Elise Sereni
Saturday, August 16, 2008

I don’t know what’s worse, the inane chatter from the commentators during the Olympic games which makes EVERYTHING sound like only the Americans count or the painful overdose of political ads about mines and candidates and wolves and....STOP IT! STOP THE MADNESS!  Commentators....just shut the hell up and let the athletes do their thing. Accept that other countries might have athletes who are competing and may actually win. Stop saying that a gymnast who is number fourteen after four rotations has a shot at a medal. We are not idiots. We know he or she doesn’t. Show us competitors from other countries too. Pretend they might be good at what they do.
As for the political ads and candidates, you are the worse polluters in the world today and should be ashamed of yourself for the overloaded glut of crap we have to sit through in order to watch some young person take a chance for gold while the only gold you are interested in is in my pocket and you want it in yours!
There. I feel much better now.

Elise Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Friday, August 15, 2008

Bird Treatment and Learning Center Celebrates 20 Years of TLC:
Bird TLC has been returning birds to the wild and educating the public since 1988.

What: 20 Years of TLC: A Bye-Bye Birdie Event
Where: Bird TLC Property above Potter Marsh (aka Old Rabbit Hutch)
When: Saturday, August 23, 2008 11-4pm

Come celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Bird Treatment and Learning Center and the end of the migratory bird season.

This event will include live education birds on display from 11-1pm with a special presentation featuring some of the oldest birds in our program at 12:30.  Various speakers will speak on the history of our organization, the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and the significance of our community partnerships over the years.  We will hear Dr. James Scott, DVM, founder of Bird TLC will share his memories. There will be activities for children in a kid’s activity tent from 11-1, and food and beverage available from local vendors. Bird TLC merchandise will be on sale at a discounted price.  And, of course, a Bye-Bye Birdie Event wouldn’t be complete without a rehabilitated bald eagle release which will take place around 3:00pm.

This occasion also lends the opportunity for Bird TLC to say farewell to our dear friend One-Wing who recently passed away. One-Wing was one of the first bald eagles to come through the center after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989.  Due to injuries sustained One-Wing could not be released and became the mascot and blood donor for other unfortunate eagles. He was with us for close to 20 years until this past spring when he passed away due to natural causes.  Native drum groups and elders from around the state will be present to help us commemorate his passing with an ash spreading ceremony.

This event is free and open to the public. We hope you will join us in celebrating 20 Years of TLC! For more information call Bird TLC at 562-4852 or visit our website at http://www.birdtlc.net.

Directions to our property: Take the New Seward Highway south to the Rabbit Creek Exit and take a left. After you cross over the bridge turn right onto the Old Seward Highway. The property is a few blocks up on the right side of the road.

Elise Patkotak • 03:16 AM •
Thursday, August 14, 2008

“Insofar as the government has information not generally available about the merits or demerits of the items we ingest or the activities we engage in, let it give us the information. But let it leave us free to choose what chances we want to take with our own lives.” Milton Friedman, Free To Choose.

Yes, this comes from that Milton Friendman, the conservative economist. I found out about his views on our drug war while listening to a speaker from LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I was invited because I’ve written previous columns questioning the sanity of the drug war; a war that is over thirty years old, has cost billions of dollars and has been, by the kindest of estimates, a total failure. Drugs are still available to anyone wanting them. Prices are reasonable. And now even elementary school students have access to them.
My problem with the war on drugs, aside from its cost and abject failure, is that for so long as the drug policy in this country is not debatable in any civilized, reasonable fashion, for so long will we continue down an unending path that destroys more than just the people and ecosystems of places like Columbia and Afghanistan.  Or did you think those poisons we spray from planes on opium and pot plants somehow know to only touch the plants and not the people, animals and watersheds that surround the fields?
Every dollar we spend putting a drug user in jail, or declaring drug use a criminal problem instead of a medical one, or hiring more probation officers, narcotics cops and corrections officials, is money that could have been spent healing instead of punishing.
I can already hear people screaming about how I’m soft on drugs and druggies. Well here’s reality. Given a chance I’d take all children away from every family that abuses any substance, be it alcohol or drugs, and adopt them into homes with the patience, love and coherence to raise them. But since society still refuses to make me queen, that’s not likely to happen. So I’m stuck with the fact that parents who abuse substances are going to continue to have children and those children are going to continue to need aid and intervention if they are to have any chance at a decent life. And those parents are going to continue to avoid treatment because they not only don’t want to sober up, but also because using drugs is a crime and they don’t want to go to jail. So even if they decide one day that sobriety might be a fun way to raise their kids, they aren’t as likely to seek help.
Spending money on building more jails simply means that we will continue to incarcerate our citizens at rates unheard of in most supposedly civilized nations. We actually lead some of the more repressive regimes in the world today in the percentage of our citizens in jail.  Yet drugs are still easily available in our cities and towns, whether in Anchorage or in the smallest bush village.  Families are torn apart because of substance abuse, yet we have little to no money for treatment but plenty for prisons.
There are a lot of people in jail today who chose to use drugs, used them, got caught, and are now living off our tax dollars for no other reason than that. They did not involve kids or family, weren’t violent, didn’t break any law except using the drug. Funding their room and board while I search for money and programs to help parents try to regain their children is simply ludicrous.
Our war on drugs has failed. For every pound of pot seized, twenty times more makes it to the streets. Every time we vote to build more jails and spray more fields with poison rather than accepting this failure, we delay real progress in dealing with addictions.
Most people don’t sober up the first time they’re treated. Most smokers don’t quit the first time they try.  That’s the nature of addiction.  Treating one as a medical condition and the other as a crime simply makes no sense.
It’s time to take our heads out of the sand, drop the puritanical pretense, and face this problem head on. Addicts need treatment, not jail.

