The Death of Anwar al Awlaki


American-born jihadist Anwar al Awlaki was assassinated in Yemen today. So far as WC knows, it is the first assassination of an American by the United States in American history. It’s a troubling precedent to any thoughtful citizen. WC is deeply ambivalent about the Obama administration’s ongoing war on terror. But WC cannot quarrel with…

Birds: The Same, But Different


One of the challenges of birding is the regional differences in bird species. The species are the same, but regional variability in coloration and markings sometimes make the birds appear quite different. WC was wandering around in central Idaho recently, and found three species that show enough variation from the familiar Alaska varieties that they…

WC’s on Break


After about 90 consecutive days of new posts, WC is going to take a few days off from the blog and see if there are any birds left to photograph. Feel free to discuss among yourselves… WC’ll be back in a while. (By the way, in response to comments and questions, yes, that’s an un-retouched…

Photogenic Rats


WC was in Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains recently. On top of the stump of a Ponderosa Pine was this little fellow: At first there was some confusion about what we had found. It sort of resembled a Pika, but the ears were wrong. And a Pika, sometimes called a Rock Rabbit, would be unlikely on…

Playing with Harpers’ Index


For those who haven’t yet discovered it and share WC’s somewhat magpie sensibility, Harper’s Index is one of the treasure troves of miscellaneous sourced facts on the Web. Type your subject in the box, press return and a list of points appears; hover over them and you have the source. The items are in chronological…

What Americans Say They Want


Teabaggers, of course, and specifically their U.S. House drones, are adamantly opposed to any “tax increases.” Poor Rep. John Fleming (R. La) told MSNBC that after feeding his family, he only had “about $400,000 a year” left as income. Which may tell you everything you need to know about where the Congressional teabaggers are coming…

Photographing Wood Ducks


No one agrees on which North American duck species is the handsomest, but there’s no disagreement on which one is the most extravagant: the Wood Duck drake. It’s also famously difficult to photograph. While the species isn’t found in Alaska, WC had yet another opportunity to try to photograph Wood Ducks recently. Here’s an illustration…

The Tragedy of the Antibiotic Commons


WC is old enough to remember the pre-antibiotic days. One of WC’s cousins had poliomyelitis, and still struggles with the consequences of the disease. WC’s brother contracted tuberculosis in the 1950s. But by the time WC was a teenager, most infectious bacterial diseases were treatable. Bacterial disease had been “conquered.” But evolution – that “theory”…

Life Imitating Art / Art Imitating Life


WC, as many readers known, is an enthusiastic fan of the writing of Sir Terry Pratchett, whose Discworld series is among the best satiric literature of recent decades. Part of Pratchett’s charm is that some of his characters appear in multiple stories, but across those stories they evolve, age, grow and change. And Pratchett has…

k d lang: Simply Outstanding


Wow. k d lang and her band, the Siss Boom Bang, came to Hering Auditorium Thursday night as the opening act of  Fairbanks Concert Association’s 2011-2012 season. lang blew the doors off the auditorium, and probably damaged the roof. She was simply that good. It wasn’t a matter of mere decibels, although lang’s recent turn…

Alaskans for Limited Government: Hello? This Is Reality Talking


In a blog post titled “Proposition 2: A Classic Case for Limited Government, a blogger named Pete Alexion writing for an organization called Alaskans for Limited Government calls supporters of Fairbanks North Star Borough Proposition #2 “advocates of unlimited government.” But to understand the illogic of this claim, WC’s readers need some background. Fairbanks sits…

How Privatization is a Lie


Much has been made of the importance of privatizing government functions, particularly in the Department of Defense. The private sector, the claim goes, is always more efficient than the public sector. That turns out to be seriously untrue. In the first major study WC has seen, the Project on Government Oversight (“POGO”) analyzed the total…

Doonesbury Censored – Again


The blogosphere is all aflutter over many newspapers decision to censor Doonesbury’s recent series of cartoons on Joe McGinnis’s upcoming exposé, The Rogue. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, never a newspaper to rush into the breach, apparently “didn’t have room” to publish today’s cartoon. As a service to his readers, WC provides a link to the…

An Open Letter to Don Young


The Honorable Don Young Office of Congressman Don Young 2314 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 Dear Congressman Young: The media report that you were in Alaska, not Washington, D.C. this week, despite Congress now being in session. The media also report that you were unable to tear yourself away from the an NFL…

Trying to Understand Republicans


The thing that baffles WC about the approach Republicans are taking to governance is that they keep threatening to burn the house down, when they live in that house. WC suspects Andrew Sullivan has at least an idea what is going on: That’s how I explain the current GOP. It can only think in doctrines,…