephants aside, Delirium Noël looks like a beer that intends to be a beer. It came in a stately (sans elephants) 75 cl bottle, corked and basket, in opaque glass. There's little notable about the pour, beyond the deep amber colour, and the thin head. There's apples, cinnamon, and what seems to be a few light, phenolic hints in the odour. In the mouth it's smooth, not at all thin, and with perfect amount of crispness to counter this sweet, malty beer. Little citrus zest, though not much, and it first, I confused it with a more peppery flavour. The alcohol becomes apparent as it warms, but so does the `roasted fruits` of indeterminate origin. A heady beer, sweet enough that people must take pains to pace themselves.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

PCR consumables

In order to do science we do, we have to go through large quantities of generally expensive things, many of which are good for exactly one use ever. It's not uncommon to have to pay hundred of dollars for tiny vials of snot like fluid, or for a piece of plastic with little indents on it. It's a scam, really, but we've got no choice but to pay. But we do get to decide who we pay. Because I'm the primary purchasing agent, I fish around for deals. I like to do my homework, and google for product reviews. So, all this set up to explain to my regular readers why I'm about to ramble on about little pieces of plastic - the post, sadly, isn't for you. It's for people like me, in labs, with google.


I ordered Axygen .2ml, thin wall, clear 8 strips to replace my previous no-name vendor on account of their lower price. However, having used my boxes of them for about a year now, I would not recommend buying them. While on average they work, about one in five boxes will seem to be the wrong size. I suspect it's the .2ml 8 strips, instead of the caps, because I can get the caps to fit other things. The strips will be too large, and won't allow any sort of seal. In this condition, it's common to lose most or all of the reaction to evaporation. It wastses time, when you hit these boxes, trying to find cap-tube combinations that fit eachother. I'm confident that when I factor in these odd-sized tubes, I've no longer saved money.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Newsless news.

I'll take `well duh` for a hundred, Alex.

“In both communities, we hear loud and clear that the children are going to school not ready to learn [...]
That's the least of the educational worries. Did this `team of experts` ever glance at the drop-out rate in those villages? There's a prevailing attitude that education is useless. Attendance is a joke. There's few jobs, never mind ones that require an education.

They said there were few full-time jobs and they needed help paying heating fuel bills that have soared past $1,000 a month. They plead for help to repair the stock of poorly insulated and crumbling houses, some so dank that respiratory diseases and other illnesses often strike children.

I might have said both of those before. And again. The houses were built for temperate climates, many of them some time ago. They're built just plain stupid. There's a group out of UAF (Cold Climate Research insitute?) who was working on pre-fab homes that could be built easily, fit in a single plane, and doesn't leak heat like a home made of spoons, but that's a bit from being deliver-able. Oh, god, don't get me started on Kotlik's school. It's brand spanking new(ish), but it's among the worst built buildings on god's earth. It won some mondern art archetecture awards, just the heating frequently ups and dies, and teachers have to resort to Space Heaters. Oh, and the floorplan looks like it was designed by the criminally insane. Oh, and it has exposed heating pipes outside. Oh, and the facing were put on it so water apparently collects between them.

Yeah. Anyhow.

She would also like to organize an effort to provide immediate weatherization assistance to help make people’s houses more energy efficient. That might include sending in housing experts to assess the need and do some of the work.

The team will have to identify different “pockets of money” that might be used for that idea, she said.

The state Legislature approved $300 million last year to help people across Alaska weatherize their homes.

The money hasn’t reached Kotlik, Emmonak or other remote areas, said residents, many of whom had never heard of it.

One problem is that there are few energy auditors in rural Alaska to do the required assessment.

Meanwhile, the program has been a huge success in urban areas such as Anchorage, where average incomes are much higher.
Uh. Yeah. And that the Y-K has less access to services is news, all the sudden? They were talking about that back last... Jan?
Politicians: Attention span of goldfish.

In Kotlik, a roadless community where buildings and homes stretch along a slough of the Yukon River, many of the houses are gray, miserable shacks with several adults and children piled together under one roof.

“I’m shocked at the deplorable housing conditions here,” Jollie said. “Shocked.”

...

Someone needs to get that lady into some of the lower Kuskokwim villages. She hasn't even begun to see the bottom of the barrel. I challenge the use of `miserable,` though. Some folk are happy. Not everyone, but not everyone is `miserable.`

Oh, another issue, she doesn't even notice? Housing shortage. Kotlik is growing, and will need new houses built to support that continued growth.

The team’s ideas include resource fairs in February in Kotlik and Emmonak, a village of 800.

AHAHAHAHHAHAHA! Oooooh. It hurts to laugh.

God, how do we dig these people up?

For example, she’s learned that the limited jobs in the village usually lack benefits and retirement plans, and most people plan to rely solely on Social Security income to take them through old age.

She also learned that while the federal government pays for Native medical care, it doesn’t pay for people to fly to larger cities such as Bethel or Anchorage for check-ups. As a result, many villagers who can’t afford the costly flights said they wait until they’re extremely sick to go to the doctor.

“The need is much more profound than I thought it would be,” she said.
Well... well, what the hell was she expecting? Mansions? Direct flights to Achoragua? 100% employment? Igloos?

God, how do we dig these people up?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

High Arctic Fisheries

Ever wonder how much fish we pull out of the arctic? So did NOAA.
Arctic Economics, a blog that I rarely tire of reading, has an interesting write up on a paper that puts figures on tonnages for commercial and subsistence harvest. I'll have to give it a once over when I've got a better connection at work, but I found this next figure very interesting:
What's really interesting is the transition from 1960 to 1970, from dog to human consumptive use in subsistence fisheries. Apparently this is caused by a further transition from dog sleds to snow machines for transport. After that, the human consumptive component really took off - it nearly doubled in tonnage. I can't help but wonder at the cultural implications of either transition. Was there a corresponding shift in diet from other subsistence sources? Or did the additional tonnage get depleted from non-subsistence food items? How much of the growth of subsistence fisheries in the arctic is a result of population growth?

I really hope the paper answers some of this.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

New Bloggage

The Whitehouse website is going from ca. 1950s to catch up with us somewhere in the 2000s. That's right, they've got a blog. I don't expect anything really interesting on there, but who knows!

They don't, regretfully (though understandably), allow comments.
I'm just one of about a million people who are going to write little letters to the President in their blogs and twitters, so this one to President Obama will be short, so he can skip on to the next.

Dear President Obama,

Don't screw it up.

Best wishes,
everyone else.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Hybrid Vigour for fun and profit.

A while ago, dog breeders noticed that when they crossed breeding lines, the resulting mongrels would have more vigour, show generally improved health, and often live longer. This was duly noted, but since the focus was producing strains of dogs with specific traits (and there's no market for mutts), it was generally ignored. Starting in the 1960s and 70s, the role of DNA in evolution really began to come to the forefront of research, before it proceeded to explode in the 80s (with the advent of PCR and other molecular techniques).

Through mutation experiments, where they'd bombard fruit fly eggs with x-rays, people began to understand that the majority of mutations they could detect where `loss of function` mutations. Meaning, the x-rays changed a few bits of DNA, and suddenly the gene didn't make the stuff it was supposed to, or regulate the body function it was supposed to. The mutations they could detect in those days were generally bad.1

Now, since you have two copies of almost each bit of DNA (if you're an animal) - one from mom, one from dad - carrying around some `broken,` non-functional genes really doesn't hurt you. Lack dad's copy of the gene to make something? So long as mom's copy donated to you is intact, you're in luck, and you can still make it. In biologist lingo, the mutation is `recessive.` However, if both mom and dad's copy of the gene is damaged, you don't have any good copies of the gene. You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

Back to the pure-bred dogs. Humans have been controlling and breeding them for many generations, and they tend to breed with only related dogs. This has led to an elevated chance for these recessive, loss-of-function mutations to pile up in the bloodlines, and that's exactly what has happened. The smaller the breeding population is, the more likely they carry these bad traits. Which leads us to our mutts. When two dogs of different breeds mate, it's pretty unlikely that they both have the same non-functional bits of DNA. So your lovable mutt tends to inherit a working copy of just about everything from each parent - and this forms the basis for hybrid vigour and vitality in dogs.

What about wild critters? How does this work in the wild? Well, instead of humans guiding the breeding, it's nature doing the selection of who breeds with who. Similar to dog kennels, non-domestic animals tend to live in groups that are more likely to breed with each-other. Think of it like this: My neighbour is currently unlikely to marry anyone from California, for the simple reason that we're both in Alaska, and isolated by distance. The more isolated animal groups are, or the fewer individuals in their populations, the more likely that they carry some non-functional garbage.

For example. There are panthers in Florida. Strangely enough, they're called Florida Panthers. They're highly endangered, and there's not many of them left in world. Because of that, most of them aren't terribly distantly related to every other Florida Panther. Because of this, these deleterious genes started increasing in prevalence in their population, until it started making many of them less healthy. To counteract this, biologists in Florida took a number of cougars from a Texan subspecies and (highly controversially) released them into the Florida Panther population. The resulting Florida*Texan hybrids allegedly had more vigour and were healthier than either of their parents, in that environment2.

And that, deer readers (and human readers too), is the nickel tour of how Hybrid Vigour happens.

1 We've since revised our understanding, and now know the majority of mutations are neutral, and undetectable in fitness. Fewer, though still many, are harming mutations. A handful of mutations are beneficial to the organism.

2 The Florida Panther genetic rescue is highly controversial among conservation biologists, and discussion of it is a good way to start a fist fight at conferences and parties. Not everyone thinks that breeding the hybrids was for the better.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Tracks

Today we're getting a fresh layer of snow, which will hopefully replace all the stuff that melted off! How many of these pictures of animal sign can you identify?




Saturday, 17 January 2009

Your Conservation Biology Lesson for the Day

Let's say I have two subspecies from the same species. The lesser spotted weevil, and the greater horned weevil. Let's pretend they grew up separated by some barrier, and evolved in response to different environmental pressures. hundreds and hundreds of generations pass with lesser spotted weevils only mating with their own ilk, and greater horned weevils only breeding with their relatives.
Into this scene, John and Jane Tinkerer take one of each weevil, and bring them together for mating in traditionally horned-weevil territory. The question is simple: what happens with the baby weevils?

There's three things that can happen. First, they could be more fit than either of their parents. Second, they could be about the same. Finally, they could be worse and less fit than the parents.

The first condition is known Hybrid Vigour. The second has no name, because biologists are useless like that. The last is called Outbreeding Depression.

I'll go over these one at a time over the next couple of posts. Stay tuned!

Friday, 16 January 2009

I was so plum busy yesterday I forgot to write the post I intended to write. Today's looking about the same! But before I get too busy, I wanted to point to ADN's coverage of the Emmonak story. There's a story about how Palin is mulling the declaration of a financial emergency, apparently yet again. The words `too little, too late.` spring to mind.

Oh, it's amusing to be called one of the `liberal bloggers.` Is there something my readers haven't told me?! :p
To be fair, I think that `liberal blogs` jab is aimed at blogs of consequence, not me with my piddly 10-20 reader blog. ;)

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Pictures

Troubles on the YK delta.

Last year, over the summer, there were big troubles with the salmon fisheries on the Yukon. The counts were low, commercial quota was low, and they were thinking about slashing subsistence quota - you know things have gone to hell when they're thinking about messing with subsistence quota. They ended up not doing that, but because of the commercial situation, many folk ended up not working.

This has set a few communities up for big trouble in the winter. Emmonak (Imangaq) is north of Alakanuk, south of Kotlik, off the Yukon. Between the weak salmon run, early freeze up and that bad cold-stretch we had, people are unable to afford both fuel and food simultaneously. Subsistence harvest is barely making a difference. There's now a letter 'bout it in the Bristol Bay Times, which I'm going to reproduce in full, here.


January 9, 2009

Fuel Summit Participants

Emmonak, AK 99581

RE: Fuel Crisis Devastating Families & Households

Ladies and Gentlemen:

From several years ago, our heating fuel and gasoline costs have doubled in Emmonak. Current retail prices are $7.83 per gallon for heating fuel and $7.25 per gallon for gasoline, including the city sales tax. Our village has run out of heating fuel and the first airlift shipment has arrived at the airport. As early as today, the retail for our winter shipments is expected to be anywhere from $9 - $11 per gallon or higher.

Last summer, we experienced a king salmon fisheries disaster. We did not have any king salmon commercial openings. We had a chum salmon commercial harvest which is nothing compared to the king fishery. Chum harvest traditionally covered our king salmon fishing start-up costs, most of the purchase of new equipment, repair and maintenance, supplies, and operating expenses. Our commercial fishermen did not make any money. Our income from this meager, small-scale commercial harvest is basic to and vital to our seasonal subsistence fishing and hunting, berry picking, plant gathering, motor oil and gas, supplies, equipment, and cash for repairs of our outboard motors and our snowmachines used for winter wood gathering. This income pays for our many household bills.

Last fall, we weren’t delivered our usual fall fuel orders due to early freeze up. Following this, we got hit by a rare weather anomaly: It has been very, very cold since last part of September. This cold snap still persists as of this day. Households have tell me that there is more snow covering the driftwood out in the tundra and the coastlines, making it difficult finding the logs for firewood. A lot more gasoline and motor oil is being used in search of the driftwood. This winter-long, extreme cold snap is causing the furnaces and boilers to run constantly and to their maximum.

My family of ten, with a household of six adults and four minors, is one of the causalities of our current high costs of heating fuel and gasoline that are devastating families and households here in Emmonak of 847 residents. I am 63 and my wife is 54. For the first time, beginning December 2008, I am forced to decide buying between heating fuel or groceries. I had been forced to dig into our January income to stay warm during December. Again, for this month, same thing happens. I am taking away my February income this month to survive. Couple of weeks ago, our 8-year old son had to go to bed hungry. My wife and I provide for our family with disability, Veterans’ benefits, social security, and unemployment incomes. We are several months behind on our city water and sewer bills. We had originally used up all our $1,200 energy subsidy to prepay electricity for the winter and other bills in hope of surviving for this winter due to these high fuel costs. We didn’t anticipate the early freeze-up that prevented our native corporation getting its winter supplies of fuel. We didn’t anticipate an unexpected winter-long bitter cold. I don’t recall anything having occurred as cold as it has been and its length that we have to endure. The following are the costs of heating fuel and a 100-lb bottle of propane between December 12, 2008 and yesterday, a period of 29 days:

December 12, 2008, Stove oil, 55 gals: $ 440.54

December 14, 2008, 100# propane: $ 173.04

December 31, 2008, Stove oil, 55 gals: $ 440.54

January 9, 2009, Stove oil, 59 gallons: $ 471.85

Total: $1,525.97

On December 29, 2008, we had to get 16.1 gallons of stove oil delivered at the cost of $136.03 before we ran out. Luckily, we were awarded $135.59 energy assistance from our Association of Village Councils Presidents during the 3rd week of December 2008. It would have cost us that much more to heat our home. Then, ironically, yesterday, due to a leak, we were forced to buy another 100-pound bottle of propane – an additional, unexpected expenditure of $173.04 to the above. With 21 days left this month, we have just $440 in our account to feed all the nine people in my house (one daughter is in Fairbanks temporarily).

Our family situation dawned on me: “what about my neighbors?” Just two days ago, I made a VHF radio announcement asking families to call me about what is really going on in their households due to the high costs of fuel. Within few hours, 21 households responded and several more yesterday. Many may have had their radios turned off, not at home, or just cannot afford one.

Here is what they related:

P. & K. A.: Middle aged couple, family of five. They are forced to buy heating fuel over food.

M. & M. G.: Middle aged, family of six: No wood at all; hard time buying stove oil.

L. M.: Young single parent, mother of one. On her last energy assistance, 10.2 gallons left, Dad in Anchorage for medical check up; his snowmachine and a 4-wheeler are frozen.

E. & A. U.: Elders, ages 68 and 65, family of eight and helping daughter in another house with food; gets no food stamps and both have no work. They have to buy heating fuel and gasoline for snowmachine over food.

A. & L. M.. Middle aged couple, family of eight. Family is buying heating fuel over food all this winter. They have no choice. Wife has a part time job. Husband’s health, including a bad back, is preventing work – had lost his last job due to health.

J. & W. M.: Family of seven. Husband, 57, provides family with his disability checks. Unable to work due to his health. Needs all the help in keeping house warm and to have enough food for the young children.

C. & J. A.: Middle aged couple, family of 5. Needs heating fuel and had his unemployment benefits denied. No more energy assistance. Having to buy heating fuel over food and sacrificing payments of electric and city water sewer to get food.

T. U., boyfriend and children: Having hard time getting food and pampers and is on-call work. Getting food from elderly parents. Buying heating fuel over food. No food once in a while and having to cook whatever is on hand like rice. Sometimes, having to cook only moose for a whole week because there is nothing else to eat. There are days when there is nothing for breakfast and lunch and have to eat only one dinner meal a day.

T. & J. L.: Young couple, family of four. Hard time getting heating fuel; have no gasoline for their snowmachine to get wood and credit line at the local fuel tank farm is over limit. Family gets some food stamps but goes fast due to high cost of groceries in the village. Sometimes, having just little bit of food in the house because whatever money they have is used primarily for buying hearting fuel.

R. & T. A.: Young couple, family of seven. Family is having difficult time getting heating fuel. They are having hard time getting any jobs in the village. They are forced to get heating fuel and have little bit of food. Wife has to get heating fuel from her father to keep their house warm and keep the hot water heater turned. Both are having very hard time keeping up with electricity and water/sewer bills.

P. J.: Widower and provider of five children. As of December 31, 2008, his food stamps have been cut off. He debates between buying heating fuel or food. His kids have to eat. He has to keep his kids warm at night during these very cold winter days. He is having hard time getting heating fuel and is piled up on bills, rent, water/sewer. He is behind in payments.

A.K. Jr: single, unemployed. Has no stove oil, gasoline and motor oil for getting logs. He depends on neighbors for a snowmachine to get logs. People get tired of him asking. Each trip to get sled load of logs is $50 to $70 to high cost of gasoline at $7.25 a gallon. He is using any kinds of wood including cotton wood just to keep warm. His woodstove is kept off all day during these cold days just to save what little wood he has so he could sleep warm at night. His monthly food stamps last only couple of weeks due to very high cost of groceries in the stores in our village. He has to get some food from his elderly father and uncles to survive. He has not been able to get any heating fuel since last fall. It is a choice between heating fuel or gasoline to get wood. Wood lasts longer. The first part of this winter, he was able to get logs from the coastline, 12 miles out, but they are now covered with snow and extremely hard to find. He is getting whatever he is able get his hand on within a mile away from the village, like willows. On occasion, he pulls a sled by and to get the willows and little wood.

M. & M. A (Sr): Elderly couple, 80 and 75. Four adults live in the household. He is forced to buy heating fuel over food. He gets some help with energy assistance. It is very cold this winter and cannot go without heat. It is hard to get wood. Heating fuel used to be less than the price of gasoline. These days, it is higher. His daughter helps with groceries, water/sewer and electricity bills.

G. & K. F.: Young couple with family of five. Wife is unable to sleep and stressed out not knowing when they will be able get their next heating fuel. A 100-lb. bottle of propane gas that usually lasts four months is now lasting only two months because they use it to heat water. This costs them $200 every two weeks. They do not have hot water heater. Wife has very little income and uses $375, the one-half of her gross income every two weeks, to get heating fuel. She has no food for her family sometimes, because, she has to split the rest of what little is left for water/sewer and electricity. Gasoline for her 4-wheeler is very expensive. Her parents help her with food and firewood. They cannot afford a snowmachine or a boat to get logs. Heating fuel and propane is taking her food money away. Her added worry is that the village native corporation is running out of heating fuel and is being airlifted in. New cost is expected to be near $9 - $11 per gallon or higher.

R. & M. W: Near middle aged couple, family of 5. Husband not working, use wood for heating and a monitor at night. At times, have to decide between getting heating fuel or food. Their food stamps and other public assistance applications have been denied citing over income. Wife knows the customers are being refused charges at the local tank farm. The company is hurt having to say no to customers with over-limit balances and it gets very difficult at times.

J. & M. B: Young couple, family of 9. They used to have energy assistance. They have run out of heating fuel many times. Most of the time, they are getting their heating fuel at $28 - $30 at a time. This comes to less than five gallons at a time. They use their woodstove during the day and the monitor at night. Although they had gotten more subsistence food to fill their freezer, they are already running out of moose. They do have lots of fish on hand, but on other stables, they barely have enough most of the time – barely enough to eat. They want get more their groceries from the store, but can’t. Most of the time they would have just rice and maybe spam – as long as their kids did not go to bed hungry(could sense choking over the phone from trying not to cry).

C. & L. R: Near middle aged couple, with six children. Another family moved in with them. They are having difficult time. They did had gotten some energy assistance. They are in need of pampers and formula milk. Sometimes, the entire household has one meat a day – at supper time. They are struggling to get heating fuel. They are behind in their electricity, water and sewer bills. The last time, they we able to get 17 gallons of heating fuel. (Could tell the wife was crying as she related these to me.)

Y. & A. K(Sr): Husband is 70 and wife. Three in the household. Husband is sick with Parkinson’s disease. He gets dizzy. He is forced to quit his job. He is unable to get other work. He is real hurt that he cannot do what he had been able to do. At 68, he was still working. They are going through real hardship. He would not be getting some heating fuel and firewood if it were not for his boys. They would be in very bad shape. They are having snowmachine problems. He counts on his boys to get firewood. He is unable to do that. Gasoline for the snowmachine is too high at $7.04 a gallon. He is exempt from city sales tax. He has no way to feed his family. His boys did set net under ice, but due to the very long cold snap, it is frozen to the ice. Sometimes they go hungry. He cries when he is alone – have to let it out. He does not feel old – his health is stopping him from providing for his family. He is not used to it. He is used to getting a paycheck every two weeks. The electricity and city water/sewer bills are higher – hopes they will not be cut off.

M. & P. Y: Husband is 58, family of four. Although he started work last August, most of the time, little at a time, he is getting heating fuel. He has a monitor stove. His energy assistance is depleted. His house is cold half of the time. He does not get food stamps. His Permanent Fund Dividend is all gone. His rent is $250 per month. He is struggling to make ends meet.

G. & F. H: Near middle aged couple, family of six. The husband cried as he was talking to me. He says he is not doing good. He receives a very small unemployment income and is out of fuel a lot. He is able to get his heating fuel five gallons at a time. His family has been out of food for quite some time now. Their one-year old child is out of milk, can’t get it and he has no idea when he will be able to get the next can. He has been borrowing milk from anyone he can. His moose meat supply is running out. He has been out of work since October 2008. There are no jobs available. Because of this very high cost of heating fuel, he is in this situation. The electricity has sky-rocketed and he can’t pay all the bills. What little money he gets goes into food and it is getting very, very hard. He hopes to find food somewhere. He is mainly concerned about his one-year old child, his wife and thinks that his wife may be pregnant. They do have some pilot bread, There are days without food in his house. He is not concerned about himself, but about his wife and children. He calls other family members for a can of milk. Whatever little bit of meat they have left, they are trying to make it last. They have little bit of it at a time and out of that, eat as much they can so that they would not be too hungry during the night. They almost lost their child last year with RS. She is sickly. Their house is not well insulated. The five gallons of heating fuel they are able get last four days. They use their electric stove for heat. Without any work, it is very hard. It is hard for me to imagine what my family has to go further on with – my kids and my wife. This winter is hardest for us with high price of everything. My brother and his son, we give them some food, whatever little we have. We let them eat as long as I have something to share. Our freezers are going empty. Have to use heaters to help keep the house warm. Just to think about all this is very hard – it hurts.

P. R: Single, separated, with five children. (He chokes occasionally, holding back crying.) He and his children are staying in the same household with his brother’s family. Cost of fuel is so high and everything else and we’re able to get just a few things at a time. We have no other subsistence food left. Only thing we’re surviving on moose meat alone and it is almost gone. Everything is so high – only able to get little bit. We can’t catch up on our bills. We’re really hurting even we are given some from other people. Right now, we can’t eat during the day, only at supper time. And, it is still not enough. If there had been no school lunch, our kids would be starving. It is going to get worse in two weeks when our new heating fuel supply is airlifted in. Price of fuel will go way up again. I am lucky that the Women’s Shelter is able to give me some coffee.

M. M. & A.R: Middle aged, couple with a child, family of three. Don’t know how they are going to survive. They are getting heating fuel five gallons at a time or $20 at a time. When the new supply of fuel is air shipped in, it is going to get even harder. We are improvising our woodstove. This is the hardest year – other years were okay. This is the worst year.

S.K & Girlfriend: Both young, 37 and 34. He says his mom has cried from these hardships they are going through (his mom is 73 and dad is 68). He and his girlfriend have no heating fuel. Whatever money he gets goes to getting gasoline for his snowmachine to get logs. They have barely any money left for food. Sometimes, he has to borrow little bit of money to get some food from his 73-year old mom. There are some days he and his girlfriend are without any food. Today, they had nothing for breakfast. Most of the time, they have some dry fish for lunch or Cup of Noodles with Pilot Bread. There are times they go without dinner or if they eat, they have little bit and that would set them up for the night. His electricity bill use to be $60 for the little house they’re in and now it is over $100 a month. They’re living without city water/sewer and use honey buckets and have to dump them. They pack water. They have no money for city water and sewer. Their snowmachine is finally out of commission. They had to keep using it to get whatever firewood they could even the bearings had been broken because they can’t afford to do repair work on the machine. They were packing water with in that condition.

O. & A. M: Young couple, 34 and 37, five in the family. They are in need of heating fuel and food. They are buying so much heating fuel – burning so much. They are having hard time getting food. They have not paid for their city water/sewer since October 2008. They go without dinner sometimes. Their kids are able to have lunch – at school. They have no woodstove. Their house is very small and if they did get a woodstove, they wouldn’t know where to put it.

T. & A. P: Middle aged couple, 47 and 41. Eight in the family. Very, very cold winter. Their 55-gallon heating fuel lasts only two weeks: this is about $441 every two weeks. They are able to burn wood, but the gas for the snowmachine is very expensive and the logs are very hard to find in this early snow. Logs are covered under the snow. The husband has to use more gasoline and motor oil in search of the logs for firewood. Rent and rent payments are okay. Husband has a part time work and some unemployment income. The family receives some food stamps but runs out around the third week of each month. Subsistence hunting is not easy because it takes time, having to use lot more gas at $7.25 a gallon. He and his wife can’t even get hygiene stuff like toilet paper and bath soap to keep clean. His part time income isn’t enough – he works only four hours a day. His wife is limited on what jobs she can get. She has a bad back problem – she use to have a job. Husband is doing what he can by himself.

As you can see, I had only a day and a half to gather and compile this information. I am reaching out for these families. Help is needed and cannot be delayed. I cannot imagine so many in this village are in hunger, without fuel, and other essentials and uncertain about their future. What is mind boggling about the whole situation is that they have remained silent, anonymous, suffered, and cried. The four villages in this region are in close proximity to each other and the demography is the same. Is this going on in your village?

This is not the time for any debates or questions. The winter-long anomaly in the weather, conditions, and the situation are beyond our control.

There are approximately 200 households of the 847 residents here. In just a day and half, I was able to reach only 25 households. Are as many as 175 more remaining silent? In appearance, the heads of these 25 households look normal. I am devastated from the revelation of these few houses contacted. Additionally, how many of those who are able to work are without jobs? Easily, staggering 400 plus! Some other households are still calling, but I have few hours to print this report for my testimony during today’s fuel summit.

Though it may sound absurd, a massive airlift of food in the months of January, February, March and April will help our people. Any peoples, churches, organizations, associations, and government agencies ought to sent money to our native corporations to offset both the current fuel prices and the airlift presently underway. For over thirty years, we have witnessed in our region that our native corporations are just like people. They have limited income and their expenses have always been high. Why? Our Wade Hampton district has always been the most economically depressed than that of our both nation and state. We are in the most remote area of our state.

To help, please call:

City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249

Emmonak Tribal Council, (907) 949-1720

Emmonak Corporation, (907) 949-1129/1315/1411

Emmonak Sacred Heart Catholic Church Pastoral Parish Council Chairman, (907) 949-1011.

To assist with offsetting heating fuel costs, call Emmonak Corporation.

For distribution of food, I would suggest Emmonak Tribal Council handle this.

Lastly, for some who do not know me, I have been advocate for this region the past thirty years in its commercial and subsistence fisheries, social issues, and socio-economic issues and our church. One of my credentials include having been an appointed by two governors as advisor to the Yukon River Salmon Treaty negotiations. The families contacted are reaching out in desperation through me and now, you.

Sincerely,

Nicholas C. Tucker, Sr.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A few quick pointers to news articles.

Hooray! We finally get our fireworks, now that it's warm enough to actually manage them. I think there's a metaphor for our state somewhere in there, but I can't find it with two hands and a flashlight. By the by, it's going to get so warm that if you have food in chests on your porch, you might want to bury it in snow.

Another poweroutage in Juneau. You think they would have learned after last year. Why can't they just bury the dang cables, anyhow? That'd be 100% avalanche proof.

Moving companies say more people are moving to AK than from. I think there's reason to be dubious about the findings, namely that people who move to AK tend to need the extra hand into the unfamiliar state, but the time people leave, they have a good idea how things roll around here, and they can wing moving themselves.

Darling you got to let me know, Should I stay or should I go?

Yesterday, after having survived the entire coldsnap, I took off my jacket, only to have the sleeve Riiiiiiiiiiiiip. I'll tell you what, I nearly broke down in a fit of obscenity right then and there. It's down the seam on the sleeve of the insulated part of the jacket (the shell of the jacket is sorta separate, and you zip the two into each other). I don't know how to fix it (I got a recommendation already, in true Alaskan style: Apply ducttape), but more importantly, should I fix it? Should I even try? After all, I've expressed my dis-satisfaction with the jacket previously, but I was hoping my next clothing purchase would be a nice pair of mittens made of the finest of dead animal (Same person with the duct tape suggestion said it perfectly: `nothing warmer than dead animal`).

I'm entertaining options. I talked to someone who owned those orange Mountain Hardware jackets which, sadly, only come in blasé brown for men, instead of eye-bleeding orange (I like high-vis, so if I ever end up face down in a ditch, rescue can spot me easier). While cold tolerances vary, she said that she had to layer extensively to make the thing work. I don't mind that - that's how I made my now ex-jacket work - it does tend to leave the arms a little nippier than the core. So, that's option A.

Option B - while waiting for my permit at ADF&G last week, I had a bunch of time to talk to the other folk in line. As an aside, I listented to people talk for a half hour before I realized one of the people was, in fact, a female. Courtship at -40 below, where half the strugle is figuring out who is of the correct gender. Anyhow, one of the guys (and I assume he wasn't a bearded lady) had one of those slick Apocalypse Design parkas. Oh, how I coveted. I'm fairly sure it was the Alpine, fitted with a wolverine ruff on the hood. That'd end up costing me a pretty penny, though, for the same get up. But you can't put a price on being warm. The only problem with that, though, is that I might overheat easily, when I'm active (as I'm wont to be.

Option Q - Move to Hawaii. I'm sure they have moose to study.

Option 5 and 7 - Big Ray's has a number of home made or home modded jackets, such as this modded Interchange jacket, modeled by a Matt Damon lookalike. Another guy wore this purely homebrew jacket at the line at ADF&G, but I'm not sure I like the cuffs. I think I glanced at it while I was at Big Ray's, once.

