Saturday, November 22, 2008

World fame?

Musher Hans Gatt speaks to the media in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, before dawn on February 25, 2004, after winning his third consecutive Yukon Quest sled-dog race.

I took this photo within a few weeks of getting my first (and, to date, my only) good digital camera. As I did a number of other times while in Alaska, I melded together a work/vacation trip - this time, to cover a high school basketball story in Skagway while also venturing north into the Yukon to catch the end of the Yukon Quest sled-dog race.

My paper didn't generally cover sled-dog races beyond what the AP sent us, because there wasn't much connection to Juneau (little level land = little room for sled-dog events). But, this particular year a musher with a Juneau connection was involved in the race (as a dog handler, not a competitor), and I wanted to see a sled-dog race. And, the Yukon Quest - arguably the second-biggest sled-dog race in the world behind the Iditarod - which switches directions each year, happened to be finishing at the end closest to Juneau - Whitehorse - instead of the other possible ending, in Fairbanks.

So, I headed up into the Yukon in my Saturn sedan in the dead of winter, caught up with the local handler at a checkpoint called Braeburn Lodge, north of Whitehorse, and then headed back to the territorial capital to catch the winner crossing the finish line - Hans Gatt, a well-known musher who that year won the race for the third consecutive time. Because the work I had to do - covering that local connection - was done, I was free to roam around and play "paparazzi" at the finish line, jostling in the crowd to get a good shot of the winner.

I had sent photos to the AP wire before, but I had been using film cameras. So, I'd have to wait a few hours to get the shots developed, and then try to find a place to scan in film or negatives, tone them, and then post them. This time was my first experience with digital - I uploaded the photos to my laptop, worked them up and sent them to AP in a fraction of the time.

The photo above was one of the first - if not the first - finish photos on the wire, and as such got picked up by the Anchorage paper and one of the big papers in Vancouver (the Province, the tabloid-y one, which used my photo big with the headline "Praise be to Gatt").

The experience really drove home the possibilities that digital photos opened up - and was doubly cool because I got to see my photo used in other papers. It wasn't the New York Times, but ... a paper in the U.S., a paper in Canada - I guess I can say that my photo was seen by an international audience.

Spotted on my way home

I was driving home tonight when my headlights caught the glare of a deer's eyes on the right side of the road ahead. I slowed down, then saw a deer on the left side. As I neared and slowed down some more I saw two deer on each side, directly across the road from each other.

I stopped my car a few dozen feet from the deer. The pairs of deer looked at me, looked at each other, looked at me, looked at each other....

Finally, after maybe 20-25 seconds, all the deer ran off into the woods on their respective sides of the road.

I wonder if I broke up a West Side Story-ish rumble.

Friday, November 21, 2008

OK, I'll admit it, I still love this movie

When I was about six or seven, I was introduced to "The Incredible Journey," a 1963 Disney movie about three pets - two dogs and a cat - who traverse the Canadian wilderness to get from where they are being boarded to their real home. And, to be very, very clear, I am NOT talking about the decades-later "Homeward Bound" remake that is far inferior.

I don't know if I was caught at a very impressionable moment, or if it is my love of animals, or my love of the northern Ontario scenery, or what.... but I have been a total sucker for this movie ever since I first saw it. I have it on videotape - not available on DVD - and, maybe once a year, I pop it in the VCR. Maybe it's something that has just perpetuated itself over the years - good memories of childhood getting reinforced every time I watch.

If you've never seen it, the movie consists largely of the animals getting into life-and-death scrapes on their journey, with a richly voiced narrator and a orchestral score offering the "play by play," such as it is. You can get a taste of it with this YouTube clip, and the others that follow. Some of the shots are pretty incredible when you think about the animal training that was involved (and, yes, some shots are a little cheesy looking back from 2008 - especially the "bear attack" scene). Humans are only side characters, assisting the dogs and cat here and there, and providing the final, if-you-don't-at-least-get-a-little-misty-eyed-you're-not-human scene.

One thing I like is that the movie is not "dumbed down" for kids. There are no gratuitous off-color jokes, and - unlike the 1990s remake - the animals aren't given celebrity voices to spice things up. It's a sweet and simple tale, told matter-of-factly, letting the animals, the scenery, the narrator and the music do their thing.

I'm still waiting for the movie to be released on DVD. In the meantime, I'll have to be content with my well-worn tape, the YouTube clips and the reproduction of the movie poster (above) I bought off Amazon a couple years ago.

The Incredible Journey. Awesome.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ethical dilemma

I added about a dozen stale flour tortillas to my compost pile last night, thinking that ravens or other birds would enjoy them today. I've seen ravens scavenging out of that pile many times.

But, I had noticed lately that food had been eaten out of there with some force - that is, it was ripped apart and scattered about. I didn't think much of it until I saw a neighborhood dog chowing down on the tortillas just now.

This is a dog that is allowed to roam free, and on more than one occasion it has run up to about 20 feet from me, in MY yard, and started barking madly. It also harassed the elderly dog I pet-sit for last spring. So, the thought of it throwing up a dozen stale tortillas on the carpeting at its owner's house does give me a touch of satisfaction.

But, now that I know it is eating out of my compost pile, should I stop putting food out there? Put up a bigger fence? Do nothing? I'm not sure.


I keep hearing on the news that "stocks are lower today as (insert bad news) sparked investors' fears of a recession."

I don't know a lot about investing, but what more do "investors" need to hear to reach that conclusion? Aren't we there already?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Things found, Vol. 2

Found yesterday: My can opener

Location: The bag of kitchen-related items I had packed for use while camping on my cross-country trip last month. Which, of course, I never got to use after hitting the deer in North Dakota; the bag was left with the car while I flew to Seattle. I packed it away with my camping gear and forgot about it - can opener included - until suddenly remembering it yesterday. Mystery solved.

Cans of Spaghetti-Os consumed since can opener was found: 2