Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

My Photo
Location: United States

Saturday, December 31, 2005

"This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5." - Capt. John Sheridan, Babylon 5

Skinny Dick's. I had to throw this one up again. It cracks me up.

Well, it’s the last day of the year. So much has gone on during the year, I thought it would be nice to give a set of highlights from the year. So, enjoy. You deserve it. Happy New Year. Oh, and I’ve got a real post tomorrow. Perhaps my best one ever – it has Nobel Prize for Literature, MacArthur Fellows Program, and Pulitzer Prize for Stuff written all over it. But I’ll erase all that before I post it. I read it to The Mrs., and milk shot out her nose. And she doesn’t drink milk.

Well, we’ll rewind. Here’s 2005, Life In Alaska Style

Life In Alaska founded. Temperature –55F in Fairbanks. Air freezes.

I start cutting wood at our house. Because we’re freezing. We go to the Fairbanks Ice Festival, and see that ice has a use other than cooling beer, skating, and tea.

I love the detail on this one. Click on it for a larger version. I'm also very worried about the mind that thought it up.

I launch an expedition across the Isthmus of Panama, and discover the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Still no gold.

The Mrs. enters her 75th 8th month of pregnancy.

Denali is very large. Larger even than the temper The Mrs. displayed during month 8.

The New Boy joins us. The Mrs. postpones sleep until 2009, and I am informed that I have a four year contract extension from my current 2019 until 2023. After that I go on a series of one year contracts.

100 days of daylight begin. Winter ends, which I can tell because stuff stops freezing.

Get me the Nobel or the MacArthur Fellow Thingy or I'll kill this car. Actually, July is the only month I wash mine. The rest of the year it's too frozen or too muddy.

I gather copious amounts of wood to help stave off the looming problem of global wooding. We must stop the forest!

Alaska celebrates first full month of winter.

The pile that you see above isn't sticks. It's real. It's wood. It's also my attempt to pump carbon back into the atmosphere to stop Global Cooling.

I sneak drilling rigs into ANWR, begin pumping sweet, sweet oil.

The President of Taiwan sues The Boy for a peace treaty. The Mrs. becomes embroiled in scandal when The Boy (aided by the ACLU) issues grave charges against The Mrs., alleging that, “She won’t let me watch what I wanna watch on TV.”

So, pictured above is Gregg Rolie. He's the singer for The Gregg Rolie band. Just thought I'd throw that in there. Met him. He was nice.

Donald Rumsfeld asks The Mrs. to bring peace to Iraq after seeing her put the smackdown on The Boy and the ACLU.

Vote to allow drilling in ANWR goes badly. I'll sneak my drilling rig out one night. Which gives me ninety or so days.

Yeah, I know, douse yourselves in the irony. I'm sure they used biodegradable spray paint.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Just a statue? Is the Statue of Liberty just a statue? Is the Leaning Tower of Pizza just a statue?" - Homer, The Simpsons

So, in Alaska you build ice towers to your heart's content. No permit required. And what would your homeowner's association say?? Click on the picture for bigger ice goodness.

Christmas this year was fun. The Mrs. got what she wanted (Star Wars – Battlefront, Command and Conquer – Generals) and The New Boy got his baby cage play pen. The Boy got his radio-controlled car (expected life span with a five year old – two weeks). We got by with only one Christmas mishap – the tree fell right over while the booty underneath was being doled out. This was a small hardship, and we used a small chainsaw to cut it up and toss it straightaway into the fire. Since it was artificial, well, we’ve still got the metal post that needs to be taken care of. I’m also not very happy with the fire retardant limbs. I had to take a propane torch to those to make them burn.

The Boy, weeping bitter tears at the thought that the falling Christmas tree had killed a Yoda or something.

Okay, okay, I didn’t burn the tree. But I do have a project next year to make it stand up.

My Christmas haul? I got some nice gloves and various tools for the projects around the house.

I’ve noticed as the days grow shorter and colder I get a particular itch to do projects inside, thus the tools are a very appropriate gift. I suppose that my itch to do projects is related to having an anchor The New Boy around, since a baby doesn’t mix well with mushing, skiing, snow-machining, or most outdoor stuff at –10F. So, I do projects. Bizarre projects, sure, like making my own tire chains for The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) and bookcases that tilt like they were custom built for the side of a mountain.

As much as I enjoy my own projects and their inherent oddity, I have project envy.

In Alaska, one of the most daunting things to any exterior construction project in the winter is the cold. A gentleman up in Fox, which is just north of Fairbanks, has figured out a way to use the cold temperatures to his advantage. He’s putting up ice towers. Not one, but two.

Last year’s version of the ice tower was over 140’ in height when it finally succumbed to gravity poisoning in spring, splashing ice boulders over the landscape. The solution? Build two ice towers this year.

Why two towers? I have no idea why you’d want one ice tower.

The more colorful of the two ice towers. The red and green make a nice Christmas mix. On a huge friggin' block of ice. You can click on it for the larger version.

The local ice-climbing club (yes, we have one of those) carries pipe segments up the jagged ice tower, and puts dye into the water so the tower becomes colorful as it becomes taller. Last year the owner described that ice tower as the largest man made structure of ice, so now he’ll have The Two Towers. I guess that means that next year we’ll get Return of the King?

Anyhow, hobbits aside, he also lives in a house with wheels, and has constructed a large geodesic dome near the tower site. Alaska, though, is perfect for people like this, who wish to conduct marginally strange and slightly dangerous projects merely because they want to do them. There’s no building code that prevents it, and if he wants to (by his count) spend several thousand dollars doing all this, well, why not? We all know how this will end . . . with gravity and temperature finally taking the towers down. But, dang, it’s neat.

A geodesic dome near the towers. Again, the question "Why?" may well be answered by, "It's Alaska." You can click on it for larger domey goodness.

Which brings me to the envy part. My Christmas tree fell down, and this guy is building multi-ton ice fingers pointed at the sky. I’ll guess I’ll go back to building my tilty bookcases.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"Now, you will sit in this chair until lunchtime, with nothing but a cup of coffee at 11!" - The Unexpected Spanish Inquisition, Monty Python

High noon, two days after Solstice. We'll see the Sun at the house sometime in February. Provided Freya can kill the giant wolf that ate it.

