Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I'm making this official by posting them for all the world to see. Maybe this will encourage me to actually achieve my goals! I certainly won't be able to hide them...

Ride the Bus to work at least once a week during the summer months
---possibly extend into the winter months, too

Work out at the gym at least 3 times a week
---loose a pound a week
---improve my lower back

Organize my recycling efforts better
---get bins set up in garage
---set a regularly scheduled recycling day, perhaps quarterly

Be more aware of where my food comes from and the actual cost to our environment
---buy from local Farmer's Markets
---buy Organic

Take a load of unnecessary "stuff" to Goodwill


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Handyman Update:

As of December 26, 2007 the handyman has replaced all the insulation in the crawl space, he has rewrapped all the duct joints down there, he has replaced the vapor barrior on the dirt floor, he has fixed a structural problem undernieth the kitchen down there, he has insulated the hot water pipes and the hot water heater in the garage, he has fixed the hole in the garage door, he has put a blanket of insulation on the garage door, he has installed a programable thermostat in the living room, he has caulked around the library window, he has added about 9" of blown-in insulation up in the attic above the library, and he has added a flashing around the house next to the deck.

Still to come: he needs to double check the insulation in the crawl space (I don't think they did it right), he needs to add about 9" of blown-in insulation in the attic above the garage, and he needs to add a block of insulation in the fire place flu.

He is, however, on vacation till January 6, 2008. I do think I can still claim the tax credit for 2007 since I do have substantial completion.

Once he is done with all that, I plan on rearranging the furniture: I have already gotten rid of the couch in the library (I never did like that couch), I will need to find some help to move the futon from the computer room into the library, and I will then put a chair that has been in storage into the computer room where the futon used to be.

While I'm at it, I will need to deal with the Alien's potty issue in the corner next to the closet. That means (I think) renting a carpet cleaner and buying a kitty pot that is not as tall so he can step into it easier. Hopefully that will encourage him to actually use the darned thing.

Happy Holidays!

Well, another Christmas come and gone. It was a good one this year - although it was a bit strange without my niece at home. She is in Scotland going to college at the University of Edinburgh. We were able to "call" her on the video/computer thingy, though! We could sit there and talk to her, and see her, and everything - just as if she was right there with us.

Her sister Lauren kinda made out this year, what with her sister being gone and the surgery she had to go thru and all. She got a boat load of stuff for Christmas! Her grandparents on her father's side got her a very nice camera, along with other equally nice stuff. She was quite pleased with herself.

Surprise, surprise! Lauren is singing in the church choir! Her hearing aids work so well that she is able to participate without any problems at all. Well, except for nerves, that is. She told me the first time she sang up there, she was so nervouse her hands were shaking. She's an old pro at it now.

Christmas day was spent over at Mother's farm. We all had a great afternoon full of conversations, fun games, and - of course - good food. Mother took advantage of my headache and beat me rather soundly at a game of Rummy. Laurel and TJ went against Kelly and Chris at a game of RummyCubes. The tables were overflowing with sandwich makings: a spiral-cut ham, some turkey, fancy mustard, home-made cranberry sauce, all kinds of salads, breads, and deserts.

Pretty much everybody showed up, too - except for Lisa and her family. It's just as well, though. Lisa doesn't drive very well, and the roads home were horrible. I did drive home, and took my time doing so. All the way home, I could see cars in the ditch left and right. The police even had traffic diverted off the highway at one point, going around the back way into Eagle River to avoid a huge 4-car pile up. I was rather tense by the time I got home, to say the least.

I hope everybody else out there had a good holiday, too!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Creek Monitoring

I did the creek monitoring with my partner this weekend. This was my second time – but it’s still exciting. But, boy was it cold!

We met at his house to calibrate the Hanna meter, then drove over to the collection site in his truck. He was very surprised to see the creek was almost completely iced over – apparently that’s not normal! There was enough of a hole to dip out a bucket of water, though = with some very interesting body contortions involved, I must say: trying not to fall thru, and yet still have the leverage to lift a 5-gallon bucket of water up an over the ice.

Getting the three vials of sample water for the dissolved oxygen tests was also a challenge as the water was freezing solid in the bucket as we watched. My partner is the gentlemanly sort who always insists on being the one to immerse his hands in the bucket for that test. I’m selfish enough to allow that.

We had our air thermometer hanging out on the truck, but that was rather pointless as the darned thing doesn’t even register that low a temperature. We had to trust his truck’s on-board thermometer, which gave us a reading of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature gauge read 0 degrees Celsius.

Once we got the essential tests done, we packed everything up and went back to his garage to complete the testing. Radiant Floor Heating is so nice!

Christmas Fruit Cake

1 cup butter
1 cup water
4 large eggs
8 oz. mixed nuts
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bottle bourbon
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder

- Sample bourbon to check quality.

- Take out a large bowl. Before pouring bourbon, check it again, to be sure it’s of the highest quality. Then pour one cup and drink. Repeat.