Elise Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Well, I now know that thunder and lightning also freak out Blondie.  I’m ready now on New Year’s Eve for a sixty pound dog to try to leap in my lap when the fireworks start and try to claw her way under my skin for protection. But I must say I was totally unprepared for the same reaction when the first thunder clap sounded.  You really don’t know the meaning of being startled until a dog...did I mention she weighs in at sixty pounds...runs across a run and tries to leap into your lap as you sit at your computer.  I think Blue was a little scared too but then she was too busy laughing at the tangle of arms, legs, paws and heads that resulted from Blondie’s jump to remember to be nervous about it.

Elise Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I’m watching the Olympics the other night and there is good old George W, the man who’s still our president, having a good old time watching the swimming. And all I could think was, “Really? Is this how irrelevant you have finally become? We are at war. Our economy sucks. People are losing their homes. Some have no idea how they will heat their houses this winter. Many have no way to pay for the medical care they need to save their lives. And you sit in China watching the Olympics as though none of this has anything to do with you.”
Will this nightmare never end?

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 AM •
Monday, August 11, 2008

You should keep old friends around for a lot of reasons. And this is one of the best. When you can’t remember the name of someone from the old neighborhood or the name of the nun that taught you in fourth grade or where the piano recitals were held for Mrs. Kramer’s students, she’s there to not remember with you.

Elise Patkotak • 03:00 AM •
Sunday, August 10, 2008

This is my friend Caroline with a very nice, if somewhat clueless, lady and a very scary man. She is receiving an award for her volunteer work. She deserves it. What she doesn’t deserve is the shower I’m going to make her take to wash that man’s cooties off her before she can come back in my house. I can’t believe she let him touch her!

Elise Patkotak • 03:44 AM •
Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ted Stevens not only wants his trial to happen quickly but also to happen in Anchorage....well, there you go. You can’t buy that kind of wonderful campaign publicity. Right next to your “Re-elect Ted Stevens” ad in the paper will be the story on the latest sleazy revelations from his trial. Yep. That should help his campaign no end. AND....do it in Anchorage where the local media will be all over it like butter on toast.  Maybe Ted’s thinking he’s more interested in an acquittal so he doesn’t spend his waning years in jail than in actually getting re-elected and figures his chances are better in Alaska. Hmmm...he might want to rethink that strategy on the off chance he hasn’t sensed just how disgusted a lot of people are with him.

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Friday, August 08, 2008

I also feel compelled to admit that while I may bitch and moan about the rain, I actually like the cool weather. I would not be unhappy if it never got above sixty degrees. That’s my cut off point for cool and comfortable versus hot and miserable.  And if I have to take the rain to get the cool weather, so be it.

Elise Patkotak • 03:31 AM •
Thursday, August 07, 2008

I sat at my computer wondering what I could say that would be fresh or different about the sad news wracking our state in waves. One investigation, indictment or conviction barely makes if off the front page before another takes its place. And whether it is a sitting United States senator or an ex-state representative, it generates great sadness at the way power can corrupt even those who might have started out honorably.