A Fairbanks traffic jam generally consists of about three cars. Sometimes five on a bad day. In actuality, you might have to wait four minutes to get on the highway after a UAF Nanook Hockey game lets out.

Yesterday (December 23rd) was, however, an exception.

I went with The Boy to go have some coffee (he takes his black) and then went to the store of all stores, The Home Despot. I bought some tools (The Boy wanted to get a drill press, really, but was assuaged by the band saw) and materials for projects. Life was good. Traffic was normal. Then we headed toward home.

I got there and he and I went to our local post office to pick up mail.

Mail in the lower 48 mainly consisted of the place where you got your bills in the big aluminum box that you shared with the people up and down your street. That’s about as communal as your dumpster. You might see a mail carrier once a month or so. The mail is a minor convenience, and you can imagine life very well without it.

In Alaska, though, the mail is vital. There are an increasing number (just added: Sportsman’s Warehouse, Old Navy, and soon, Barnes and Noble) of stores that you can buy gifts at in Fairbanks, but this still pales in comparison to the selection of items that are available at even a minor strip mall in the lower 48.

In comes the mail. The mail brings us nice things from eToys.com, Amazon.com, and Caseofbeerandducttapeoftheweek.com. Surprisingly, we ordered an item from Amazon that came from New York City that got here in two days. This is a far cry from the 1960’s, when NFL games from the previous Sunday were what was on TV. You can get most things that you’re looking for up here, and for those special items that you need from Outside, well, Amazon.com can bring you a perfectly serviceable baby-cage for The New Boy (okay, the PC term is playpen, but if you’re a parent, you and I both know that we don’t put the kid in a high-walled fortress for his enjoyment.).

The Boy and I went yesterday and mailed some Christmas presents and Christmas cards. I know, I know, waiting until December 23rd to mail this stuff is silly, but (pick only one):

  1. We were delaying our Christmas cards until the vote on drilling for sweet, sweet oil in ANWR was over,
  2. We thought it was November 23rd,
  3. A dark, evil spirit (Ted Kennedy) held us captive and we couldn’t mail them until two days before Christmas, or,
  4. We just got around to doing it.

So, The Boy and I stood in a line at the local post office for about 15 minutes. The people were jovial and nice. The post office personnel were jovial and nice. It felt wonderful.

We don’t get our food (yet) from Foodforthewilders.com, so off into Fairbanks the entire troop of us went. And, for the first time in Fairbanks I had to deal with traffic. It took us 10 minutes to find a parking space at Safeway. At Safeway! Since the parking lot is covered with snow, people do their very best to park in some sort of row structure, but the darn lines of cars wiggle back and forth like Carmen Electra on a trampoline. We got one of the last carts, and got our Christmas ham, our Christmas cookies, our Christmas potatoes, and our Christmas beer. The cart was so full we had foot stacked on either side of The New Boy. The Mrs. told me not to put frozen items next to him, but, I figured he was insulated okay. I moved the frozen peas when his gums started to chatter.

We went to the line to check out, and the clerk knew The Boy by name and spent time talking to him, despite the obvious frazzle the flood of customers had put in her frizzle. She even had a piece of candy for him.

That’s Fairbanks. The clerks recognize you. By name.

The trip out was slow. We spent about 10 minutes at one intersection before finally getting to the highway, and home.

Viewing Christmas through the eyes of a five year old is magical! Now, The Boy is crawling out of his skin, wanting Christmas to come. Perhaps I should switch him to decaf.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"They're coming to get you, Barbara!"-Johnny, Night of the Living Dead

So, this wasn't taken today. You can tell that, since we never SAW THE FRIKKIN' SUN today!

Today was the Winter Solstice. I was going to type, “the Winter Solstice in Fairbanks,” but it was the Winter Solstice pretty much everywhere on Earth. So, happy Winter Solstice!

Is it dark all of the time? No. Today the Sun rose at 10:58AM. It went down at 2:40PM. For those math wizards out there, yes, that was a total of three hours and forty-two minutes of daylight And, that daylight wasn’t “high noon in Tucson, Arizona melting in a puddle of sweaty flesh daylight,” no, that was “if there weren’t crappy little shrubs about a quarter mile from here, I might see the Sun daylight.”

So, on the solstice we didn’t see the Sun.

Now, as I understand it, the Druids used to sacrifice a young birch (yes, I spelled that right, I think they were into trees) on the solstice. Maybe it was the Egyptians. Heck, maybe it was the Rotary Club. Someone, somewhere used to sacrifice something (and, no, I didn’t give up beer) on the Solstice so the sun wouldn’t go away forever. I thank them for that. I’m glad that some tree (or goat, or whatever) was killed back in 2357 B.C. so that I could have nice sunny days. Six months from now.

Which brings me to my biggest fear about these long nights and short days. You might say, “John Wilder, does it worry you that the long dark might be depressive and you end up cracking up a bit and making a 1/350th scale model of Edinburgh using toothpicks and bat guano?”

No. I don’t think we have bats. What worries me is the vampires.

How did this post about night in Fairbanks get so weird? Well, Blockbuster. You see, DVD rentals go way up in wintertime. Because, well, it’s damn dark and cold. So, people, rather than giving themselves tattoos with rusty butter knives, now rent DVD’s.

The Mrs. and I rented a DVD the other night. “Land of the Dead.”

Let me explain a bit. For every sock there is a hand. Or is that for every glove there is a foot? Well, regardless of the appendage you pick, The Mrs. and I are well matched.

When I was five years old my Grandma McWilder let me watch movies late on Saturday night. That was good. Most of the flicks on “Creepy Creature Feature” were 1950’s B-movies that wouldn’t scare a five year old. There was an exception.

One night they showed, Night of the Living Dead.

The uncut, original, George A. Romero, flesh-eating dead naked people version of Night of the Living Dead.

That scared the holy living bejezus out of me. I went to bed in Grandma’s room (there were two beds) and laid there in bed, rigid as OJ when people ask him if he’s still looking for the “real killer.”

There were problems. I knew, at least conceptually, that people died. Old people especially.

  • Grandma was old.
  • If she died, she might eat me.
  • She had dentures and moved pretty slow and shaky-like.
  • Maybe I could outrun her if I was still awake.

I’d better stay awake.

The Mrs. had a similar experience at the same age. She saw a stage version of “Dracula,” and, I’m sure, was wondering if a No. 2 pencil would do the trick if Mom or Dad became a creature of the night.

As a result, both of us tend to like scary movies. So, I rented Land of the Dead.

Alaska is the best place if you’re a forty thirty-something guy with a marginally Kirstie Alley-sized fear of zombies (like Kirstie, it gets bigger and smaller with the years).

Alaska has huge advantages if reanimated zombies rule the earth, for instance:

  • In winter, they’d be frozen as solid as furniture not purchased at Wal-Mart.
  • The cellular disruption from the extreme cold at –40F would turn the flesh to mush, making them entirely ineffective as zombies, since they would be zombies without muscle. Limpies?

The Mrs., however, is in bigger trouble. We only had three hours and forty-two minutes of sunlight today. She’s so hosed. That leaves twenty hours and eighteen minutes for vampires to rule Alaska. Maybe longer if they have some of that kick-ass SPF50 sunblock. I'd rather be afraid of zombies, though, than vampires. Vampires have pointy teeth.

So, in the summer with the warm temperatures and the twenty-four hour daylight, I get a little antsy. In the winter, well, I’ll remind The Mrs. that vampires could be out all the time, you know, so it’s an even deal. Regardless, I’ve already killed enough trees for the Druids to be happy. And for us to be warm.

Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"The only place you can find a Main Street these days is in Disneyland. And just try to buy a gun there." - Hank, King of the Hill

I know that this may sound slightly insensitive at this time a year, but, reindeer tastes good. If Santa shows at your casa, conk him on the nugget and take the reindeer. Mmmm. Reindeer.

So, another benefit on living in the Last Frontier. You get to be the first to do things.

I recently got a letter from the Fairbanks-North Star Borough. Borough is what we call a county up here. I think the primary advantage is that borough has more letters than county. Boroughs also have more guns than a county.

This isn’t the first letter I’ve gotten from the Borough. The first few (six?) were requests that I tell them about my property, things such as how much I paid for it. By law, however, they cannot get this information unless I give it to them voluntarily. By law, they can’t even come and visit to see if I’ve built a 7000 square foot addition (remember, no permits) and a six megawatt nuclear generating station. Not that I’ve done that. Yet. I’m saving for the duct tape for the joints on the radioactive cooling-water pipes.

This is the sign on the Alaska Pipeline. Probably too many words for our street.

Anyhow, this letter was a bit different. I and several other folks live on a private drive. By private drive, I mean a section of bare earth (actually packed snow right now) where no trees are currently growing. It’s bumpy, but living in Alaska, bumpy is how we like our roads, women, and beer. I don’t really know what I mean by the comment about the beer, but I just like typing “beer.”

This letter indicated that if one of our houses was burning, the local fire department would have as much chance of finding it as Jennifer Lopez would have of convincing a man that, you know, he was the first. This is, of course, despite the plume of smoke that would be evident in the six-month daylight duration, or the screaming, jumping, gesturing John Wilder at the end of the driveway should it be winter. Oh, yeah, and if you go to Google Earth my place is right there. But, you know, the dispatchers may not have exotic technology like the Internet.

What they wanted was rather simple, really. They want us to put up a sign at the end of our road indicating a street name. A street name that we get to pick out. I’m sure if you live, well, most place in the lower 48, this is an option that your grandparents might have had. Well, baby, this is our option. The Mrs. is as excited about this as I am. By the way, when was the last time you were excited about a letter from your county?

Not that it doesn’t come with a downside or two.


If we chose a name, and the Borough approves it (which, unless it’s patently obscene, is a 100% chance) then we can put up a sign that says, “Wilder Lane.” We have to pay for the sign and the post, but we get to pick our street name. We still own the driveway, they can’t have that, so “Keep Your Grubby Butt Out Lane” is still an option.

I’ve seen streets up here with names such as “Memory Lane,” “Runamuck,” “Loose Moose,” “Dead End,” and “Lois Lane.” Since I have a passing fancy for a certain NFL team, well, I thought that “L Way” would be a good name.

The downside is this: If we pick a really cool name, like, “Duct Tape Way,” the chances that some fellow Alaskan will come with a set of hydraulic shears suitable for cutting through a M-60 Patton tank will chop up the metal pole and take our lovely “Duct Tape Way” sign for use as a basement sign.

So I put it to you, faithful readers, to help me. I’m willing to fund on a fairly neverending stream a street sign that would have the coolest, most kick butt name ever. Keep in mind this, though. I have to convince several sober neighbors who didn’t have a sense of humor that fossilized when they were twelve. Like me.

So, here’s a contest. I’m going to throw it open to ya’ll to give me suggestions on what we should do here. We can:

  1. tell the Borough to pound sand (the Alaska option)
  2. pick a really cool name that would be here forever (the John Wilder option)
  3. pick a lame-ass lower 48 name like “Pointe Point Undangerous Fluffy Kitten Way”

This is the "pound sand" version. Giving Alaskan's crap about wearing seatbelts is like attempting to teach a bully a bunch of Irishmen at a neighborhood pub into drinking nothing but Diet Coke. As the old joke goes, it wastes your time and annoys the Irishmen. (A nod to Daniel in Eagle)

Give us your suggestion.

Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing a song give us an idea of what you would do if you lived in such a cool (both ways) place. Umm, if we get your idea past the neighbors and the Borough, we’ll pop a picture of the sign up on the net, complete with a loving link to you, and a beer if you ever make it up this far.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"Boy, a month in Europe with Elaine. That guy's coming home in a body bag." - Kramer, Seinfeld

The Boy ponders the meaning of life, and why he doesn't have M&M's

My family and my in-laws are fairly thoughtless.

