21,483 calls in 36 years

2 December 2008

It’s been more than a week, and I still am saddened when I think of the loss of Phil Rounds. Ben Fleagle already did a better job than I did talking about it, and was closer to the loss. Right now, I feel pretty close, though. My thoughts go out to all in the Great White North.

And there are many who also appreciate the efforts of those who show how he was missed. Staff at the News-Miner did an excellent job with a several articles and an obituary.¬†While I’m at it, I’d like to thank Todd Shechter for several email forwards, Josh Zwart for the thirty second version of A-shift history and pumpkin pie, and my wife for her diligence on Facebook.

But I think the most impressive is this video. Taken by Carol Falcetta, it shows the procession down University Avenue in Fairbanks towards Phil’s memorial service. The music is very nice, and the video itself shows some small measure of the respect this man held. First of all, remember that every engine pictured represents an entire department that committed to sending a crew for this. Also, for those of you fire service folks out there, wait until the end and count the number of law enforcement. Try to imagine another firefighter getting that kind of help from cops.

We’ll miss you, Phil.

The Parting Glass

24 November 2008

I was always the awkward kid. The one who read too much and played too little; not strong, not brave, not confident. I was that kid well into my teens and if you watch me now, you’ll still see it occasionally. I don’t quite know how, therefore, I decided to be a firefighter: full-time for a few years, a volly for a few more, and now getting lost in the woods on a regular basis.

Maybe blame my roommate Myles, who talked me into taking an EMT class, or the instructor of that class, the incomparable Deena Thomas (nee Stout). Maybe blame Bud Rotroff, who made clear from the first Fire Science class I took with him that this was where serious people lived. But certainly, a great share of the blame can be laid on Battalion Chief Phil Rounds, who commanded respect for the University Fire Department from the first moment he entered a room. Ben Fleagle has written it already, all I want to do is lend my own voice to talking about a great guy I knew, who passed away a few days ago.
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(mostly) Northern roundup

14 November 2008

Kyle Hopkins kicks ASS! Just heard him interviewed on NPR about an Alaska politics article he wrote for the ADN, and I was both thrilled to hear about someone I had lost touch with, and relieved that so sharp a wit is covering the important Stevens-Begich Senate race closely.

Begin obligatory election response: pretty weird that the three most hotly contested (or at least most drawn-out) Senate races were the three states I was most interested in: AK (see above), MN, OR. End obligatory election response.

I’m just starting Rashid Khalidi’s book Resurrecting Empire, which doesn’t seem designed to flagellate liberal guilt so much as actually educate a willing audience about colonialist history from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent. A good book, and I liked it even more when I found out that he’s almost as dangerous as Bill Ayers.

National Geographic has a ten-page cover article on light pollution out this month, and we happily have our first clear night in about two weeks (not that that’s a record or anything–Alicia tells me that she remembers Kodiak going for something like sixty straight days of rain once, and nobody was talking about records being broken) Still, though, it is crisp and cool tonight. Jupiter looked bright until I saw Venus, and Manaiakalani is setting in the west as Ke ka o ka Makali`i is rising in the east. Even though I know something about how bad light pollution really is, I am reassured that I showed my nephew the same two planets and some of the same stars from the East River about a month ago.

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Once again, I find that when I settle in to my life, finding few things worth blogging about, I am unsuited to change pace when I do bump into something blogworthy. Also, since I haven’t had an iPhone implanted directly into my brain yet, I still need to be near a computer with internet access for long enough to type a post. Tricky.

Anyway, on Wednesday I got to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific in a single day. While transcontinental flights are now so common that almost no one bothers to call them transcontinental anymore, I still think it is pretty cool. At the end of our trip to New York we took off from JFK which, like most other infrastructure in New York City, seems to be much too big, old, and held together by a combination of rust and duct tape to actually survive the traffic it handles. The flight landed at Long Beach, CA, and its airport provided a stark contrast in that regard.

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Less is more. Literally.

3 October 2008

I’m very excited to have started reading The Social Life of Information, a book which simultaneously supports many of the same conclusions about information theories I’ve read in other works I’ve liked, and blows my hair back with new stuff.

The concept in the introduction of that work that could perhaps be approximated by the old adage that only ten percent of communication is carried by the words spoken in a conversation, with the other ninety left to tone, body language, eye contact, et cetera, is remarkably similar to a conversation I had yesterday at work. Speaking to a gentleman who turned out to be an electronics engineer and music buff, we had a fairly intense conversation about what equipment produces the best quality of sound. While he has more specific knowledge than I, our consensus was that older equipment sounds better for all its messiness of being analog, vinyl, or whatever, than the truncated, cleaned up electronic equipment now so common.

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Offer not avaliable in Alaska

15 September 2008

With what I think many readers will agree is a barely believable level of Alaska buzz in the news these days (missing, unfortunately, some of the most important stories) I just thought I’d toss out a couple of observations and links to Alaska sources, not least of all to show some kind of sympathy to all the national beat reporters currently stuck in Wasilla.

If news about the Permanent Fund Dividend hasn’t gone national yet, it will soon (sorry, Brandee) as it was disbursed late last week. For those unfamiliar with this quaint custom, it refers to a check qualified residents of the state of Alaska get each year. Kind of a reverse income tax. Let me hasten to say that you shouldn’t pack your bags and your parka immediately. First of all, do the simple math that the more people who move there, the smaller the PFD gets. Also, you may not live in Alaska unless you can come to terms with the fact that, at any moment, you may be forced to wear bunny boots. Seriously.

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While I am interested in the news from the startup of the LHC, I think the event has already been well-covered by intellects vaster and with much closer knowledge than me.

Stay tuned for rhetorical analysis, though.