Friday, 31 October 2008

Fairbanks at Night.

Fairbanks at Night. I took some other pictures, but most of them were too noisy to post. I had ISO too high. I'm slowly figuring it out, I guess.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

From two nights ago

The best part about Digital cameras is how many pictures you can take. I took a lot, Tuesday Night, managing to slog through my camera settings, get the focus just right, while freezing my hands off and feeling the effects of a couple Alaska Ambers. I'm kinda happy with how some of them turned out, though in the future, I'm going for my jacket first. I'm fondest of the first one; I continue to be pleased with the CCD in my camera.Here's hoping that Qaariitaaq has a good showing too!

The reason for the season

Forget the war on Christmas: the sharp folks at the Onion ask has Halloween become too commercialized?
I'm inclined to say yes! Kids these days are so disconnected from this cornerstone of American Holidays that some of them don't know that if you fail to follow the leader as you visit the women, you will fall into another dimension. Imagine that! A whole generation who doesn't understand that not only will they fall into a spectral realm, but that spirits of sickness will roam the town, and the sun is liable to sink into the horizon and never return.
I bet it's the fault of the liberal media. I, for one, refuse to say `happy Halloween.` Instead, I let out a blood curtling cry in the hopes that frightens off any monsters or ghosts that are lingering around the children.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Rotten bits of apple.

I've been having a problem where I go into `system preferences` on my mac, and click on network, only to have it tell me Your network settings have been changed by another application. in an infinite loop. Additionally, my internet at home is (yet again) down, so I couldn't tell what problem was responsible for what. Well, I think I have them disentangled, and if your Mac running 10.4 does what I got, here's the solution from someone else.

The aurora was burning brightly last night, so vividly that it seemed to illuminate things like the sun. I had... a bit to drink, and it was cold. Or cold if you're just wearing a fleece. Working a camera in those conditions was kinda tricky, so we'll see what turned out.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Random thoughts, bulletpoint style

Some bullet points.
  • I abandoned Google Analytics after messing with it for a while. I can't get it to work again. Switched over to StatCounter with @Cathy's suggestion. Turns out I already had an account with them. Huh.
  • Hey, wasn't the weather supposed to warm up, here? It's still been -20 to -30°C these last few days, despite promises last Friday it'd be tropical by now. I feel cheated!
  • The Wings have been winning this last week, but I'm not ready to fly the jolly-rodger. SO against the Kings last night? You're kidding me. It's the LA Kings. It's like being tied up by Lathrop Highschool, it's just embarrassing for an NHL team. And that's been their week. 'Nooks have had an even worse mixed-bag, of which I will say no more.
  • I foxes in my area. They're raiding me nightly. This annoys me. I've never trapped for fox, but now is a good time to learn. If I trap now and say `defence of property` (which is of dubious permissibility), I'd have to surrender the whole thing to the state. Best to wait until Nov 1st when I could just trap it under a general license.

Monday, 27 October 2008

As a friend from bethel just said, "Wholy Sit."

So, It turns out Mark Begich just won the election 12 votes to 0. Congrats to him, I guess. There's a minute chance that voters will re-elect Teddy anyhow, but I think it's so vanishing that it barely merits mention. Even if he does make it, the senate can expel him, forcing a special election (Palin can't appoint the new senator, as a reminder).

Between him and the struggles Don is facing, both electorially and from criminal investigation, are we going to see a near total changing of the guard? It's hard to imagine, but it looks like we're edging on it. I, honestly, had my doubts that this would go this far, because of how bungled it was by the FBI - Stevens has ample fodder for appeals from now until the day he dies. Now that it's actually done, it's about as surreal as the whole Palin-as-VP thing.

I guess, one thing is for sure, it'll be nice in a few weeks to get some of the national spotlight off our fair home. I doubt Ted'll go quietly, but things should have died down just a little.

Not a reference to a Meme.

So, wait, why do we care where badgers go? Well, you might not, but scientists do. We're talking specifically about eurasian badgers, Meles meles, not its North American doppleganger Taxidea taxus (taxus being the latin for `divided`, like how the badger is pinstriped). Badgers are Mustelids, which means they think with their stomach, if they think at all; I'm fond of Mustelids, and not just the classically fur-bearing ones. Even the exceptionally clever ones are wonderfully stupid in their own way.

Now, badgers tend to disperse, or relocate to a place away their birthplace. This can be permanent, or non-permanent. Actually, dispersal is a common feature of a lot of species, but MacDonald et al. 2008 happened to focus on badgers. Part of the reason animals tend to disperse is to get away from competing with close kin. Interestingly, "even in a stable and saturated environment in which the mortality of dispersing individuals is 100%, dispersal rates , 0.5 are not evolutionarily stable (Hamilton and May 1977)." This I did not know. I'm not sure I believe it; I'll have to go read Hamilton and May.

Eurasian badgers are interesting, because in part, they're arranged in large social groups that stem from natal group-formation. In other parts, they're largely solitary (think Mr. Badger from Wind in the Willows). Further, they're polygynandrus, or promiscuous, with a minority of males from outside a given social group siring the majority of cubs. Dispersal might play a key role in achieving large degrees of reproductive success in badgers, one might surmise.

MacDonald et al. used about 17 years of live-trapping data from a location north of Oxford, England. Sparing you the gruesome details of the methods, they estimated that 19% of badgers dispersed in their study period, and the bulk of them were to adjacent social groups. They found no significant deviation between males and females in dispersing, or dispersal distances. Males apparently dispersed more in autumn or spring, and females moreso in summer - the former in a period where females tend to be in oestrous.

