Balm of Hurt Minds

Dr. Clay Triplehorn

Dr. Clay Triplehorn

“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

So says Macbeth having just murdered his king. But it turns out modern research backs up his assessment.  Dr. Clay Triplehorn is my guest this week. He is a family medicine physician who specializes in sleep.

Also on the show, Alaska Science Forum columnist Ned Rozell explains the inspiration for his examination of the physics of forty below. The column is read by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Theatre and Film Arts majors Jared Olin and Mary Conlin.

And Chris Lott crowns the show with a look at the word corona.



Music by Jukedeck

Primaries, Polls, and Plebiscites


This week, University of Alaska Fairbanks Political Science professor Alexander Hirsch and UA Press’ Nate Bauer discuss polls and peering ahead politically. Nate is also leading a UA Press Book Club discussion on American History this semester.

And the recall of Governor Dunleavy is just one example of a referendum. Political Geographer and podcaster Elizabeth Alexander talks about referendums’ wide range of uses.

And Katexic Clippings’ Chris Lott says there isn’t much that’s soothing about calamities.



music by jukedeck

Hearts, Stones, Microbes

Rock Garden

Steve Parker’s Rock Garden

Few would deny we seem to live in a very contentious political period. This can make the average person, angry, pensive and distressed. Which is why I invited Jungian psychologist Steve Parker to discuss the psychology of our times. Parker has been a practicing therapist in Fairbanks for decades. As you’ll hear, he also works with stone and blogs.

Earlier this month, years of legal wrangling about sulfolane contamination coming from the North Pole oil refinery resulted in a multimillion-dollar judgment against former owner Williams Alaska Petroleum. A superior court judge ordered Williams to pay over 20 million dollars. What many may not know is that research led by University of Alaska Fairbanks microbiologist Mary Beth Leigh played a role in the trial. Leigh and her team looked at possible bioremediation of a miles-long plume of sulfolane that has contaminated groundwater in parts of North Pole. I talked with Leigh about her research and what it was like to testify at the trial.

And Frank Soos is in with a review of Janet Malcolm’s latest book of essays.


Music by Jukedeck


Global Reports


Freelance journalist Lois Parshley joins me this episode. She has reported from every continent on the globe. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and a host of other periodicals. She’s received fellowships and awards from such institutions as the Knight Wallace Journalism Fellowship, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the United Nations Foundation. She’s currently serving as the Snedden Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and will be teaching a course this spring targeting scientists, mathematicians, and engineers on communicating their work to the general public.

Also on the show, UAF Geography professor Cary de Wit puts the issues swirling around Ukraine in context.


Loss and Gain


For this New Year’s Eve edition of Northern Soundings, I’m pleased to celebrate with a conversation between my friend and long-time colleague Susan McInnis and the late Richard Nelson. Nelson was a gifted naturalist, anthropologist, and broadcaster. Many know him from his radio series Encounters. But Susan’s discussion was prompted, almost 30 years ago, by the publication of Nelson’s lyrical book The Island Within. Nelson’s connection with KUAC dates back to the 1980s when another of his works Make Prayers to the Raven was made into an award-winning television series. Nelson passed away in November and his distinctive gifts as an engaged and enthusiastic observer of the world and its communities will be missed.

One last note: Long before Northern Soundings, Susan McInnis demonstrated the power of thoughtful conversation at KUAC with her program Sunday at Noon. Working on this show and hearing her again was a joy. I thank her for offering this episode to share.

Civility in the Public Square

Jimmy Fox

I’ve been distressed by the increasingly strident tone of our political rhetoric. I am guilty of it too, but I recognize that if we are ever going to move past the polarization, we have to articulate our positions to others with humility and a sense of respectful cooperation. In the belief that all politics is local, I invited two people from my community who practice civil discourse to discuss their backgrounds and perspectives.

First is Jimmy Fox who serves on the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Sustainability Commission. As you’ll hear he was deeply influenced by Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and more recently Getting to Yes and Leadership on the Line. He was particularly inspired by the teachings of Marty Linsky and Adaptive Leadership.

My second guest is Mike Prax who has served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Mike remains engaged in the community, attending a wide range of public meetings. He is a Libertarian and points to former Alaska State Legislator Dick Randolph as a mentor. Despite their differing backgrounds, both men believe in civil dialogue and not relying on legislatures to achieve a more perfect society.

Also on the show, Chris Lott looks at the word “liberty” on this edition of Katexic Clippings.

DNA and Deep Time


The University of Alaska Fairbanks is accustomed to attracting non-traditional students – folks who return to higher education after trying their hand at mining or construction or trapping. As it happens, a celebrated Danish scientist also took a non-direct educational path. Not long ago, the UAF’s Alaska Quaternary Center invited evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev to talk on campus. Willerslev got a late start in the sciences after he and his twin brother mounted several expeditions to Siberia. They were looking for adventure and also exploring for keys to the peopling of the new world. But as you’ll hear, when Willerslev took up his career in biology he made astounding progress. He helped pioneer a novel technique for analyzing ancient DNA, and also became the youngest full professor in Denmark at that time.

And speaking of the past, reviewer Frank Soos examines two recent volumes looking at ancient mysteries that lie below: Julia Blackburn’s Time Song and Robert Macfarlane’s Underland.

And Chris Lott is in with false cognates in this edition of Katexic Clippings.



Music by Juke Deck

Creative Responses

Brenda Zlamany

Climate change is a growing concern, sparking different responses. Noted portraitist and multimedia artist Brenda Zlamany is documenting its impact by capturing the likenesses and stories of residents in key communities. This summer she visited Utqiagvik and was the artist in residence at Denali National Park. She reveals the sometimes emotional bonds linking the artist and subject

And Political Geographer Elizabeth Alexander is also responding to Alaska’s troubled economic landscape through stories. But sound is her medium. She discusses why she’s starting a podcast on the effort to recall Governor Dunleavy.



On With the Shows


Peggy MacDonald Ferguson

This week, Fairbanks’ human dynamo of community theatre Peggy MacDonald Ferguson is on the show. I’ve been trying to sit down with Peggy for several years. Peggy, besides serving as executive director of Fairbanks Drama Association, is also on the Alaska State Council on the Arts and so her schedule is one darned thing after another.

Also on the show is a reprise of a discussion I had two years ago with former Alaska Writer Laureate Anne Hanley.

And Chris Lott is in with an appropriately dramatic list of terms on Katexic Clippings.