They could very easily all move next door to each other so it would be convenient for when we came to visit, but, no. They’re selfish enough that they won’t relocate hundreds of miles so that when we visit every 14 months, we wouldn’t have to drive.

The selfishness of some people.

We took off from Ebenezer’s house on a beautiful Monday morning. Now, driving in Alaska I’ve noticed several things:

  1. Speeding isn’t against the law, it’s stupid in Alaska. We may be (someday) building wonderful, flat bridges to nowhere, but our roads right now make Pamela Anderson look flat. Going 75 miles per hour on them is ludicrous in most cases. On our trip, however, I noticed that there are things such as smooth roads. None of them are in Alaska.
  2. Cops are generally there to help you in Alaska. While driving across the state line, within the first sixty miles into the new state, we saw about eight Troopers on the road, pulling over folks and handing out tickets like people would want them. Obviously the Troopers were interested in money traffic safety.
  3. There are extraordinary limitations on where you can go in Alaska, since all of our highways are numbered in single digits. Driving down in the states I felt we could go anywhere. Fairbanks, by contrast, is much like living on an island . . . you can go somewhere else, but there’s a lot of effort involved.

The trip was as long as it could be. There is a stretch of highway (about 10,000 miles long), however, where the only things one can get on the radio are Jesus, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Rush. And not the cool Geddy Lee Rush, but the Limbaugh Rush.

Now, the fun part of this trip was that we were in a rental car. We rented from Enterprise (their slogan is the vaguely threatening “We’ll Pick You Up And There’s Not A Thing You Can Do About It”) and got the unlimited mileage package. Unlimited mileage is nice, since it seemed like we did little else but drive. The car was a compact, so The Mrs., The Boy, and The New Boy and I experienced lots of family bonding time. It actually got to the point were The New Boy started throwing a fit when we’d get ready to get into the car – he was done traveling. Fortunately, I’ve got like 200 lbs on The New Boy (he’s only like 180 days old) and combat training from my time in the Punic Wars, so he can rarely get the drop on me.

When we finally got to my in-law’s house, they promptly left. My father-in-law had to have his red blood cells waxed or something. So, we’d flown from Alaska, driven nigh a thousand miles, and The Mrs.’ mom and dad took a powder on us. That was okay, though, we’d rest and decompress.

That was not to be.

Being Alaskan and unused to the company of others, The Boy came down with some strange virus on the airplane so we got him a Norton Utility update at the doctor’s office. The doctor in question was 110 miles. 110 miles one way. More driving. We finally did get to the local zoo, and let The Boy run wild and scare the animals (no lions, tigers or bears, but there was a surly badger and some non-poo flinging monkeys).

The Boy runs toward a large pumpkin house. You can plainly see that it has been roped off because it does not meet current building codes, primarily because the stem wasn't installed by a licensed stemfitter.

We were one of two families there. The Boy, while playing, decided that the pressure on certain internal organs was a bit much. The Mrs. started shrieking as he pulled down his pants and prepared to contribute to the watering of the local park’s plant life. I managed to convince him that perhaps the park restroom would be a better place than the park tree.

Somehow, we did finally get to see nearly everyone, and had a bonfire two days before we left. A wonderful evening in the 50’s, complete with roasted hot dogs and toasted marshmallows.

The night before we left, however, the weather took a change for the worse. It went from sunny to having a golf ball sized hail and a tornado touch down about five miles from the in-law’s place. Okay, we thought, the weather won’t be a factor from here on out.

The next morning we began our drive back to the airport. I figured if we made good time we’d hit it in about 14 hours of driving. Well, twenty miles from the in-laws, we hit the ice storm. Two hundred miles from the in-laws, we hit the blizzard, avoiding the snow clogged Interstate that was shut down, stranding hundreds.

The next morning we took the (blessed!) day flight. We dropped our car off, having added nearly 2500 miles to its odometer and a hint of baby drool smell to the upholstery.

As we touched down in Anchorage, I could hear The Mrs. sigh contentedly and hear her say “Thank heaven we’re home.” I felt the same way. I’ve talked to other folks who live up here, and most of us have that feeling, that what we left behind in the lower 48, no matter how dear, is more than compensated by what Alaska does as it grows inside you.

The Chairman of the Board, Denali, welcomes us back home. Go ahead and click on it for larger picture goodness.

Another hour (we actually flew to Fairbanks on the same plane that we flew to Anchorage on, but they made us get off because it was a different flight number – logic, airline style) and we were finally home.


There is a difference being Outside. There’s so much more out there. In a sense that’s good. There are few material items that you might want that you can’t get with a drive of a few hours from almost any point in the lower 48. Unless you’re in Wyoming. The number of activities that you can do is exponentially larger. Unless you’re in Utah. In Fairbanks, though, I get a sense of inner peace that I don’t get so much while Outside, less hustle and bustle, perhaps a bit more meaning.

I’m sorry. I’m mistaken. That wasn’t inner peace, after all. Just the second beer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Lord Vader, we only use this facility for carbon freezing beer cooling. If you put him in there it might kill him." - Lando, Empire

Episode V

Madonna Strikes Back

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the
Death Star
her career has been destroyed, Imperial
troops have
Madonna has driven the Rebel forces from their
hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy. Evading the dreaded
Imperial Starfleet Madonna, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker John Wilder has established a new secret base on the remote ice world ofHoth Fairbanks. The evil lord Darth Vader Madonna, obsessed with finding young Skywalker The Boy, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space...

(For Woof)

Anyhow, after traveling Outside, I think we were at about four hours of sleep in the previous thirty-six. The impact of this sleep deficit was to lower our IQ’s nearly as low as the Baldwin family (Alec, Billy, and Whatshisname). And that’s not enough to get a positive number on an SAT. After being spotted 600 or so points.

So, what’s the best thing to do when you’re so tired that you are unable to see straight and are acting goofy enough to become a Genius in France? You go sightseeing.

Since my cousin, John, used to play quarterback for a certain NFL franchise (the Enver-Day Roncos-Bay), got us inside the stadium when it wasn’t busy. We visited everywhere.