The authors figure that about 10% of individuals who became yearlings dispersed, but 40% of those who survived to 8 years dispersed. This is a fairly high level of dispersal, and interestingly, density didn't appear to impact dispersal. That is to say, frequently, when animal density is high, it's thought that violent interactions will prevent many dispersers from being successful. However, it appeared that males who dispersed had much higher levels of injury, which seems to give the `social fence` hypothesis a bit of a respite.

With the evidence of extra-territorial matings, the authors seem to suggest that the inbreeding avoidance aspect of dispersal might not be as important as other mechanisms. They found that dispersals didn't tend to be permanent, and they could easily satisfy the needs of extra-territorial mating for inbreeding avoidance. The badgers, in short, get to have their cake and eat it too, not surrendering territory to get outside their natal group to avoid inbreeding.

Why do I care?

First, badgers are neat critters. But more importantly than that, inbreeding avoidance is an important part of life-history. Some of my last lab's work had a strong focus in inbreeding avoidance in animals, so it's a topic near to my heart. Further, several ungulate have the same genetic patterns of paternity, though with different social structures. I'm thinking, in particular, about Pronghorn, where multiple paternities are fairly common in twins. Now, the folks who did the pronghorn work suggested moose guys check for the same patterns, and I'd be curious to see if they bear out. But with what I know about moose biology (i.e., less than a moose knows) I'd be curious now to check to see if the gigas sub sp. (Alaskan moose) tend to show the same male-life time short-dispersals. It's more of a stretch from badger social ecology to moose, because moose largely lack social structure through most of the year, but that's not to say they don't distribute themselves across the land in a similar manner.
It bears looking at, anyhow.


Saturday, 25 October 2008


I was lacing up to head out, and my boot burst a seam! I had to wear my pac-boots to go out, and they're far too warm for this weather (It's only -25°C this morning, not like the frigid +20° C DaveDownUnder is forced to endure). I guess I had this coming - I'd long since worn the liner out of them, and my feet were cold unless I was actively moving, when I was wearing them. And the liner was one of those sewn in liners. So to have it pop is just the damning kick-in-the-butt to tell me that I really need a new pair now (I've, in no order, lost both origional laces, tore out an j hook (which I re-attached), wore out the liners, and seperated the heel. Not to mention they weren't that colour when they started ~7 years ago. I went around some stores to poke at boots, but apparently short boots are fashonable these days for the 0 to -20 sort of boot.

Driving back, I got stopped by a train. Strange thing was, the train wasn't moving. It was just sitting on the tracks. I sat there patiently, but other cars (which are unusual sights before 1pm on a weekend!) slowly bailed out to try and find a way around the train. I presume they didn't, because a few of them ended up behind me. :)

"Thomas Jefferson wants "murder robbery" taught in our elementary schools, people!"

Think this election is long, and especially nasty? Us crazy modern kids have nothing on the skills of the masters. Guys like Jefferson and Adams - people we think of as the founding fathers of the country, also sired a bastard child we call `dragging the a campaign through a cesspool.` I got to say, compared to those, the current Presidential election looks pretty tame - at one point, John Quincy Adams said that if Jackson was elected, we would all be hanged by the neck. Yes, apparently his opponent was characterizing his position as being `pro-murder-of-everyone-everywhere.`

A lot of the politics is just plan funny, 200 years after the fact. I wonder what sort of laughs we'll be providing to our great grandkids?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Icky Bears

This is, without a doubt, the worst bear mount I've seen. Not just slightly bad, pretty horrifically bad. It excels at being awful. Wow.

And, naturally, the museum has it nice, front and centre for tourists to see it first thing when they arrive.

So the museum has this thing on hunting and trapping in Alaska, and I'm tempted to see it before they pack it up. I'm told that it's actually a good exhibit, and from people aren't... well, they aren't the usual museum going crowd. They've also had periodic events at the museum for adults and kids. You can visit the calendar to see upcoming events - most of them are free to the public.

Oh. Side note. A trusted source™ has told me that it's pal'tuuq. That's what I'm sticking with. Heh. Forget words for snow (which there aren't many for), darn language has far too many words for clothing! ;)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Late night ruminations

9:30p is late for me, anyhow.

To the sole person who turned off their brights on Farmers Loop Road when I passed, I am very glad to you.
Because you kept me from hitting a moose.

I don't wish all the people who wouldn't turn off their brights, and insisted on blinding me, would hit a moose, because that's not nice to the moose. Instead, I hope they rear-end each other.

Blog Administrivia

Since I changed my format to the new layout, my tracker code for Google Analytics has been broken. I thought it was a bit odd for two days that no one visited, but then I started getting comments (which you can't leave without visiting), and no hits from the google analytics tracker thing. I tried reinstalling the code, but that didn't seem to work.

Computer savvy people, I beseech you! How can I get that darn thing working again?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Bullet point style.

  • Palin says the election is in the hands of God. I suspect the voters have a say, too. I don't like this kinda talk. Because if they win, they say God wants them to win. If they lose, they never said God cost them the election. And it brings up the whole `knowing the mind of God` thing.
  • Apparently paltuuk is pal'tuuk, and not uligaaq. Except it might be ullirtaaq. I'm confused! (Qanerlartut uligaaq wall' ullirtaaq? Naam!)
  • The fresh snow means all the tracks are gone. Aw. :( I need to get a roll of feild tape to flag areas I want to return to.


I'm shamelessly stealing an idea I've seen around. It's called `wordless Wednesday.` It's pretty easy for me, because not writing is very easily done. But I don't know if wordless Wed has a theme, or rules or whatever, so I'm just going to call it `pictures.` Yes, imaginative!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Antler types

Mostly for Avery, who asked a question thingy:
Here's a quick picture from one of our teaching spaces in my building. We have a nice mount next to a moose rack.
Now, you can probably see the gross differences between them. Some people consider Caribou/Reindeer antlers to be palmate. I think beyond the shovel, you're hard pressed to make the argument that there's sufficient fill between the tines (points) of the rack to qualify it as palmate. I would consider the Fallow Deer to be palmate, as opposed to Caribou. Others, like Geist, would probably disagree with me.

I get the ultimate copout in arguments, though. I'm not a morphologist. I'm not overly concerned with the differences. If it's not scottishDNA, it's crrrrrraap. Not really, but it's still fun to say

Academia and sports.

If you're at a small university, or a liberal arts college, the numbers get even lower. For the level of investment you need to make in education, and for how long it takes you to get the job, being a professor is described as the worst economic decision you can make in your life.

But! But! The politicians of both parties say education is super important! They wouldn't just be blowing smoke, would they?
I should have watched more football growing up. :p

Monday, 20 October 2008

Hockey, Cats, and Random Questions

First, Hockey:
The nooks got blanked by that Maine team, and the $&$*ing Seawolves took the the Gold Rush. Not pretty. Again, they weren't hot on the powerplays - obviously, since they were /blanked/. The Wings had a `meh` weekend, with an overtime win against the Rangers. Technically a win, but nothing good enough for me to raise the jolly-rodger. Especially after the Canucks game.

Second, News:
Anchorage has a Feral Cat problem. I've got a solution to the Feral Cat problem, but it's not quite what the story's author had in mind... God those biologist folk are so mean, eh? I find the bit about `You can't kill them, it's illegal!` to be rather incredulous. Under ADF&G rules, deleterious exotic species may be killed whenever, wherever, with nothing but safety related restrictions (e.g., no firing your 40 cal at pigeons downtown Anchorage). I don't see why Feral Cats would be exempt from that.
As a side note, there's an interesting line of thought linking schizophrenia to a zoonotic disease from cats. It sounds bizarre, but there might actually be something to the `crazy cat lady` phenomenon.

The ADN ran a story about Palin's Yup'ik connections via her husband. I'm not going to address the `is he Yup'ik or not` talk. That's not for anyone to decide, and it's not strictly a matter of heredity (though, that's got a role to be sure). I will, however, reply to the story by saying Charles Curtis was a lower 48 Native. He was also our first Native Vice-President. Never hear of him? Well, you didn't miss much. Mostly, he spent his time trying to stomp tribes out of existence, before becoming a do-nothing VP. Just being married to a group, or even being a member of a group, does not make you good for that group. You have to look at how that person actually acts.

Random Question:
Hey. Why doesn't ice form around where the mirror attaches to the windshield? Anyone know? Here's an older picture to show what I mean. Not from this month, obviously!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Powell endorses Obama?

Colin Powell, a man I rather respect, made a political endorsement this morning. Naturally, I hopped over to the YouTubes to find the substance of his endorsement. Here's the video; below are my comments.

This whole Ayres nonsense is nothing more than a distraction. No one in their right mind could claim that a sitting US senator is really in league with terrorists out to destroy America, but that seems to be what we're being told. Further, when the McCain campaign spells out what they mean, it's clear they're screaming about tangental associations at best.

When Powell mentioned the bits about `Obama is an Arab/Muslim,` he really struck home with me. This has been bothering me for a while. On one hand, I'm glad McCain corrected the lady when she said `Obama is an Arab, and that scares me,` but on the other... the better response would be `even if he is, so what?`

The bit about two more conservative supreme court nominations - eh. I would agree with him only insofar as he means socially conservative folk on the Evangelical Protestant Band Wagon. Otherwise, we'll part company here.

We're still not in good company when he started on about McCain's economic plan. With what I learned about economics in my college years, I'm not terribly enamoured with either of their plans. To say a man confidently heading down the wrong path is better than one moving erratically down the wrong path scarcely grasps the magnitude of the problem in the leadership.

When he said `all towns have value,` that was much better, though. Fairbanks' size depends on who you are. If you're an Alaskan, it's the big city. If you're in the lower 48, Fairbanks is a middling town at best, and that's to put it generously (doubly so when you realize 1/4th to 1/3rd of the town is transient military personnel and their families).

I think of Fairbanks as more to the larger end of the spectrum, but I like to think we have values too. So does Salt Lake City. New York City. Detroit. Even Salem. To say the over half of the country that lives in an urban area that their values don't matter is a bit of a slap in the citizenry's face. It definitely shows that they're less interested in doing well by all Americans than they are in placating their `base.`

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Bear-Human conflict in the Tanana valley.

Woops! I've been fairly distracted with life these last few days. Sorry folks!

Brown Bears are at a lower density in the interior than they are in the South Central. That doesn't mean that Anchorage is alone in bear-human conflict. The story from yesterday's Daily Minor News is point-in-case. Paradoxically, the lesser frequency of bear-human conflicts in the Interior can lead to an increase in the severity of them.

Seem like an odd statement? Consider this: bear awareness follows a sort of function of bear-human interaction. Because the frequency is low, awareness is low. Because education and awareness are low, any given incident is more likely to result in serious consequences for the human, or the destruction of the bear.

For me, it's entirely alien, but there are actually people in this area who don't think there are any bears in this part of the Tanana valley. I've met a few. This is a failure of education, though its severity is up for debate.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

It's like a scavenger hunt, but only more bizarre.

Alas! Cabin Dweller has gone over to the darkside, with its running water and its flushing toilets. For shame! My water comes in big blue carboys and that's the way I like it!

(Well, actually, the plumbed places I looked at this fall were all even worse than the place I was living, so that never happened.)

