Best Bets

If you’re one of the cool kids who still read comic strips — you know, like graphic novels, but one scene at a time — you may know of The Phantom, also known as “The Man Who Cannot Die.” Its basic premise involves a mysterious, evil avenging hero who descended from the first Phantom in 1536.

Generation by generation, when the old Phantom shuffles off to the Old Superheroes Retirement Home, a new Phantom grows up to take the place of dear Dad. Everyone thinks it’s the same old Phantom, because in comic strips no one can tell the difference between masked men, especially if they wear padded gray suits.

The Betster would like to share a secret. Known as “The Smarty Pants Who Cannot Die,” through generations of reporters here at the Homer News, the mysterious Betster perseveres, week after week, decade after decade, their secret identity only known to the hapless editor who must tidy up their stupid puns, obscure literary references and lame Batman jokes.

Holy Cheesecake, Betsteroids!

You might think the Betster has been a succession of writers, but no, we are one voice and one spirit. Like Santa Claus, we have transformed from human into legend (at least in our own minds). Unknowable, unthinkable and sometimes undecipherable, we rise from the drudgery of deadlines to write a snappy lede and suggest some cool and fun things to do over the next week.

Like The Phantom, The Betster has no superpowers. We have no special gifts except for our charm, our wit and our endless knowledge of trivia. Periodically The Betster returns to a secret training school tucked in a little cove off Port Dick that once had been an Exxon Valdez oil spill clean-up camp.

Not anyone can be The Betster, you know. Some say only people with philosophy degrees can handle this job (partly true). Others say you must have passed the secret test of Betsterdom here at the Homer News, a test that may involve descending into the bowels of the building where Compugraphic computers go to die. Also, you must understand that reference and know what a Compugraphic is without Googling it.

Key to being the Betster comes endurance or, as we call it in the journalism business, the stupidity not to do anything else or to quit and take a job mere dollars above Alaska minimum wage. There’s a fine line between endurance and stubbornness about equal to the strength of HMS Titanic’s hull against an iceberg. An iceberg endures. Everything else cracks under pressure.

But not the Betster. Lo, all these decades, the Betster has hung in there, week after week, silly photo captions that use song titles, and trying to convince you that a Homer City Council meeting on a February winter night offers unimaginable entertainment.

So be like the Betser, Betster Persons. Endure. Survive. Prevail. And when you have rejoiced in your strength, go forth and enjoy something fun to do, like these Best Bets:

BEST BIRD BY BIRD BET: See that bird up there? Can you identify it without reading the caption? Hurrah! You’re qualified to join Homer’s elite, hardy birders for the 123rd annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, to be held in Homer from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Birders will meet at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, join groups and then fan out in the count area from the center of the Homer Spit. It’s all part of ongoing efforts by the Audubon Society and birding organizations to count the number of birds and species — you know, good old fashioned citizen science. The Homer Christmas Bird Count is sponsored by the Kachemak Birders and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Need to brush up on your bird identification class? Ace birder and bird count organizer David Erikson holds a Winter Bird Identification class on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Erikson will go over the common birds we see around Homer in the winter months and how to identify them using simple field marks. He will also cover how to separate closely related species, differences among male, females, and juveniles, and differences in seasonal plumages. There is no charge for the class. Masks are encouraged. For more information on the class, please contact Erikson at 907-441-7931 or or Lani Raymond: 907 399-9477 or or check out the Kachemak Bay Birder’s website at: To sign up for the bird count, call Erikson, or one of the Field Team Leaders to sign up. A list of Field Team Leaders and maps of the count areas will be posted on the Kachemak Bay Birders website ( You do not have to be an experienced birder to participate. Come join a team. There is no charge

BEST OUR BAD BET: Last week we gave the incorrect start time for Hospice of Homer’s Light Up a Life event. It starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15. Join Hospice for the third annual event. Celebrate a loved one who has died or share a message of hope with your community by purchasing a luminaria. For details, visit

BEST GET HEALTHY BET: It’s not just our bodies that we need to keep care of, but the big blob of gray mush in our skulls that affects our mental health. Get a tune up for Mental Health Monday from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 19 in Pioneer Hall of the Kachemak Bay Campus. Join South Peninsula Hospital mental health counselor Morgan Dwyer and community health educator Annie Garay for an evening of connection, community and fun. Enjoy home-made soup and engaging conversation about maintaining mental health through an Alaska winter.

BEST LAST CALL BET: The Betster has been finishing up their magnum opus, a 45-page novella told in a series of sonnets, and we’re dang sure we’re going to win the 25th Kenai Peninsula Writers’ Contest. Think you can beat the brilliance of the Betster? Try your skill in the contest open to Kenai Peninsula Borough residents of all ages. For contest rules and entry information visit The deadline to participate is 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16.

BEST JAM BET: Nope, we’re not talking raspberries, but kickin’ licks laid down by groovy cats thumping their bongos at the Monday Homer Council on the Arts Monday jam sessions. Grab your instrument and get unstuck from the Beat era (not that there’s anything wrong with that) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at HCOA. Free.

BEST GET FROSTY BET: The Betster once got sick eating too much icing at a cookie decoration party, but you won’t do that when you hone your frosting skills while exploring traditional Czech-inspired gingerbread cookie decorating techniques with Marketa Beck. The class for adults and children 8 or older is from 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Homer Council on the Arts. The fee is $25/person or $20/HCOA Member (also a person, but they support the arts). Register now at

BEST IT’S A WRAP BET: You see what the Betster’s editor has to put up with? Yeah, dumb puns. If you haven’t mastered the technique of wrapping gifts or curling ribbons, Homer’s American Legion Auxiliary Unit 16 has your back. They will be offering Christmas Gift Wrapping at Ulmer’s on Lake Street in downtown Homer. Gift Wrapping will be available noon-5 p.m. daily Thursday, Dec. 15 through Dec. 23, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Christmas Eve. There is no set charge for the service, but donations to support Veterans programs will be gratefully accepted.