You know the booth were John Madden spills greasy food all over Al Michaels when they do the game on Monday Night Football? Went there. I would have taken a picture, but Madden was eating, and, well this is supposed to be a family site.

You know the room where they hold the party to get the big advertisers drunk (Coke, United)? Went there, too:

This is the view from seats you can't buy. Well, you could buy a billboard on the stadium, but that's going a bit extreme. You could just go on E-Bay and get some tickets.

You know the locker rooms? Went there, too:

Believe it or not, ADA (Americans with Disabilities - a Federal law) makes NFL teams put in a locker that's wheelchair accessable. Really. I saw it. They make the kickers put their stuff in it, because it's not like they're actual football players.


Oh, and we went on the field. Played a game of catch with Cousin John:

Field level. This is a similar crowd to the last Twisted Sister concert.

But none of that could hold a candle to the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

The beauty, the perfection, the engineering of delivery of beer, precious beer, to thirsty, thirsty fans. There are four of these rooms that supply the entire stadium.

Whereas your house is probably plumbed for water, or Evian if you live in Beverly Hills, the stadium is plumbed for beer. Lots of beer. On an average game day, during the hours the stadium is open, Cousin John said they served an average of 210,000 12 ounce servings of beer. That’s over 2.5 million ounces of beer. In about three hours. All through the miraculous system you see depicted above. I need one in my basement. I mean I need one that’s not quite as large. Half as big?

I do math. There are 70,000 people in this stadium during a game, give or take. That’s three beers each. That’s why I took The Mrs. and The Boy and The New Boy to the game. I get their three beers. You know, to keep balance in the Force, not for my own enjoyment or anything.

I did some more math. If you built eight and a half of these stadiums, you could house the population of Alaska. Heck, this one would hold the population of Fairbanks more than twice over. Now, the problem with moving us all into stadiums is that Alaskans are like porcupines on the best of days. You can only stack ‘em so close, so, the plan to give up our cabins, houses, and tents wouldn’t sit very well with us. Besides, if we all left to go live in stadiums, there would be no way we’d be able to drill in ANWR.

Well, there might be another way to get us all to live closer together . . .

If you gave us free beer.


Heck, a better idea might be a public utility . . . I can’t get hard line phone to my house, or public water or public sewer, but I bet I could get the citizens together to put in a beer line.

Then Fairbanks would have everything.

Note: Okay, John Elway isn’t my cousin. I took the tour that anybody can take. But it sounded neat, didn’t it?

Next: Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh, my!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside, whether you're white, black, or sasquatch, even."-Meatwad, Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Our first sunset Outside. Not bad. I give it an 8. You can click on it for a larger version.

So, it was time for a trip Outside.

When I say Outside, I don’t mean just beyond the humble door of my log abode. No. I mean someplace that isn’t Alaska. That’s the definition of “Outside.” Oh, my schedule touring with Gregg Rolie keeps me busy (one night he’ll headline, the next I’ll headline with my spoken word version of “The Cat In The Hat.”) and going Outside, but this is with The Mrs., The Boy, and The New Boy.

I make reservations for us all. Since The New Boy is so gosh darn fresh, he gets to fly for nada, being the little straphanger he is. The Boy, of course, costs as much as The Mrs. and me even though he won’t eat nearly as many pretzels.

Fairbanks is a very well connected city, if you want to go to Barrow, Anchorage, or Seattle during the winter. During the summer, I hear there’s even a direct flight to Hamburg. Really.

So, I see that there’s a flight that leaves to go direct to Seattle from Fairbanks at 1:30 AM. How could this go wrong? It’s so late that The Mrs., The Boys, and I will be in slumber the whole time, so we will all get to our final destination in the Midwest as bright and cheery as a bowl of noodle soup.

The night before we leave, though, we pack until about 2:00 AM. Not so good. After spending the next day preparing to leave as well, The Mrs. and I were running on just a dab of sleep when we get onto the plane. At 1:30AM.

The Boy, getting onto the plane at night, was a bit disoriented. As we accelerated down the runway to takeoff speed, he said, and I quote, “Scared, scared, scared . . .” followed by “cool,” as he saw the full moon break over the clouds. We were on our way.

Needless to say, The Boy and The New Boy didn’t sleep right away. When they did finally go to sleep, we couldn’t. For one, blessed, fifteen minute stretch they were both asleep. Then The Boy awoke with a wail that would put a banshee to shame. This was followed by the immediate chain reaction cry of The New Boy.

I’ve had my sleep interrupted on many a flight by a crying child or infant. Now I am the guy with the squalling kids. I guess this is just the cycle of life completing as I move from irritated to irritator – Hakuna matata.

So, we finally land in Seattle just as dawn is breaking. The Boys have had just enough rest to make them alert and cranky. The Mrs. looks like the living dead (zombie living dead, not vampire living dead). We have coffee, that elixir of the gods, sweet, sweet caffeine. We perk up a bit.

We catch the next leg of our flight, now off to the Midwest. It was finally time to fly to see the first batch of our family. Another few hours in the air, and we’re off to pick up our rental car. When we left Fairbanks, the temperature was –17F. As we arrive at our destination, the temperature is 34F. Shirtsleeve weather!

To those that had a question about air quality in Fairbanks - this photo shows where a few million people live Outside. Fairbanks is sometimes foggy. Get the picture?

At this point, we were nearly comatose or cranky or just plain confused by the change in light and the multiple time zones we’d skipped. We took a tour of the city and headed to my brother’s house.

Now, my brother’s first name is John. If you thought my first name was John, well, you’re right. Apparently our parents weren’t all that imaginative. For some reason, he goes by his middle name (Ebenezer), even though he’s the older John. Go figure.

One time I called his office, and asked for him. The conversation went like this:

Me: Can I speak to Ebenezer Wilder?

Receptionist: Who shall I say is calling?

Me: John Wilder.

Receptionist: (Snort) Yeah, right. I’ll get him.

So, John Wilder called up John Wilder and he came home and we chatted. One thing about living in Alaska is this: you cherish the time with your friends and relatives when you get it a lot more. Even though you may see them for more time than you’ve seen them in years, well, the distance itself makes the experience special – you can’t drive and see them on a weekend (and you wonder why you didn’t do that more) so when you see them, it’s a trip. I imagine that life was much like this before the automobile made the United States shrink and shrivel like Robert Redford. Ironically, the distance brings you closer to the people you love, so far away.

The Boy, however, is not sold on this theory. He’s currently very angry and wants to move away from Alaska. Reason? He misses interstate highways. A recent conversation went like this:

Me: So, you like Alaska?

The Boy: No.

Me: Why not?

The Boy: No interstates.

The Mrs.: Well, there’s no other state to connect too.

The Boy: What about Nebraska?

The Mrs.: Do you want us to move Nebraska so we could have an interstate?

The Boy: Yeah.

The Mrs.: Heck, we could just build a bridge to Nebraska. Would that work?

The Boy: Yeah.

So, if you’re upset about our now-deleted “Bridge to Nowhere” well, take heart. If The Boy has his way, soon Alaska will be connected by bridge to Omaha.

So, we made it Outside. We have a sleep deficit, (36 hours??) however, that rivals the Federal deficit.

Next: My Visit To Beer Nirvana

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"Remember what you were saying about people in the 'burbs, people who mow their lawn for the 800th time, and then snap? - Tom Hanks, The 'Burbs

No matter what anyone says, I'm not gonna mow this for months. This is, by the way, high noon on a clear day - the sun won't hit any part of our house. You can click on this for a larger version - note the thermometer at -40F.

Well, I know that Thanksgiving is over, but I thought I’d weigh in on one topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m thankful I live in Alaska.

I was reading in the news this week about an elderly lady living (where else) but Florida. The officials of her local city had, for some time, attempted to get her to mow her lawn. For whatever reason, she wouldn’t. In a place where property rights meant anything, well, that would be a cue for the local authorities to say, “thanks for listening,” and go do something either useful (find the real killer) or at least not harmful (playing Microsoft Solitaire comes to mind).

The authorities waited 22 years, and then hit her with a bill (when she was 83) for $1.8 million. For not mowing her yard. Admittedly, not mowing your yard for 22 years is a bit much, but the point is that it was her yard. The local town extortionists government noted that there might be “snakes and rats”. As if there aren’t snakes and rats in Florida already. Most of them in her city. In her government.

She plans to fight. Go for it!

This is such a polar (pardon) opposite from Alaska. I cannot imagine that taking place here. We don’t even have snakes (true fact – Alaska’s too cold). Oh, and we try not to take property from little old ladies.

I guess what I’m trying to get across is that after the time I’ve spent up here, I can barely understand that story, and completely fail to understand why there isn’t outrage about the treatment she’s getting. Here, I’ve seen that the majority of residents just want to be left alone and don’t take the time and effort to be nosy about the behaviors of those next to them. On a drive to Fairbanks proper, I often see a house worth several hundred thousands, with a yard as neat as a pin right next to a collection of walls and a roof surrounded by a pile of cars previously owned by Desi Arnaz so large that you’d think you’d reached the mother lode of junky cars from the 1950’s (well, I guess that would be Cuba, but I digress).

That queer combination of neighbors is where I live, and, frankly I like it that way. Don’t you folks down in the lower 48 get tired of all of the rules and regulations that say what you can and can’t do on land that you and the bank own? I know that many locations have gated communities with strong covenants that don’t allow you to put a tree in the wrong place, let alone not mow for 22 years, but that’s a choice that you make when you buy into that conforming location. Doesn’t it bother anyone to have a legion of Gladys Kravitz-type people telling you what color you can paint your porch?

To add some contrast: if I wanted to (and I don’t, really) I could burn all my trash in my front yard. Not sure if it’s legal, but I do know nobody’s checking. I do know my neighbor has done that from time to time, and, well, I’m not offended. I even shared a chat with him while he was doing it.

To give an example of the attitude up here, I met a young (22ish) man who was running a family store. He was wearing an official, government issue looking t-shirt that said,




(who brought the chips?)

That’s the prevailing Alaskan attitude. Oh, sure, there are folks (six, I think) up here who don’t know anyone who owns a gun (we call those people bait) and who wear jute sandals to the “Vegans Against Hunting, Drilling, Fishing, and Beer” rally and regularly smoke the reefer. Well, good for them. Alaska’s a big state, and there’s room for all of us. Not so much when one group wants to stick their nose into what some other group does. Go ahead and be against hunting. Just don’t spoil my aim.

Well, in order to show solidarity with that little old lady from Florida, I intend to not mow my lawn for eight months. I’m already three months into this vigil, and will be for the five months until the snow melts.

So, I’m Thankful to be here, Thankful to be Alaskan. Oh, and Thankful for beer.

Next: Wilders Outside.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"So you locate the man on the other end of the blower and give him a ride to this flop." - The One True Shatner, Star Trek

The failed WilderChains Mark IV. Probably more interesting than actually working chains, like the wrecks in the Indy 500 are more interesting than the race.

I have a final report on the progress of my utter cheapness. At least as it pertains to home-fabricated tire chains.

751 years ago on this date, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, speaking “Mary had a Little Lamb” into a big tube. Also on this date, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. So it is fitting that my infamous invention is complete on this day.

Those of you who had five, repeat five in the pool on how many attempts it would take to make homemade chains for The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) are winners!

What, nobody won?

The over/under was 15???

Ye of little faith.

Immediately after reporting on my previous progress, I put WilderChains Mark IV into action. This slick setup made use of another trip to Home Despot for actual 3/16” steel cable rated at nearly eight hundred pounds of breaking strength.

With the ever so keen and helpful hands of The Boy

(Why are we in the garage? Why are we cold? Why did you choose such a low tensile strength material to provide circumferential tension for the first set of chains? Can I have snack? Does this hurt?)
I snugged up the outer cable, crossed my fingers, and headed out.