But in their dirge for the proper cheap-ass Alaskan Lifestyle™, they mentioned experiences with stumbling across weird stuff around their home. Namely, caribou heads nailed to trees. You might think `Wow, how random!,` and indeed I can't top that. But I can identify with the experience.

I frequently walk my home, sometimes heading back into the refuge, sometimes not. And about every time I go, I find some new, totally random thing out there. It started with a hobo camp hidden about 300 yards back from where I dump my slop. I didn't see it for the longest time because it's blocked by a thick stand of spruce. But when I went back there, someone built a camp out of tent parts, blankets, tarps, and other random crap. What got me is the cause for abandonment. It appears that it survived the winter, got to spring, and then a ridgepole broke. Whoever was living there could manage -40° (No one was in my cabin then), but apparently thought it was too much effort to get a new stick. A note said that someone can use it if they fix it.


Other things I've found include cookware in random places in the woods, and strange random shacks and sheds. Stacks of spent brass, and no shortage of beer bottles. There's a random dog-house just plunked out there that I'll tear down one of these days. There's random bags, torn and worn by the non-existant wind and very existent animals, tied up in trees, their contents long since gone.

One of these days, I'll also abandon the dry home, and move into a posh mansion with both running water and indoor rest facilities, just as soon as I have the time to commit to the project (Also, moving in the winter is a bit of a bad idea for me). In the mean time, I'm content finding random appliances, buildings, and signs of unwelcome habitation around my home, and resigned to living near the dog musher equivalent of welfare-parents, quite pleased with the neighbours that I see frequently enough to converse, and consigned to the fact that even if I get several of the feral dogs, I won't get enough of them to make a dent in their numbers.

Actually, now that CabinDweller mentions it, the outhouse stalagmites are kinda really annoying.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Think back about 7 years, to late 2001. Right after the terrorist attacks. I think we all remember where we were then, except for those 6 and 7 yearolds, who have been raised in the bizzarro world that's taken over since then. Anyhow, remember how all the news outlets were saying that finally Irony is Dead? You can google it, and read over all those stories again and again. That's what I love about google. I'm not sure how I wasted time before it, but I'm pretty sure it involved disreptuable things.

Anyhow. "Irony is dead." Naïvety, or good old fashioned stupïdety?

Speaking of stupïd, how about that Dow, eh? It's canteering around like a drunk on a snowmachine. We're getting told that it's okay because it went up yesterday, but that's like saying the guy swerving all over on the road is fine because he's in the right lane for the moment. Technically it's true. But under those criteria, it's a good thing if you light a person suffering from frostbite on fire. It's sort of missing the bigger picture, eh?

So I want to do two sciencey posts. I got one on movements in badgers, mostly on the grounds that badgers look awesome, and a thing on rapid lizard evolution, on the grounds that Down Under Dave reminded me of them. We'll see how fast I get either written, because HouseMD is on tonight, and that's what little pop-culture I get. :p

Monday, 13 October 2008

Beer Notes from this Weekend

I tried `Negra Modelo (dark)' by Grupo Modelo, despite the fact I'm not usually a lager fan. I put my thoughts on the beer below. I'm not sure where you can get it in this area, since someone else bought it for me.

Negra Modelo: 3.7/5. B.
A dark burgandy with light carbonation that almost immediatly seems to fade. Little head retention. Smells of yeast with a slight under current of spices. Taste is viscous, cool and creamy across the tongue. It has a light oaken notes, with a light nuttiness and sweet undercurrent. Not a very strong tasting beer. There's a delayed, slightly bitter aftertaste that fades quickly. Drinkability is high, because its inoffensive play in the mouth, and because it doesn't bludgeon you with either flavour or alcohol.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Playing the field.

Some miscellaneous stuff from this weekend in bullet point style. Let's see if we can hit every major blog subject!
  • It dumped a load of snow in town! It was supposed to be 1", but it ended up around 5 here, and more on the hills. Hooray! Except it meant my truck slid all over the roads, because I've been too lazy to mount the studded tires. It's on the to-do list, honestly!
  • A reputable newspaper, one with a conservative bent, talks about a growing rift between McCain and Palin over Palin's rally-tactics. Interesting if true!
  • The Nooks took the Kendal Ice Classic! Hooray!
  • Urban Bears are heavier, reproduce earlier, die younger.
  • This is what happens when you mix a field crew, kitchen cook ware, and boredom: Pan-pong.

The guilty parties deny there was alcohol involved.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

11 Oct 08 Hockey.

The Redwings sent the Senators packing back to Ottawa in a 3rd period rally, winning 3 to 2 in regulation play.

The Nanooks spanked Connecticut 5 to nothing in regulation. They didn't do so hot on the powerplays (only one of the goals on a powerplay), but they killed a 5 on 3 easily, before taking a point right after. I forget what the guys on the TV (It was live on fox) counted, but the shots-on-goal was really telling.

Here's hoping Northeastern wins against the Seawolves, so the Nooks will win the tournment.


Yesterday, after the department's usual seminar, I went to their little happy-hour after the fact. I usually don't go, because I'm headed straight home. But yesterday, I was trying to corner someone, who wasn't there. Go figure!

Anyhow, while I was there, I ran into a guy I was told by @Da to meet, while I'm working out of UAF. We'll call him Mister. I heard Mister talking to a new grad student, and I asked, `Oh, are you Mister?` He said, `Yep. Who are you?` `Oh, I'm KC. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. @Da told me to say hi when I see you.` We shook hands, and he stood there silently for a moment. Finally. `Who's @Da?`

@Da talked about Mister as if the two knew eachother quite well. I tried to explain who @Da was to Mister, but Mister didn't seem to recognize him no matter how much detail I went into.

Finally, `Oh. I guess you don't know him.` `Or I forgot him.` came the reply. There was much shuffeling of the feet, and checking of the watches.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Hockey Season!

We're in the beginnings of civilized sport's season: Hockey. It's like chess on ice, except way more interesting. Tonight! 3 2 Nanooks over North Eastern, in the shootout. Yesterday, Redwings... well, we won't talk about the start of their regular season. I want them to get all the choke out of them right now, though.

Still! Good start for the Nooks this year, thus far!

Congress Critter No.2 is sincere

For the readers who might be interested in what he has to say about the current economic woes, here's Don Young's letter in its entirety:

Dear Mr. [Blogger who is not a large ungulate with palmate antlers],

Thank you for contacting my office to express your opinion regarding H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), or the so-called "financial bailout." The response from the state was unprecedented and I greatly appreciated hearing from each and every Alaskan on this issue.

During the first part of 2008 and into the fall, as the U.S. mortgage market worsened, I like most Americans became concerned about the stability of our financial system. In April of 2008, as a Democratic-led Congress debated the naming of post-offices and commemorative coins, I joined sixty of my Republican colleagues in cosponsoring a crucial piece of legislation to fix the struggling housing market. This legislation, H.R. 5857, the Homeownership Protection and Housing Market Stabilization Act of 2008, would have addressed the root causes of the subprime mortgage crisis. This legislation would have modernized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and improved the regulation of the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack. Additionally, H.R. 5857 would have created a new one-page document to remind the homebuyer of any upcoming rate resets or changes in terms, each and every month. This bill would also have combated and prevented mortgage fraud, promoted housing counseling and encouraged loan workouts for borrowers facing foreclosure. However, the Democratic leadership refused to bring this bill up for consideration and, as a result, Congress' reaction to this problem was too little, too late.

In the fall of 2008, in the hopes of finally addressing the housing market concerns of many banks, investors and everyday workers, the Administration conceived a giant bailout of the banking industry. Originally introduced on September 20, 2008 as the "Troubled Asset Relief Program," Secretary Henry Paulson's "bailout" plan was both ambitious and hasty. At its core, this plan called for a $700 billion government buyout of mortgage backed securities Mortgage Backed Securities. It is important to note that, throughout the negotiations, the core of every bailout package still contained this exact and extraordinary sum of taxpayer dollars.

On September 29, 2008, the House considered and voted on a rushed first draft of EESA. Including some oversight and sparse regulatory reform, this legislation contained a modified version of the $700 billion dollar TARP program. According to its supporters, this was no longer a taxpayer bailout, but rather, a taxpayer investment in the banking industry. By buying these "devalued" Mortgage Backed Securities, the U.S. taxpayer would not only provide liquidity to the credit market, but would also have the chance to make money on these assets. However, I remained cautious. In my 35 years of Congressional experience, I have seen some bad pieces of legislation pass the House. Much of this bad legislation has been brought to the House floor, under duress, when there is a perceived crisis and inaction is deemed irresponsible. Yet, I believe that it is this "chicken little" view that "the sky is falling" is what is irresponsible. The duty of a Congressman is to not only think about the here and now, but about two years, ten years and twenty years down the line. In my view, not only did this legislation give unprecedented power to a lone unelected official, but it also set horrible precedents that may well have us sliding down a very slippery slope right into socialism. Consequently, I voted against this first draft of EESA, which failed to pass the House by a vote of 228-205.

Following the House rejection of EESA, the Senate began work on making this legislation more "palatable" to those that opposed it. In fact, the Senate was able to add several admirable measures to EESA which I have supported in the past and will continue to support. Foremost among these was the reauthorization of the secure rural schools program which provides $3.3 billion in funding to rural counties with national forest land. Also included in EESA was a provision that allows the Exxon Valdez plaintiffs to put up to $100,000 of their settlements into a one-time IRA deposit and to income average their settlements over three years so as to reduce their tax burden. Additionally, the Senate version of EESA also included a one year patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax (ATM) and an increase to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) limits from $100,000 to $250,000. Due in part to these reforms and greater perceived instability in the market, the Senate Passed EESA by a vote of 74-25.

On October 3, 2008, the House took up consideration of and voted on the Senate-passed version of EESA. This was an extremely difficult vote for me. While on the one hand, I understood the gravity of the financial crisis and I supported many of these new Senate-added provisions, on the other hand, these provisions were attached to a $700 Billion taxpayer-funded bailout of the banking industry. After hearing from thousands of my constituents though, I ultimately voted against EESA deciding that no amount of "sweeteners" would change the fact that this was still a $700 billion taxpayer bailout. Ultimately, EESA passed the House by a vote of 236-171 and was signed into law by the President.

Overall, a "bailout" should be the last resort, not the first. It is my belief that Wall Street should first try and bail itself out. I support several free-market measures including suspending the capital gains tax for investors that buy Mortgage Backed Securities. This measure, along with tax deductions for banks that lost money on investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, would use the market to free up the capital that these banks so desperately need. Additionally, I support providing 100% insurance for losses resulting from the failure of Mortgage Backed Securities, charging risk-based premiums for this insurance and making the purchase of this insurance mandatory. Such insurance would provide immediate value to the Mortgage Backed Securities and a foundation for which they could then be sold.

As for regulatory reform, I believe that we should address the underlying reasons that got us into this situation by suspending "mark-to-market regulations," privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a twelve member, bipartisan and bicameral Select Committee on Financial Security. This Select Committee would study and report to Congress about future financial emergencies and would provide recommendations of how to prevent these emergencies from happening. Finally, I believe that we should further empower federal agencies to use existing programs like "Hope for Homeowners" to help people work out their troubled mortgages, not create new ones. Moreover, should the taxpayer incur any costs from any these proposals, I propose that we open up the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil exploration and use the taxes on these revenues to pay for this free-market "workout" of Wall Street instead of burying our children and grandchildren under massive amounts of debt.

Once again, thank you for expressing your views on this issue. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to sign up for my e-newsletter at and my YouTube channel at Doing so will allow me to provide you with updates on this and other important issues. If I can be of any assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.



Congressman for All Alaska

Where's Lisa's letter? She's late!

Antlerless moose hunt shortened.

Hey folks. Any of you in GMU 20 A on the antlerless moose hunt should be aware that there's some emergency orders out. Zone 2 will be closed for the hunt after two days, meaning it'll be closed on the 11th. Zone 1 is unaffected. Turns out ADF&G saw a flurry of permits for this, so it's looking to be pretty thick over there. I'm always a bit skeptical - leery actually - when you have that many hunters about, but we'll see how it goes, eh? If you're heading out, be safe.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


My weather thingy said it was -17°C this morning. I thought it felt a little cold when I went to clear my truck. CPC says this won't be an abnormally cold winter, and they're usually accurate, but right now they sure feel wrong!

Here's yugcetun word for your use: Alapaa! So cold! It's one that gets a bit of a work out around here, eh? :)

And now you speak yupik!

The river has two eyes.

A newspaper in Saginaw Michigan, appro nothing, wrote fairly well about what Eek (a village in the Y-K) is like. It's not a perfect story, but not bad for a newspaper about 7,000 miles away. Arctic Economics makes a good point, that in the story focuses on the subsistence economy, with little focus on the cash economy that these days has to be there to support the subsistence economy. For good or for ill, the subsistence lifestyle has got tied up to things that require money. Hunting isn't cash-free anymore.

The BIA did lots of things wrong. I think there's more than a few books out there on `how the BIA ruined the world,` but to that list I'd add that they, and the ANCSA, forced a bunch of Alaska Natives thoroughly into cash economies without any support for the fledgling economies. If you're going to change over spending money for things as an important part of your lively hood, you better darn well have money, eh? This never happened.

Walkie asked me, not long ago, 'bout my attitude towards the fate of Yugcetun, and about what I thought could be done to protect the language and culture. My answer to the latter was a very quick `Jobs!` Even people in nowhere-Mongolia need jobs, if they're buying stuff. A few high paying jobs, like IT, or other sorts of work that it doesn't matter where you do it, and you don't just support a single family, but the money will slosh through the village. Sort of like it does on the state level when you spend locally.

There's pretty much only one way the cash economy would go at this point, and that's if there's a total collapse of the US. Which isn't good. Baring that, without the right fiscal inputs, it'll kill villages. Right now a lot of the lower parts of the YK primarily get their money through commercial fishing permits. But the margin on these jobs is not high enough to really allow other people in the village to continue to engage in subsistence activities when times are bad like this, so they emigrate to Anchoragua. The problem is money isn't letting them decide to continue living as they want. That hurts the long term survival of both the language and the culture more than satellite TV ever could or will.

Oh, hey, you know that your thinking is starting to get warped when you don't think Eek is especially remote, or isolated.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Specious speciation!

I was just thinking the other day that I hadn't done a hard science post in a bit, because nothing had really struck me as interesting. And then I found an article in last week's edition of the Journal Science, and I'm cured! :}

Here, Seehausen et al (2008) discussed evidence for a controversial form of speciation known as sympatric speciation. Sympatric speciation is where you take one ancestral population, and from it form two distinct species without removing either group form contact with each other. This is a tricky process, because during the process the groups will be in contact with each other, and will have the possibility to pass genes. This geneflow erodes differences between groups, and forestalls species formation, if it doesn't outright prevent it.

There are a few ways you can pull this off, though. Often, it comes from a behavioural mating preference - one example is the apple maggot, which is in the throws of speciation because it breeds on apples, as opposed to other worms that breed on the hawthorn. Same species, for now, but they're on the path for divergence. Seehausen et al have another example of this controversial mode of species formation.

What Seehausen et al show a slightly different process is at work in the dynamic waters of Lake Victoria. In some cichlid fish, gradual transitions of light colour that comes from differences in turbidity between islands appears to be driving speciation by sensory bias. First, a word about the hypothesis.

There's natural standing variation for lots of things, including behaviour, and some of it is heritable. Some of the heritable variation can be variation in mating preferences for males (it's most frequently females who drive this sort of selection) with differences in attributes, such as morph, colour, shape, etc. Those females are likely to make with that subset of males - square loving females are likely to get with square males - and produce offspring with a good chance of having the trait (squareness) and preference for the trait. Over time, this results in square mice that like to mate with other square mice, which sort of closes the breeding group (or limits) geneflow from the ancestral group*.

Now, this probably isn't the most common mode of speciation. By far, it looks like geographic disruption is far more informative of speciation, but it looks good on paper. How's it end up working in practice?

Evidence is rare, and rarely good for any form of sympatry. But keeping that in mind, the evidence the authors presented is a good step forward. First we see that a) there's variation in male conspicuous colouration. The authors argue that it's because of water turbidity, and colours that remain conspicuous in in the turbid water. Specifically, they talk about a blue form and a red form. Blue forms are shallow waters with shallow light gradients, and red forms are from shallow waters with deep light gradients.

Next, they sequenced a gene (LWS), and found that numbers of alleles that were in the population really depended on how steep or shallow the light gradient was. Additionally, they found an allele that was especially common in red form cichlid. Further, the Fst value, a measure of fixation, was found to be very high between most islands.

However, when they attempted to look at neutral bits of DNA called microsatellites, they found that this fixation coefficient Fst was fairly low. Three fifths of their Fst values were significant at least the p=.05 level (a one in twenty chance that a data set was explainable by a random process), but they only averaged .016, which is a) reasonable, but not very high and b) definitely not as strong as the .6 to .8 values they were getting for the functional LWS locus. They say this is because LWS is under intense selection, leading to the rapid development of population structure, whereas the neutral loci have not yet been dragged along for the ride.

Finally, the paper discusses the female mating preference in more detail, outlining differences between islands in their male preference. They showed that the region around LWS wasn't responsible for the mating, which I would interpret as saying that there isn't a tight linkage between the mating preference and the preferred trait - this is relevant as when the genome gets scrambled up in recombination, before the DNA is passed on to the wee little fishes, there's a strong chance that the traits aren't both inherited by an offspring. Environment, not a physical linkage, is driving the pairing.

All in all, it's a neat example of sympatry in process. We don't often get to watch speciation as it happens, because speciation takes so long that it typically doesn't happen on a time scale humans can stick around for. But by knowing where to look, and how to watch it, we can find support and evidence for new species in the making.

... and now that I wrote that last sentence, I'm struck with a strange sense of deja-vu. Weird.

*This explanation is not exactly true. Especially with respect to this paper. But it is, as they say, good enough for government work.

Edit: Shoot! I forgot the citation! Here it is:
Ole Seehausen, Yohey Terai, Isabel S. Magalhaes, Karen L. Carleton, Hillary D. J. Mrosso, Ryutaro Miyagi, Inke van der Sluijs, Maria V. Schneider, Martine E. Maan, Hidenori Tachida, Hiroo Imai and Norihiro Okada. (2008) Speciation through sensory drive in cichlid fish. Nature (v. 455) pp. 620-626.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

From Stevens, to me, with cordialness.

I got the following form-letter in response to my painstakenly personalized letter about the then-pending bailout vote :p. You know, the bill that was going to save us from a stock market crash. Hey, I'll give them a little time to actually make it work. One thing's for sure? We'll see if it was or wasn't the right thing to do. Anyhow, some of you might find it interesting, what Stevens has to say to his constituents.

Dear [KC's name withheld]:

Thank you for contacting me on your concerns for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (H.R. 1424). This bill was passed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis and with my support by a vote of 74-25 on October 1st. The House of Representatives passed this bill by a vote of 263-171, and the President has signed it into law.

There was a great deal of misinformation about this legislation.

The Congress needed to take action to prevent this financial crisis from spreading throughout our economy, further threatening retirement accounts, saving plans for college educations, and a widespread freeze on the ability of individual Americans to obtain credit.

I am told that on September 29th, our Permanent Fund lost over a billion dollars. Without action our nation faced a further credit meltdown, which would mean Alaskans would be unable to borrow to finance a home, a car, or withdraw funds from savings accounts. Our seniors would lose the retirement income they rely on to pay monthly bills and retirement accounts for future retirees would plummet in value. In fact, I heard from several Alaskan seniors that they have already suffered substantial losses in retirement savings, and one who lost $40,000 after the House of Representatives failed to pass economic recovery legislation on September 29th.

Because I shared many of the concerns and misgivings expressed to me by Alaskans, I personally asked Senators negotiating this legislation to include provisions to limit executive compensation and bonuses in this stabilization bill. The bill we passed also requires increased review of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (new oversight), taxpayer protections, foreclosure prevention, and requires that every dollar repaid to the Treasury for assistance under the new law must be used by the Treasury to reduce the federal debt. The Senate also included provisions to temporarily increase the amount of Federal Deposit Insurance - the money in your bank account guaranteed by the government - from $100,000 to $250,000. (The $100,000 level was established in 1980. This is the equivalent of approximately $266,000 now.)
Attached are summaries of the Emergency Economic Stabilization bill prepared by the Senate Banking and Senate Budget Committees that explain these and other provisions in this legislation.

In addition, the bill contains several provisions that many Alaskans asked me to secure, and that had previously passed the Senate, but were defeated in the House. These include a provision that Alaskans receiving payments related to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill may treat the money as having been received over three years; an extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, which funds rural schools and communities which were dependent on revenue from timber sales no longer available because of reduced opportunities to harvest timber from Federal forests; and, an extension of renewable energy tax credits. Also, the legislation provides a fix for middle-income Americans who would otherwise be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), a tax originally designed to affect only the wealthiest Americans.

Voting for this legislation was not an easy decision, but, in the final analysis I decided these provisions were important and passage of this bill was necessary to prevent the hardships that would otherwise have seriously affected Alaskans, our small businesses, and our nation's and our State's economic growth.

With best wishes,


U.S. Senator

Don and Lisa have yet to mail me their letters. I'll probably post them, too.


The first snows are always some of the prettiest. The novelty wears off by about January. :)My camera-foo is weak. I need to learn how to save a partially-over exposed picture. That seems to happen so much here, where there'll be a single bright area messing up everything for the rest of the picture.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Not that I get to do it myself, I like mushing. I suppose it's like saying I like the idea that there's salmon in a river that I won't ever go to myself - that someone else is deriving enjoyment from it is enough for me to like it, at least conceptually. How's that for over-intellectualizing something?

Anyhow, I like mushing, and stuff, but sadly, mushers are like all humans - there's good and there's bad. I've got a couple bad near me. Real jerks who don't take care of their dogs, don't keep them under control, and probably don't actually mush. I pray to god that these dogs aren't put to any exertion, anyhow, because they're not taken care of. It'd be like asking Oliver Twist to go do some push ups.