After Senator Stevens’ indictments, I considered simply writing, “We’re Number One!” because I’m pretty sure we have now passed New Jersey for most corrupt politics in the union. It’s a small comfort to know we can be number one at something.
Then my summer visitor arrived. I took her to Talkeetna. We got on a plane with Chuck from K2 Aviation to see Denali. Of course, this being Alaska, we couldn’t land on the glacier or fly on certain routes because of weather and turbulence. And, as always, Denali was coy, keeping her head hidden in the clouds so that I heard our pilot telling my summer visitor from the air the same thing I would have been saying to her from the ground. “If the clouds weren’t there, that’s where Denali would be.” But Alaska is so magnificent that for every wonder we couldn’t experience, it had one we could. Chuck had no trouble keeping our attention as he flew over areas so beautiful that even God must have wept when she finished creating them.
I went up in the air thinking the trip was going to be a disappointment because we’d neither see the mountain nor feel a glacier.  Then the plane gained altitude and I looked out the window and once again Alaska took my breath away.  As we climbed up, the panorama just got better and better.  The vastness, the greenness, the glaciers and those mountains that choose to be seen – suddenly all the scandals, all the corruption, alleged or otherwise, slipped into perspective.  They are not Alaska. This land I was gazing down at, that is Alaska.  Beautiful, vast, scary, rugged, welcoming and forbidding all at once, this was my state. And to badly misquote Bogart in Casablanca, it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of some ethically challenged politicians don’t amount to a hill of beans in this amazing place.
When you’re in country, rocking on a boat on the Little Su while your friends fish and the birds swoop overhead looking for a free meal, with no sounds but the water lapping the boat, the birds calling their friends and the splash of the line on the water, you realize that this state not only will survive, but the sleazy parade that has passed for public life these past few years will fade quickly into total insignificance next to the reality of Alaska.
I’m not forgiving these politicians. I think Alaska deserves better than what many of them have given it. A state this amazing deserves to be represented by people equally as amazing.  But meanwhile, as we wait for those messiahs to appear, the land and rivers, fish and game, glaciers and mountains continue on as they have for millennia, barely acknowledging our presence, engaged in a journey that has been going on for so long that we can barely grasp its enormity in our minds.
I’ll be taking my summer visitor to a lot of other places that are Alaska, from Hatcher’s Pass to Alyeska to Hope and Seward.  I’ll show her my little corner of the state while reminding her of just how big it is and how many years it would take to explore all its faces.  And then when she leaves, I’ll go back to my normal routine and the headlines that scream at me from the front page of the paper will reassert their importance in my life. I’ll forget for a while what surrounds me in Anchorage while I focus on getting to Sugar Spoon before all the sugar-free desserts are gone.
But for now, I’m very grateful to my summer visitor for wrenching my mind away from the sleaze and sadness that is engulfing us and reminding me what a privilege it is to call Alaska my home.

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I can think of nothing creative to say today.  Is this the beginning of total brain fade?  Oh lord. I knew it would eventually come but hoped it wouldn’t start until I was at least collecting social security. Maybe it’s just a passing moment...though if I can’t remember anything anymore, how will I know when it passed or remember it was here. Now my brain really hurts.

Elise Patkotak • 03:43 AM •
Tuesday, August 05, 2008

So many people have asked this question that I feel compelled to come clean about the timing on my blog entries. Although I blog every day, the times when I do vary wildly. At some point I chose sometime in the 3 AM bracket to have that day’s blog entry appear. My blog machine, or whatever it’s called, allows me to choose the time the blog entry shows up on the site. So for all you who wonder how I can be so brilliant/stupid/funny/dull/idiotic/dense/insightful at 3 AM, the truth is that if I am awake at 3 AM is probably because I’m waiting for an ambulance. Short of needing emergency care, this old lady has trouble going much beyond 1 AM with any coherence. And even 1 AM is possible only if I am in bed reading something that requires minimal comprehension.
And no, I have no idea why I chose the 3 AM time slot. I’m sure I once had a very compelling reason. It will, alas, be lost forever in the increasingly dim mists of my mind.

Elise Patkotak • 03:03 AM •
Monday, August 04, 2008

On a good week in the winter here, I could drop dead and no one would find me until my body was so decomposed that even the dogs wouldn’t eat it. Come summer.....there are so many visitors and activities that the rest I would get dropping dead and not being found almost sounds attractive.

Elise Patkotak • 03:34 AM •
Sunday, August 03, 2008

As that old saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I find myself wondering if there is anywhere in this world a politician who is not ultimately corrupted by power, no matter how honorable they are at the start. That’s really where my disgust with government lay.  Even good people who get into office and stay too long eventually end up corrupted because there are simply too many people sucking on their butt at once telling them how wonderful they are. They feel powerful and eventually feel untouchable, as though the laws they pass are meant for mortal men but they are gods.  Will women eventually succumb to this call too? Are there so few women on the list of corrupted politicians because there are so few women in power or because women resist the siren call better? I’m afraid when we go through times like this, I find myself thinking that it’s just a matter of giving women the time to catch up.

Elise Patkotak • 03:09 AM •
Saturday, August 02, 2008

An article in the paper explained how to go to fast food restaurants and eat more healthily by not getting the cheese or the sauce or the fries or the combo meal. And I have to ask...isn’t that exactly why you’re at the fast food restaurant?

Elise Patkotak • 03:01 AM •

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