It felt like I was a knight in armor, riding my John Deere green stallion through forests of cherry blossoms on the single sunny day England is allowed in a century to fight Mordred. My Mordred had been the snow. Now my Mordred was the chains. Just scooting along was victory over that evil foe, with my belt-driven, two-stage, John Deere yellow Excalibur right out front.

This must be how Neil Armstrong felt when he landed on Mars and killed all those aliens and married that green chick. Or whatever he did.

I quickly made mincemeat of the snow, shooting it up and out a furious pace. Oh, Avalon!

Anyhow, I was nearly finished. I have an ancillary outpost of wood drier than a stripper’s eyes at the death of her billionaire husband, so I thought I’d carve a path effortlessly to it.

Well, guess not. The going got rough, and the chains got into the mangled, twisted mess that you see above. Not good.

I took the entire mess and managed to get it into the garage. It was fairly difficult. One other note: John Deere also sells weights that help put downward force on the back tires. I fabricated these myself, too, out of some underutilized weights. I found by leaning back at the proper angle, just enough weight could be brought to bear to pull the tractor back into the garage.

I was covered in white from the stray bits of blown snow, it was about -10F, and I was foiled again. Even the beer in the garage was frozen into a slushy mess.

So, another day, another trip to Home Despot.

Based on some of the tips here, I purchased some bungee cords to add additional tension. The most important thing I did, (I think) was to add saddle clamps (a U-bolt and a thingy) to hold the chain stationary on the cable.

Goodness, gracious, great chains of fire!

Tonight, The Boy and I assembled. He actually reached his zenith of real usefulness by un-screwing the nuts on the saddle clamps so I could slip them over the chain/cable combination. I broke about three of the clamps putting them on.

I bought lots of spares.

Alaskan steroids for the victor.

So, the tally:

Chain: $18

Cable: $4 $10

Clamps: $5 $10

Bungee Cords: $6

Beer: $14.98

Total: $44

Hours: 5

Knowing four ways not to make chains: Priceless.

If you do the math, I saved about $56, and at five hours, that’s like $11 and change. Drinkin’ beer and tax free, baby. Until they read this. I’m sure there’ll be a “making your own tire chain tax” next year.

Annotation number one: The Mrs. was watching “Mythbusters” tonight and asked the question, “Why don’t they use a real crash sled instead of making one?”

I know that answer. Upon reflection, she did, too.

Annotation number two: Since Sunday, some people have wandered here looking for instructions on “how to install John Deere tire chains.” This is like the advanced course. Or the remedial. Not sure which.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"You should meet my boss. He'd turn Buddha into a chain smoker." -Darren McGavinThe Night Stalker

Blown snow, not radioactive or anything, but still the holy grail of the Wilder house this week.

There’s a guy down in southern Alaska that’s attempting to install his own cyclotron. At his house. Knowing Alaskans, he may be doing this just for fun. The beauty of living in Alaska is that there aren’t (yet) any rules that prevent you from producing radioactive elements in your own cyclotron at your own house. I know some busybodies are going to try to stop it, but I think that the most they’ll get are some regulations.

Want to bet he uses duct tape to keep the thing together?

I, however, have more humble ambitions.

When I bought The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) I had some fun putting it together. But there was no real snow to blow, you know? So I had to wait. I waited, and now there’s snow. The problem is that the tires can find no purchase on the snowy slippery surface so I had to search for a solution (let’s hear Daffy Duck say that sentence).

The solution is simple, and John Deere sells it: chains. Home Despot doesn’t stock them, though (at least up here) so that leads to an opportunity: make my own snow chains. The Mrs. found a set of chains from another manufacturer that probably would have worked. They cost $100. Not a princely sum, but one that I thought with a bit of ingenuity and a few beers that I could at least match in performance.

The Mrs. was less than impressed by this idea. “It will take you ten times to get this right. How many hours will that take?”

I must note at this time that I did not dispute her estimate. I merely noted it. Ten times.

I had talked about the issue with a friend, and we had come up with several different designs, most of them impractical for either making use of materials that were not yet fabricated by mankind (unobtainium, for instance) or required more money for fabrication than the tractor was worth. The design I settled on was fairly simple, so, off to the chain section we went.

The nice clerk we talked to at Home Despot had no idea the fun that was waiting for her as I approached and asked where the chain was.

She smiled and said, “Do you need some chain cut?”

Oh, yes did I ever need some chain cut.

She ended up cutting me twenty segments of chain, each one foot long. The chain cutter is a manual affair, where she had to let hydraulic pressure off of two jaws that looked like a parrot’s beak. She then put one half of the chain between the jaws, and pulled out a handle and proceeded to pump it vigorously about forty times until the chain link was cut. Except given the type of chain that I’d chosen, she then had to flip the link over and cut the other half of the link as well.

And she had to do this forty times. If you do the math, she had to pump the hydraulic lever forty times for forty cuts. I think there’s something Biblical about the forty times for forty cuts (sixteen hundred times) that she had to pump the lever in order to make the twenty segments. To me, it looked like punishment for her doing something pretty bad. I offered to help, but I think Home Despot doesn’t want me cutting off my finger (at least in their store) so the only thing I could do is count the segments.

After the clerk developed right arm strength resembling that of a hormonal teenage boy, she helped me cut the cable I’d need, and I ended up purchasing the components for the chains.

I got home and went to work.

It took me about twenty minutes to get all the tools together, and The Boy and I ended up working about another 30 minutes on WilderChains, Mark I. During this time I figured that my math was incorrect – I had purchased about 1’ less for cable than I needed. 1’ less meant that I would be using the cable meant for the back side of the tire for the front. Nevertheless, given my amount of beer consumption and the fact that The New Boy was in Bed, The Mrs. would not want to hoist him out of bed to drive me to Home Despot for more cable.

The Wilder Mark I. Wonderful, ergonomic, economic. Crappy.

I chose instead to use some crappy nylon cord that I had purchased from Wal-Mart in order to prepare for the inevitable chaos that would ensue from Y2K. Man, the hordes that I faced. Wait, that was watching Mad Max. Nevermind. I think I just had some champagne and went to sleep.

