31 October 2014

In Trouble? These Alaska Dogs Will Sniff You Out

If you've spent any time around any of the "working" dog breeds, you know how they look on the job: Ears pricked, eyes intent, every fiber of their body focused on the job at hand. The job could be almost anything: Running an agility course, herding livestock or saving your life. Because when it comes to finding lost people, search and rescue dogs have a tool we humans cannot hope to match: their noses.

"If you see how observant we are with our eyes, dogs are the same way with their nose," explained Eeva Latosuo, one of several veteran search dog handlers with Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs who met last week on the Alaska Pacific University campus to demonstrate their search teams' capabilities. Emphasis on "team": The dog's extraordinary nose may do the finding, but it's the handler who steadies the dog, cares for it and ultimately guides the search strategy.

... As we followed Brooks through the woods, the purpose behind Primer's zig-zagging slowly became clear: Brooks was the hub of his dog's search pattern, with Primer coming back and "checking in" every so often, making eye contact or bumping Brooks' fingers with his nose before heading back out for another sniff.
Paul Brusseau, another Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs handler, came along to explain how the searches work. The organization typically responds to about 25 missions a year statewide, including searches for people who are lost, drowning and avalanche victims, and firearms or other possible evidence. The Alaska State Troopers decide which search resources, including Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs, should be deployed. Search activity varies by month, with more wilderness and water searches during the summer and mostly avalanche work during winter and spring.

Read the rest here.

That Wasn't Much Fun

Not mine, just a representative photo from the web.

My doc asked that I undergo a second nuclear stress test*, to see if my condition has changed. I did so, early this morning.

Patients are instructed not to have caffeine of any kind for 24 hours prior to the test. I think that's harder than the test itself.

I did so, this morning. Now my wallet is $600 lighter, and my heart and blood would set off radiation detectors at the airport. Seriously, the nuclear tech told me that if I planned to fly in the next couple days, I should ask for a note from the doctor to show the TSA/alphabet security folks.

But vacation is still months away ... dang it.

In the meantime, I'm working on a large Americano and the caffeine headache is beginning to subside.

In another half-hour I might even feel human again.

* The first was last year, after getting a couple of stents inserted in a blocked cardiac artery.

30 October 2014

Lawmaker Says 'Trickery' Slipped Common Core into Alaska School Districts

From the Alaska Dispatch News:

JUNEAU -- State Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, is on a mission to root out "Common Core," the new educational standards that have become a target of the tea party movement, from Alaska schools.

At a Wednesday hearing of the Joint Administrative Regulation Review Committee, chair Reinbold grilled Mike Hanley, commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development.

Hanley said Alaska has adopted its own "Alaska Academic Standards," not the Common Core that many other states have adopted as part of a national education reform effort.

But Reinbold said those Alaska standards were so similar to the Common Core that they might as well be the same thing, and she spent much of the hearing trying to prove that, parsing previous Hanley statements on similarities and differences

"You were telling all the legislators that we weren't doing Common Core," she said. "We were being misled."

Local school districts around the state adopt the standards they want their students to strive for, and then select a curriculum to be taught that they think will help them get there.

But the Alaska Legislature last year adopted a prohibition on Hanley's department expending any money to implement Common Core. He told legislators at the time that the prohibition was meaningless because they weren't doing it anyway.

But Reinbold said she concluded the differences between the Alaska Academic Standards and Common Core were so slight that they were the same {snip}...
Some Alaska school districts, including Anchorage and Copper River, have adopted Common Core, while others have gone with the Alaska standards. Anchorage adopted the tougher standards before the state created its own.

Reinbold said the prohibition adopted by the Legislature barred that. She said "trickery" was used to keep on using Common Core despite the prohibition.

Many other districts are purchasing and using curriculum materials that are aligned to the national Common Core Standards, she said.

The argument, er, article continues, here.

When You Light a Stove with Gasoline

A tragic story from Homer, in a copyright story at KTUU Channel 2:

Homer man badly hurt after woodstove explosion, fire total home

An elderly Homer man was severely injured in an explosion and fire that destroyed his home Wednesday morning, Alaska State Troopers say.

In a Wednesday afternoon AST dispatch, troopers say responded alongside crews from the Anchor Point, Homer and Kachemak Emergency Service Area fire departments to the Diamond Ridge blaze at about 9:15 a.m.

“Investigation revealed the 88-year-old male owner of the residence attempted to start a fire in a wood stove using gasoline,” troopers wrote. “There was an explosion and the home was subsequently consumed by fire.”

Troopers say the man was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The $160,000 residence was a total loss in the blaze.

Our thoughts and prayers go to the man, and we hope he recovers quickly.

Our Next Vacation

Younger Daughter has just booked her first vacation alone, and is three-quarters jazzed about it. The other quarter is a bit of apprehension, but she'll be fine.

That inspired us to book a vacation for ourselves, a month sooner than we'd planned. But when one of your favorite places in the world has a 20%-off sale, AND the airfare is discounted for that same period, then ... well, you know.

Seriously, the airfare and hotel combined is less this time than just for the hotel in previous trips.

It's hard to say no to a deal like that, so we didn't.  :)