Option e^π - Ducttape. Redgreen would approve, but my arms would go on being cold. Doubly so now that I'm insulated by ducttape alone.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Beer Snobbery

This is too good not to repost! From Kon-Kon, who got it from Sloshspot. Click for a full view! :}

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Down with DST!

I wrote the following letter to my state rep, Mike Kelly.
Dear Mr. Kelly,
As one of your constituents, I'm writing you in support of a bill in the house titled "Exempting the state and its political subdivisions from daylight saving time."

As anyone who lives in Alaska knows, the bulk of the state experiences massive shifts in solar periods, in our district, from 24 hour daylight to a bare 4 hour peep this time of year. Daylight Savings time is an effective strategy in temperate latitudes, where seasonal solar variation is moderate, between N42 degrees and N35 degrees. Alaska does not qualify on any of these points, and so it gains no energy savings by switching to Daylight Savings time. Additionally, national statistics show that the transition to and from Daylight Savings Time is associated with an increase in car accidents and human mortality. It seems that Alaska is incurring all of the consequences of Daylight Savings Time, without reaping any benefits.

It's for this reason we should exempt our state from Daylight Savings Time. I urge you to support this bill so to rid ourselves of this unfortunate relic.

Best Wishes,
[Name censored]

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Mackey to not race the Yukon Quest

ADN is carrying a story saying Lance Mackey won't be going on the Yukon Quest this year. I'm bummed. Mackey is sort of the hometown mushing hero. The Iditarod is... eh. It's not the same. And it doesn't come near here.

Overheard

Two scientists talking about something or another, yesterday.
It's when everything seems great that you're screwed. That means things are so bad that you don't even know what's wrong.

Friday, 9 January 2009

When Making Do is Setting Yourself Back

I'd written previously about the concept of `geek cred` among scientists. It's pretty universal, and I've yet to see an organization that doesn't engage in that sort of one-upmanship. Derek Lowe over at In The Pipeline has some interesting thoughts about how this `who can do the most impressive feats with the worst resources` attitude might actually be counterproductive. Now, Derek is industry, and not academia, so that definitely colours his discourse. But it's food for thought anyhow.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

When Pandas Attack.

There was another mauling in a Chinese Zoo, when a man jumped a barrier into a panda enclosure.Obviously, I blame the bear. They are, after all, heathen animals that only desire to feast on our flesh. The bear is a repeat offender, as the bear had mauled a person who tried to hug it, on the grounds that the human was drunk.

I've written about the danger of these monsters before.
Remember, the only good Panda Bear is an extinct panda bear.

Some perspective.

Here's a little sliding scale for folks who have a understanding what various metric temperatures mean. Did you know that the US is legally a metric nation? Honest to god truth. Happened somewhere a couple decades back. Congress just showed about as much attention and followthrough to converting signs and measures as they do in all their endeavours. At the time of writing this, the thermometer said it was -46°C. Where does that put us?
  • 50°C 122°F Warm day in Kuwait; Melting point of Californians.
  • 45°C 113°F Average August day in Kuwait
  • 40°C 104°F A hot day in Salt Lake City. Most Alaskans spontaneously combust.
  • 35°C 95°F About Human Body temp. Austrailian beach weather.
  • 30°C 86°F A hot day in Fairbanks. A lovely spring morning in California.
  • 25°C 77°F Allegedly "Room temperature." Australians put on a jacket.
  • 20°C 69°F Chrysler trucks start working properly.
  • 15°C 59°F My room Temp. 50% of Australians die of cold exposure.
  • 10°C 50°F An average July day in Barrow. Fall in Michigan.
  • 5°C 41°F Midwesterners reach for their jackets. You can see your breath! Still some time left to garden in Alaska.
  • 0°C 32°F Water Freezes. North Carolinians decide it's damndably cold. Alaskans put on shorts and suntan.
  • -5°C 23°F Remaining 5% of Australians boggle that the numbers can go /negative/. Fairbanksans wash their trucks. Best Ice Cream temperature. Chrysler trucks don't start.
  • -10°C 14°F Michiganders start to complain about the cold. Alaskans get in some BBQing before the temp falls. Sweater weather.
  • -18°C 0°F 0°F was chosen as the zero mark because it was colder than it got in Denmark, and it turned out someone didn't like using negative numbers.
  • -20°C -4°F Anchorage starts whinging about the weather incessantly, while the rest of Alaska wishes they'd shut up. Primo skiing weather. Time to grab the jacket in Fairbanks.
  • -25°C -13°F Unmodified diesel begins to gel. Fairbanksans decide it might be getting a little nippy. Midwesterners flee for Hawaii.
  • -30°C -22°F All atomic motion in 90% of Canadians stops. Fairbanksans decide it's sorta cold. Unaided German Cars won't start.
  • -35°C -31°F Inversion layer begins to build. Fairbanksans waffle around and decide it's kinda cold. Landlords in the Midwest finally decide it's okay to turn on the heat.
  • -40°C -40°F Things begin to break from the temperature. Mercury Freezes. Fairbanksans admit it's `cold.` Unwarmed Toyota Tachoma won't start.
  • -45°C -49°F Electronics begin to break, and then burn up from the temperature. Bethel residents shut up about how `wind chill` is worse, and are just glad they live in a comparative tropical paradise.
  • -50°C -58°F Kerosine begins to gel. Hawaii starts to look really good. Dog insists on sleeping in your bed with you.
  • -55°C -67°F Kerosine finishes gelling. Tok wonders why people in Fairbanks are fussing about a minor coldspell. People out in Fort Yukon finally get around to closing the kitchen window.
  • -60°C -76°F Tok admits it's nippy. Dogs move from sleeping in your bed (with you) to sleeping directly on the woodstove.
  • -63°C -81°F Recorded low for Alaska. Sled dogs take vacation to Hawaii. UAF considers closing campus for half a day, but still doesn't.
  • -65°C -85°F The temperature at which pretty much all `absolutely true` sourdough stories take place.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Pictures

Bethel Trap problems.