So, with the inside crappily hooked together with cheap rope, and the outside with a nice cable rated at 340 pounds breaking strength, I took the tractor outside for testing. Would it work?

WilderChains Mark I failed miserably. The most surprising thing to me is that the portion that failed was not the cheap nylon rope, but rather the high (relatively) strength cable.

WilderChains Mark II failed in a slightly less but still very miserable way. There was a wonderful moment when the snow blower was scooting across the driveway consuming snow like it was Hollywood, 1978. It did this for about 1240 square feet of my driveway. Those of you in California might be suspicious that this amount of property is greater than the last undeveloped plot your state, but I assure you: there is still a state with that much undeveloped land. It's called Utah.

The Wilder Mark II. Crappy, but still worked better than Mark I.

Anyway, WilderChains Mark II failed by slipping off the tire. The cords (amazingly) didn't break. I took this as inspiration for WilderChains Mark III. Those made it about 10' from the garage door.

The Wilder Mark III. Crappy, and possibly Satanic enough to curse the John Deere forever due to the unplanned pentagram, or, Motley Crue now owns my tractor.

As I write this I must admit that I don’t have a set of working chains yet. Maybe tonight. I’m at three out of the ten attempt prediction from The Mrs. But, there's more beer.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"All my life I've fought against imperialism; now I'm the expanding Russian frontier!" - Lt. Cmdr. Ivanova, Babylon 5

Even our pumpkin is preparing for the impending Russian purchase of Alaska.

The Mrs. wants to keep the pumpkin outside until it gets to -55F and then whack it with a bat to see what happens. Can you tell I've married the right woman?

P.S. She's never heard of Prada.

Don’t you hate people who have seller’s remorse?

It appears that our WWII ally scary neighbor friend scary neighbor is still a skosh touchy about selling Alaska to the United States. I’m speaking about, of course, Russia.

Around 230 BJW (Before John Wilder – hey, if they can change “Before Christ” to “Before Common Era,” well, why not), Russia sent a Danish guy, (Vitus Bering) to do their exploring. The only place he could find was a very cold place that they ended up calling “Russian America.” They ended up claiming it and then selling it to the US to fund the purchase of an additional one-eyed cat for the Tsarina. Or Czarina. Or Tszarninovich. Or whatever. I believe we paid them in jelly doughnuts and tobacco.

Now in 40 28 YOJW (Year of John Wilder) a new development: a columnist (Steven Pearlstein) in one of Soviet Russia’s finest papers, The Washington Post, recently suggested that the United States sell Alaska back to Russia for a Trillion dollars. Now, why a communist would be in favor of selling anything is beyond me, but nevertheless, he suggested it.

His primary thesis was that Alaska got back more from the Federal government than we paid in taxes. If you do the numbers, we get back about $1.89 for every $1.00 we send off to Washington. Now, when you consider that there are only 600,000 people in a state the size of Austrailia, well . . . nevermind. That would make too much sense. I must admit that I do like his logic . . . I would like to have an itemized statement of the number of dollars spent on me from my Federal taxes. You know, to preserve the old $1.00 to $1.00 that he’s looking for. I figure Uncle Sam will soon be paying off my mortgage, because there’s no way they took that money from me for gasp someone else! I digress.

Mr. Pearlstein is mad, basically, about the bridges that were famously lampooned as going to “nowhere.” Now, I ask you, after forty years of massive investment in roads, bridges, that wonderfully efficient Amtrak, and the entire frigging interstate highway system that perhaps Alaska, with (true fact) fewer miles or roads than any states except Rhode Island and Delaware could use a bridge or two? I’m not sure those now deleted bridges were in the right place, but there are lots of “nowheres” in Alaska that can be reached only by airplane right now.

The columnist did nail one point on the head:
“With Alaska free from the political grip of environmentalists in Washington and Marin County, Alaskans would be able to drill and fish and clear-cut to their heart's content, unlocking value that could never be realized as long as they are in the United States.”

What I find perverse, besides certain activities involving feathers, whipped cream, and a cat, is that this dunderhead columnist actually got one thing right. The other irony is that communism in the 20th century, not capitalism, produced the most massive pollution in history. People in democratic countries won’t stand for the pollution, people in autocratic countries have as much chance to argue back as The New Boy when The Mrs. lassos me and makes me change his diaper.

If it was up to us, would we drill in ANWR? Ummm, you may not know it, but the Alaskans United for Drilling Yet More Oil to Sell to Environmentalists to Put in Their Volvos So They Can Drive to the Mall (AUDYMOSEPTVSTCDM) started drilling there last week. You can’t see the drill rigs, since we designed them to look like mosquito infested marshland.

Anyhow, now the sad part of the column’s impact.

The Russians, used to believing everything they told, started breaking their piggiski bankskis and collecting all the shiny bits of metal and colored wrapping paper that they use for currency and were attempting to figure out which bank they could take it to that would count out however many bazillion rubles (Nyet, this one is slug) equaled a trillion dollars so that they could buy Alaska back. They were excited. And this is from a people who barely have enough mud to make mud-cakes for dinner.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the last time the Russians were thinking about taking moving back into Alaska, nuclear weapons were involved. It’s not nice to remind even an old bear that a nice tasty prime rib is just in the next cave, especially from the viewpoint of the prime rib.

Plus, my foreign policy would be: don’t trust the Russians. And the Germans. And the Chinese. And the French. And . . . well, to shorten it up, maybe we can trust the British. And some of the Canadians.

Mr. Pearlstein was teasing the poor Russians. They miss us and want us back. And, the Chinese are up here every year measuring to see if all their stuff will fit. There’s a lot of demand for Alaska. The United States could sell it in a heartbeat. Demand for Washington? Not so much. If you put Washington D.C. up on E-Bay wanna bet that Mildred from Tacoma would get it for $32.50, but refuse to take possession because she couldn’t afford the shipping?

Silktide SiteScore for this website
Blog Flux Directory Blogarama Free Web Counters
Web Counter
Search Popdex:
Humor Blog Top Sites Top100 Bloggers
Top100 uscity.net directory