- Turn on the electric mixer; beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

- Add one tsp. sugar and beat again. Make sure the bourbon is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn on the mixerer. Break two eggs and add to the bowl, the chuck in the dried fruit.

- Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it loose with a drewscriver.
- Sample bourbon to check for tonsiscency.

- Next sift two cups of salt, or something. Who cares? Check the bourbon. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.

- Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees.

- Don’t forget to beat off the turnerer. Throw the bowl out of the window, check the bourbon again and go to bed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alien are Heat-Seekers

Alien is my cat. He's a very odd looking thing, but he is a cat. Mother took one look at him when I first brought him home from the shelter and said, "He looks like ET." So he's been the Alien ever since. He is a 15 year old Devon Rex cat who happens to be quite over-weight and bald. He was in the homeless shelter probably due to his medical conditions and his potty issues.

I put a new bed together for him last night. I used his traveling case and put a heating pad in it that was wrapped up in a very soft piece of cloth. Then I wrapped the whole thing up in a towel so it will hold the heat in better.

I drug him out from the cable box where he has been sleeping these past few weeks and took him into the computer room to show him his new bed. He recognized it and walked right in (I took the door off completely), turned around, and sat down. He looked up at me and started purring. He was still there this morning, and still purring.

He likes it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visions of Sugar Plums

Drove out to Mother’s house this weekend and made Christmas candy! It was fun: my sister Kelly, her daughter Tara, Myself, my friend Anne, and Mother all spent the afternoon together.

We made 3 different kinds: divinity – both with and without nuts, chocolate covered cherries, and some sort of chocolate ball with marshmallows, coconut, and nuts. Mother’s kitchen isn’t the roomiest place in her house, but we managed.

We made the chocolate covered cherries first because before you cover them in chocolate, you have to let the insides dry out a bit. We got all the cherries covered with the inside dough, then set them outside in the cold till we were ready to finish them. Of course, if you set something outside at Mother’s farm, you have to keep an eye on the chickens to make sure they don’t help themselves!

Once that task was finished, we sat down to lunch: Mother made chicken enchiladas with beans and a nice salad.

We then started in on the divinity (my favorite).

The chocolate balls came next, which traded places with the cherries outside so they would have a chance to set before being placed onto paper plates for taking home.

Covering the cherries in chocolate is a lot harder than you would think. You have to move fast because the hot chocolate tends to melt the dough (made of powdered sugar, butter, and sweetened condensed milk) making a big mess. We finally decided that we would just have chocolate topped cherries, since spooning hot chocolate over the balls was a lot easier and faster than trying to dip each one.

By the time we were all done, we each got to take home about 35 cherries, a big pan of divinity, and about 10 chocolate balls. Truthfully that’s way more than I really need, but it was fun none-the-less.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Revenge of the Mutant Fish

I watched an interesting movie last night: The Host

It was either the worst movie I’ve seen in a very long time, or a really good B-Grade Sci-Fi movie = I can’t decide.

It was a classic story: toxic chemicals are dumped into the Huan River in Seoul, South Korea, producing a mutant fish/monster that wreaks havoc on the city in revenge.

The acting was probably fairly good in their original language, but the English dubbing is – as it always is – not so good. You see the actor’s lips moving long after the voice has stopped. And I sincerely think the actors who did the dubbing were deliberately trying to be silly.

The best part of the movie was the monster itself. B-Grade monsters have come a long way from the old Godzilla movies, let me tell you! This thing was VERY interesting.

You watch it, and tell me what you think.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Cards

I'm sending out my annual Christmas Cards again, as I always do.

This year, I'm mailing to

6 cities in Alaska
16 states other than Alaska
8 countries other than the U.S.

In the past, I've mailed to more states, but I've never mailed to so many countries before!

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Bad Day at the Office

And, boy - it doesn't get much worse than this.

At our weekly Monday Morning Meeting, we found out that one of our fellow workers had been shot 5 times and was in the hospital! This man is our Landscape Architect, from Hungary, and is well liked by just about everybody. He was getting ready for work, just like normal. He walked out to his car and got ambushed. The shooter took off with his car, leaving him to crawl back to his house where his wife found him.

Thankfully, he is OK. Doctor's called it a miracle that he survived: they were able to put him back together and he is now in recovery. By all rights, he should be dead.

As it turns out, the perpetrator was on a rampage that started in Palmer on Sunday where he took a machete knife to his father and step-mother, killing him and seriously wounding her. He then took off for Anchorage where he randomly shot and killed a grad-student who was warming his vehicle in preparation for heading off to school that day. Next, the shooter fired off three rounds into a woman who was jogging past, at least one of which got her in the back. Some time after that, the shooter saw my co-worker's car and decided to go for a joy ride after after firing 5 times point-blank into the rightful owner's chest. Once out on the road, he caused multiple car accidents, even managing to total one of the Anchorage Police cars, before being apprehended.