I bring this up, because I've been thinking a lot about the feral dogs in the area. You can hear them howling recently, and I know they're not someone's domestic animals 'cause they come from the refuge side. Geese are a) gone and b) don't howl.

Anyhow, I'm pretty sure those feral dogs were dogs that belonged to one of these incompetent jerks, some of the dogs that got loose. I've had one loose-dog come to my home, and I made an attempt to get it before it started biting at me and I decided to screw it. My ex-neighbour, the one who died in the crash, ended up grabbing it when it started playing with his dog. What about the dogs that don't get grabbed, eh?

Anyhow, these animals currently running free have been known by the borough since back in June. I think it's time for the citizenry to step up further, since it's pretty obvious that tegustet aren't going be much help here. Or, they're trying, but their success is pretty thin.

Three things

First, to the stranger who gave me a 12 mile lift to get my spare keyset when I locked my keys in my truck: Quyana cakneq. You are what makes Fairbanks so great.

Now, what does
A) This
B) This
have in common? Supporters who aren't engaging their brains. Come on. Obama as Jesus? Give me a break. Yes, that'll totally convince people that you're not in some strange personality cult.

And I'll let FireyBlazingHandbasket tear apart the `Atillia the Mom` shirt for the most part, adding only - They do know Attila the Hun was a scourge of the people, right?


Saturday, 4 October 2008

"I don't know if it was a paternity issue or criminal," McCain jokes,

... but actually, he knew.

In the presidential debate two Fridays ago, there were a number of statements made that really just blew my mind, how either candidate could say something with a straight face. McCain, for example, decided to go and dig up his old, dead horse, the Grizzly Bear Mark-Recapture study in the Norther Rockies.

Now, I'm fairly familiar with the mark-recapture study - it's right up my lab's alley, and even if it wasn't, its methods have revolutionized how we're approaching tricky census, and non-invasive DNA collection.

It's hard for some of us to wrap our heads around it, but in the Lower 48, Grizzlies were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species act. They weren't doing so hot for a while there. That listing obligated, by law, the government to take proactive steps to manage the bears so to support their conservation. One of the most important steps to conserving what you have is knowing what you have. That's a problem with bears.

See, bears move. They move a lot. Below timberline, sightablility becomes a serious issue, and above timberline, finding the buggers requires access that just isn't there. Add to that the average density of these large carnivores is generally low, the logistics and difficulties involved in traditional surveys are considerable.

Enter a smart biologist named Dr. Kendall, at the USGS. Dr. Kendall has a record with doing work with non-invasive sampling in bears, having worked out the constraints on hairsnags and faecal DNA extraction (something I unfortunately have experience in. :p), and she decided to use to use these non-invasive techniques to collect DNA from snags and traps to get an accurate count on how many bears there are in this recovering population.

Now, the results aren't out yet. They're in-part due in this month's issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. To say I'm waiting with bated breath would be an understatement. But early press releases show that bear densities are over twice what was previously predicted. Now, I hate science-by-press-release, that's not how we do things in the peer-review world, but if these results pan out, it'll mean more mineral and gas exploration in the surrounding habitat. Something I think McCain wouldn't mind one bit.

If it pans out, it means the law worked, and these studies would mean we can ease back on spending money in areas where we're successful at conservation, and focus on other areas. I'm sure he's not pro-wasting money, is he? And if you look at the people who helped push the study - who included environmentalists, ranchers, farmers, and land developers (strange bedfellows) - he can't exactly pin this one on the Democrats.

Oh, and one last little detail. Three, actually. First, it didn't cost three million. It cost five. Big science projects aren't cheap, but we'll recoup that money easily in saved-funds. Second, McCain was lying when he said he didn't know if the Bear DNA project was for paternity or criminal purposes. He actually knows exactly what the study is for. Because, finally, he supported it and voted for it.

What was it Palin said last debate? Something about `being for something before they were against it?` Huh.

Here's some links:

Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project

US News on John McCain's complaints.

Scientific America on the Beef with Bears

Science Line's article on the same

Turns out Palin requested a similar project for Harbour Seals

Thursday, 2 October 2008

More guests for dinner!

PhD comics has helped countless grad students slack off when they could be researching - Jeorge Cham, the author, says he's proud that he probably prevented some grad student somewhere from curing cancer because they were too busy reading comics. This week, he has a mostly tongue in cheek graph about grad schol enrollment, and unemployment. Except it's not too far off base, from my point of view. I know U-Utah had a big cohort enter last year, I gather UAF had a normal sized one, but this year UAF has a larger cohort of graduate students. Oddly, I seem to recall UAF undergrad enrollment is slightly down. And though I can't find Fall 08 data, From Fall 07 to Spring 08, we had more Ph.D. canidates, but fewer masters+Ph.D students - from 1015 to 1003.

In other news, I won't be able to watch the Palin debate at the 'Loon. I've got too much stuff that needs to be done at home. Damn shame, too. I was looking forward to it. Anyone else get the impression that the bar has been set so low for Palin, in this debate, that so long as she doesn't advocate eating babies she'll come out ahead? Biden has no where to go but down.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Pop quiz!

The INS has a new test for citizenship and naturalization out now. Could you pass it? I didn't know the answer to 53 (What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?) and 91 (Name one U.S. territory) took me a few minutes, mostly because it was 6:45, and I was trying to pick one other than Puerto Rico. I didn't tally up my right or wrong, but I think I got enough of them quick enough that I could have passed the test before breakfast. Gosh, I guess those old civics classes do linger on somewhere back in the reptile brain.

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