I. Back in the late summer of 1979, television finally came to Whittier, Alaska. Rural Alaska Television Network (RATNet), to be precise. Like a lot of Alaska communities, as the oil money began to appear on the eastern horizon, we got a huge low-tech analog satellite dish. RATNet contained only one channel - a combination of PBS, a few of the biggest shows, Anchorage 6:00 news, the top late night program (Johnny Carson) and weekend football, basketball or baseball.
I helped put the dish in. Twice. The state contractors took the train into town, with a couple of two-ton trucks loaded with the materials. They created a big H-bar tripod, anchored to three six-ton concrete cubes, with a fixture on the top for the dish. They asked the harbor to move the contraption from where they built it to their site, close to where the phone lines had their incoming terminal building.
While they were finishing it, in my harbor's parking lot, I asked where the satellite was. The mountains to the south of Whittier aren't really high - 3,500 feet or so - but they are very close. The technicians showed me a page that gave the bearings of the satellite's track.
I borrowed a friend's sextant and took some readings from the deck outside the harbor office. I took them again. I then went up to the proposed site and took more readings. At the position the satellite was supposed to be was the very top of a mountain. I went out near the shore in what we called "dry storage area one" and took more readings. The satellite would be slightly over the horizon there.
When I told the technicians this, they didn't bother to check my data. Instead, we moved the dish apparatus over to their site. They spent all that afternoon and evening hooking it up, and putting the dish atop the mount. About 10:00 pm I got a call. Would I be willing to go down and move the dish to the harbor dry storage area? They couldn't get a signal from the satellite onto the dish face. I told them I'd see them in the morning.
II. The following winter, we got to watch our first live Olympic coverage since living in Alaska on RATNet. Judy and I have always loved figure skating, particularly the pairs. We watched this performance:
Irina Rodnina was the greatest pairs skater of all time. With Alexei Ulyanov and Alexander Zaitsev, she won ten World and European Championships in a row. Her courage through physical adversity was sometimes phenomenal.
After she gave up active skating, she met and married film and music producer Leonid Minkovski. They've since divorced. He's mostly known these days as one of the major figures behind the growing fame of Russian techoesque singing duo t.A.T.i. Here's their latest video, taken from the film, You and I:
III. Back in 1986,Rodnina and Minkovski had a daughter, Alyona. Alyona now has a three-to-five day-per-week show on RT TV. I'm watching it more often these days, as the quality of American media coverage of all sorts of events degrades. There is much to praise about RT, but Alyona's show deserves far more coverage in media dialog than it has yet been given. I've posted several clips from her show here in the past.
Alyona Minkovski is quite young - the same age as our daughter. Her interviewing technique needs some work before she might be the next Terry Gross, but her introductions to subjects and cross-talk with guests is mature and sometimes multi-leveled in its raunchy humor.
Here's Tuesday's entire program, covering Libya, the ongoing Arab revolts, the Wisconsin protests, and the unauthorized release of Frank Bailey's manuscript. She takes some digs at both Joe McGinniss and Bailey's book's quality: