Dear Mr. President…

Dear President Obama,

First of all, thanks for staying in Alaska longer than it takes to refuel Air Force One. In my lifetime I think you’re the first POTUS who even stayed overnight.

Now, about that smoke fish you scored in Dillingham.

Photo from Associated Press, via The Indian Express

Photo from Associated Press, via The Indian Express

I heard you talking about recipes for it on NPR this morning. A few suggestions:

Scramble it in eggs, maybe with a little chopped scallion. Breakfast of champions.

Mix it with cream cheese, garlic and a little Tabasco. That will definitely dress up those Ritz crackers you were talking about.

My fellow Alaskans? Weigh in with your own recipes for smoke fish below. Be especially nice if someone had a smoked salmon pasta recipe.

The biggest difference between men and women.

Sometimes I think that the biggest difference between men and women is that more men need to seek out some terrible lurking thing in existence and hurl themselves upon it like Ahab with the White Whale. Women know where it lives but they can let it alone. Even in matriarchal societies I doubt that there were ever female Beowulfs. Women lie with gods and demons but they don’t go looking for monsters to fight with. Ariadne gave Theseus a clew but the minotaur was his business.

–Russell Hoban, Turtle Diary


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 7

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.


7 – Golden crowned sparrow

Although you people are killing me here, being all over the map as you are (the 747 engine! the bear! the pickup! the Cat! snow machines!) the most votes are for the sparrow.


We call it the “spring is here” bird, because it is when you first hear the notes of its song. Listen to it here.

It’s my favorite bird, singing the first bird song I ever recognized. Not to sound too precious, but it chose itself to manifest as the voice of Everybody Talks to Her, aka Emaa. I had no idea it would become a leitmotif of the Kate Shugak novels. One of those gifts from the writing gods.

Also, FYI, every single one of the bear stories in Breakup is true. Kate going backwards up the creek bank in full retreat from a pissed-off sow? That would have been my dad.

Next month, an object from Killing Grounds, the eighth Kate Shugak mystery. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

Killing Grounds cover

“Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.”

From Letters of Note:

Read the full text of Mr. Anderson’s letter here. It will have you on your feet, cheering, by the end.

Make up your mind to die in state.

Provide, Provide

The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew,
Others on being simply true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

–Robert Frost

Robert Frost


Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once.

–Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek