In writing this column, the Betster tries to strike a balance between funny and insightful, with maybe the needle tipped toward insightful. Sitting down late Tuesday night, usually finishing six stories before deadline sparks the creative juices. You’d think this would be easy.
If you noticed a cosmic blip at 1:44 a.m. Wednesday, that wasn’t your imagination. Holy Azimuth, Betsteroids! Yes, that was the time we’ve all been waiting for, the exact moment of the Winter Solstice. The Betster won’t get all sciencey on you and trot out the astronomical explanation. In practical terms, it means this:
• Daylight hours will get longer,
• The night will fade away until by June it will be but a sliver of twilight still bright enough to fish by, and
• The sun will appear to rise higher and higher in the sky.
As the Betster writes this the Internet appears to be down at Chez Betster. No, it’s not the usual dust-in-the-machine issue common at a house with a large furry dog. I tried the canned air trick — the go-to fix-it gadget next to duct tape and WD40. Bupkis. Could this be the real thing, a Kenai Peninsula wide disruption of vital information technology?
It has been the Betster’s experience that some people go a little nuts over the holidays. You know who you are. Not that there’s anything wrong with embracing the joy of the season, but if you find yourself searching for frosted cookie patterns on Pinterest at two in the morning, perhaps you need to dial the ho-ho-ho back a notch.
While you were away dealing with important issues like the syntax of Donald Trump’s Tweets or the recount in Wisconsin, something amazing happened, Betsteroids.
It got cold.
We’re not talking “OMG I have to scrape ice off my windshield cold,” but serious cold, like one bitter December day 37 years ago when the B. first arrived in Alaska from Florida and experienced the joy and wonder of single digit temperatures. If your former concept of cold involves being forced to put on a sweater, single digits can be brutal.
Because we want you to have your paper before Thanksgiving, we’re coming out early this week. If you pick up the paper on Wednesday, Nov. 23, even though the paper says “Nov. 24,” you didn’t slip into the future a day early. We published sooner. Besides, the post office and stores are closed on the big holiday.
Ever since last week’s election, the Betster has been noticing people wearing safety pins. Holy Johnny Rotten! Is this a flashback to the 1970s punk era, when people wore mohawks, bright colored hair, ripped jeans and tattoos? Oh wait — that’s kind of like now, isn’t it? Why all the safety pins?
The safety pin thing came out of Brexit, when the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union. Intimidation of immigrants and religious minorities increased after the vote, so some Brits started wearing safety pins to let people know that they had their back.
Seventy-eight years ago yesterday and today, gangs of Nazi thugs raged through Germany. In two days of terror known as Kristallnacht, Nazis broke windows of Jewish stores, burned down synagogues and humiliated and killed Jews. They rounded up young Jewish men and sent them to concentration camps — the beginning of the Holocaust.
Type in “cute kitten videos” and Google shows 3 million hits. Type in “Trump Clinton” and 450 million hits pop up — more hits than the population of America. The Betster has a question: Why aren’t there more cute kitten videos?
We live in tough times, Betsteroids. Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians and Independents can agree on one thing. This has been the weirdest dang election ever. In times like this, we need moments of joy. We need something to distract us from politics that have gotten so low reading the news is like being in a limbo contest.
Who could have imagined it, Betsteroids? For the first time since women got the vote, something extraordinary could happen. That’s right: the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series. If you like underdogs, the Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians contest is a win-win. The last time the Cubs were at the World Series, Rosie the Riveter welcomed GI Joe back from the war. Cleveland hasn’t won a championship since 1948, and the Cubs haven’t won a series since 1908.
For the past few days a car has laid on its side by a hairpin curve on West Hill Road. The Betster sure hopes no one got injured in that crash. Tow truck drivers probably have been a bit busy this week. Maybe leaving a few VIDs — that’s cop talk for “vehicle in the ditch” — on the side of the road would be a good idea to help people slow down. Someone could spray paint on the car’s bottom “The laws of physics are strictly enforced.”
As we toil here at Homer News election central into the wee dark hours of the morning, the long night holds promise. OK, yeah, we won’t have to cover elections until the big “Homer reacts” story in November, but never mind that. We’re talking northern lights.
Surprise, Homerites. If you thought you could pop into your Subaru and dash to work this week, oops. We have now entered Vehicle Ice Scraping Season. Some people call this “fall,” but we know better. Now is the time when we must allow 5 minutes in the morning to scrape ice off our windshields. This assumes you don’t keep your car in a garage, in which case, the Betster hates you.
Almost as regular as the closure of businesses on the Spit and the last cruise ship of the season, along comes our annual big storm on a big tide. Add in a typhoon giving up its last breath in the North Pacific, and boy howdy do we have problems. It’s almost a cliché to go out on the Spit and snap photographs of waves crashing on the road as daredevils try to make it out to the Salty Dawg.
Well, that’s fall in Alaska. It’s also the time when you can count on someone getting a truck stuck in the mud at Bishop’s Beach and praying for a tow truck as the tide laps at the tires.
Some of you seemed surprised recently when a big howling rainstorm blew in over town last week. Whoa! How did that happen? Well, it happened because a) it’s September in Alaska and b) also moose hunting season. The whole idea of moose hunting season seems to be to pick a time of the year when hunters most likely will get drenched by a cold, miserable rain.
Once again we enter our usual fall topsy-turvy universe. Some things seem to be going as planned. At the end of Labor Day, half the shops on the Spit closed. On the other hand, on Tuesday, the cruise ship Maasdam visited — and she’ll be back Sept. 20 for a final visit.
Out on Beluga Slough, for the past week more than 100 sandhill cranes have been massing together ready to fly south. Getting together to leave doesn’t seem out of the ordinary, though conventional wisdom has it the cranes leave about the fall equinox. Also ganging up are robins and varied thrushes. Stay tuned.
The other night while hanging with visiting friends and relatives, the Betster had an awesome idea for a Best Bets column. Alas, despite carrying a pen and notepad, the Betster forgot to write down that thought. It came about from a conversation in which Aunt Ellen asked why Alaska roads had so few road kill. The Best Bets idea disappeared like a fat raven dragging a porcupine off into the weeds.
We all know visitors come to Homer for our scenery, our art, our fish and the way neat people who live here. Apparently Homer has a new attraction. It’s cool.
Hurrah! Congratulations, Betsters. You’ve survived the big August primary election. After weeks of debates, robocalls, push polls and campaign mailings, the big dramarama is over. Now that the election is over, you can look on the bright side. All those fliers should make good kindling in the woodstove when it starts cooling off in about, oh, two weeks. Also, hard working graphic artists, printers and telemarketers got a little extra income.
If you’ve been paying attention to nature lately, you might have noticed that all the little birds born last spring have grown up. Over at the ever-popular Lake Street stoplight eagle nest, some eagle triplets have poked their heads out of their twig home. Sandhill crane colts have been strutting around town, stretching out their legs. Out on Beluga Lake, a slate-gray cygnet is learning the finer points of swan feeding.