Back to wildlife blogging, The Tundra Drums has an article on a recent spate of trap sabotage in the Bethel area. These incidents are often people with an axe to grid with one person, however, more than one trapper is affected. For example, legal trappers often have difficulty in the South Central when the ADN reposts stories about pet by-catch like this recent one. However, it appears this is a continuing issue, and not a knee-jerk reaction to a story (which tends to be limited). Finally, it could be someone on a high horse who's got it in their head to monkeywrench. While it's not typical for people out in the bush to suddenly go on an `animal-rights` crusade, it's not unheard of.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Things that do not like this weather.

I think I'm going to try my hand at a list of things that don't really work past -40. At low temperatures, things just decide to give up the ghost. At really low temperatures, important things in your house start breaking. When it gets cold, Alaskan's start navel gazing; with that in mind, here's some things most people wouldn't think of not working.
  • Bubble Levels.
  • Truck Fan Belts.
  • Cheap Ski Goggles.
  • Skis or Snowboards.
  • Air Compressors. (I won't double dip by adding `oil atomizers`).
  • LCD Screens.
  • Cameras sealed with Camera Grease.
  • Ducttape.
  • Propane Tanks.
  • Traditional Toilet Seats. (God save the person without blue foam!)
  • Garden Variety Extension Cords.
  • Plastic Buckles, Snaps, and plastic slidey string balls.
  • Shopping Cart Wheels.
  • Elastic or some Bungie Cords.
  • Christmas Lights Timers (or at least mine doesn't).
  • Apparently (I found this out last night) Pole Mounted Transformers can go `boom` much more easily.
  • Composite Axe Handles. (Another recent discovery!)
  • Most engines with an electric start (beyond cars).
  • Camal Backs.
  • Pens - and plastic pencils snap easily.
  • Most pieces of unsealed optics, such a binocs, spotting glasses, jeweller lens.
  • 99% of Electric Thermometers.
  • Moleskin.
  • Regular shoe soles (Hat tip to Avery for pointing this one out to me).
  • Tires.
  • Some sorts of motion sensors.
  • ATMs

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Other places that are cold

While I was waiting for the garage to put new belts in my truck, oh, in October I think, I was sitting in the lobby on my laptop, listening to two mechanics talk politics. It was after one of the debates, and they were saying how miserable it looked for McCain. Somehow, Palin came up, and the two had a hearty scoff at the notion that Levi was anything but a shot gun wedding.

About then, one of them mentioned that Levi got his future daddy in law to get him a North Slope job as an apprentice electrician. That caught my attention, and I closed my laptop: "Uh, don't you need an associates to skip the apprenticeship, or a diploma to start the apprenticeship?" There were crickets for a moment. Actually, there was pneumatic tools, but crickets seems more thematically appropriate. "Actually... yes."

Well, it turns out us three weren't the only ones to notice this. Dan Fagan in a letter to ADN's editor also goes, `something's skeezy.` Frankly, this needs attention a little more than `On Second Thought, My name isn't so Bad.` As important it is to document people who had their name changed...

Friday, 2 January 2009

Photo assortment

Here's a random assortment of pictures from the last little bit. First, you can see the excavation from where I ditched my truck. Prettymuch everything to the right of the texture on the road is a false shoulder.

The view from Murphy Dome, on a loverly day.
As I said before, I caught the guy outside the museum working on the sculpture. Here is is, contemplating the deeper meaning of ice blocks
Here's the final product!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Go figure

As I mentioned, I pre-wrote today's blog entry a couple days ago, figuring I would be too out of sorts to manage a proper one on my own. I was right about that. ;)

But just my luck, today was a very warm day. Inappropriate temperature to post at! Clearly, I need to blog about how awful the weather will be this weekend right now, so I can guarantee the same success. O:)

Scheduled Post: What I'm wearing

According to my thermometer, it's -45°F, which is cold by most measures. Going outside for chores requires preparation, and taking a page from Avery's book, here's what I'm putting on for a few hours in the out of doors.

Base layer: Boxers, REI MTS heavy fleece pants, Poly-pro t-shirt, Fox Creek Wool Socks.
Mid layer: Carhart Flannel Lined Blue Jeans, Flannel Shirt, my LARS hoody, keeping my Marmot Reactor microfleece along with me just in case.
Outer Layer: Carhart Extreme Biboralls, Baffin Barneo winter pac boots, Columbia Interchange Parka, Loki fleece face mask, A wool lined poly-hat, and a pair of ancient mittens only identifiable as `Zeno.` Or zero. I'm not sure.

The one thing I don't like is the Columbia Interchange parka. It's too light weight. Big Rays sells modded jackets with extra insulation for Fairbanks, but if I bought a new jacket, I'll probably go with one of those mountain hardware down jackets. Columbia doesn't sell the interchange jacket itself, anymore. But since my hat and mittens are getting oooooold, those are going to be the next in line to get changed out. Especially since the mittens are a) my brother's from many moons ago so b) way to big for me.