I cannot see any logical reason for any of these acts. As far as I can tell, there is nothing that connects any of the victims except that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At work, we are all rather stunned and are trying to come to terms with this.

I just don't think we will be able to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hiring a Handyman

Well, I did it.

I hired a handyman to work on my house. It was an agonizing procedure, too.

I got a list of handymen from the AHFC (Alaska Housing & Finance Corporation) and chose the only three on there that listed an email address. I contacted all three of them, explaining what I had in mind and asking if they thought they might be interested. All three responded back within a few days, so I set up appointments for each of them.

The first to arrive was a guy who looked very much like somebody my brother would hang out with. That in its self is a pretty good recommendation, in my book. He sealed the deal by taking off his shoes to reveal bare feet! And, to top it off, he pulled himself up into the attic by one hand off the floor! Needless to say, I was impressed.

The second to arrive was so clean-cut you could almost hear him crackle as he walked past, like a shirt that has too much starch in it. However, he totally won me over by being just as excited as I was at the prospect of making my home more energy efficient. He knew all about what I was attempting to do, and ended up going over the entire house talking to me about everything for over two hours! He even liked my Thing (don't get excited: Thing is my cat) wich automatically put him up on the top of my list.

The third guy never showed up. I made two appointments with him, with no luck. But - that's ok. I'm sure he had reasons, and I had two others giving me their estimates, so I wasn't upset.

About 2 weeks later, I sent another email out asking when I might expect to hear back from the two handymen. Only one responded back - so, that pretty much made my choice for me.

As luck would have it, it was the second guy! His estimate was pretty much what I expected it to be - as in, way too much for me to go on vacation again in 2008, but low enough that I don't need to get a loan to pay it off.

So, as soon as he gives me a date to start construction, my second New Year's Resolution for 2007 will be completed.

Assuming I survive the chaos that will be my house.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Question on Beetles

I’m hoping that you can help me: I saw an unusual beetle while on vacation in Mongolia that I cannot identify.

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture (my camera did not enjoy the Gobi desert as much as I did), but it was red, round & flat, about the size of a quarter, and it buried itself in the sand. When I turned it over, it reminded me of a horseshoe crab. I’m assuming it had the standard 6 legs which is why I’m calling it a beetle and not a spider.

The area I was at was the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, in Dornogobi Aimag, Mongolia. I’m sorry I don’t have the coordinates to the place.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Creek Monitoring: Rabbit Creek

This summer, I signed up with the Anchorage Waterways Council to be a part of their CEMP, or Citizen's Environmental Monitoring Program. I thought it would be an interesting way to learn a little bit about science, as well as an excuse to get outside and enjoy the Alaskan scenery.

I had two 6-hour training classes: the first one had the instructor going over each test we were to conduct out at our creek, followed by the volunteers giving that particular test a try. The second training class had all of us volunteers going thru the entire testing procedure on our own, with the instructor standing by in case we had questions. The final phase of the training period was out in the field, using actual creek water (as opposed to simply using tap water) and making sure we understood everything that was expected of us.

Now that I have completed all three phases of testing, I am partnered up with a long-time creek monitor and have been testing for a couple of months out at Rabbit Creek. Winter time is typically the hardest time to test, as you can imagine. We have to deal with freezing cold temperatures: the water is running so it’s not actually frozen, but it certainly is freezing! Thankfully, we only have to test once a month. During the summer months we test twice a month; at least it’s easier as far as weather goes, but we have to deal with animal life.

The following is the list of CEMP Parameters of Concern:

Temperature: water temperature is one of the most important water quality parameters we test. It controls metabolic and reproductive activities in organisms, and determines species composition. Temperature also affects dissolved oxygen and can influence bacterial growth, and chemical reactions in water.

Conductivity: conductivity measure water’s ability to pass an electric current, and can be used to indicate the dissolved solids or ion content of the water. Conductivity in streams is affected primarily by the geology of the area, but may also be affected by human sources such as septic systems or runoff.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO): DO is one of the most important indicators of a water body’s ability to support aquatic life. It is essential for the basic metabolic processes of animals and plants inhabiting our streams.

pH: pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. pH affects many chemical and biological processes in the water.

Phosphorus: phosphorus is an essential nutrient in the aquatic food web, and is usually in short supply in waters of south-central Alaska, so even a modest increase can stimulate growth of algae in streams. The many sources of phosphorus include wastewater treatment plants, runoff from fertilized lawns, septic systems, animal manure, and runoff from disturbed land areas.

Nitrate: similar to phosphorus, nitrogen is required by all organisms for the basic processes of life to make proteins, to grow, and to reproduce. Nitrogen is found in many forms in water, and the sources are similar to those that contribute to phosphorus levels.

Turbidity: turbidity measures water clarity. Any material mixed and suspended in water will reduce its clarity and make the water turbid. High turbidity levels can be disruptive to aquatic systems in various ways including: 1) interfering with the passage of light through water, 2) clogging the gills of some fish species, 3) causing an increase in water temperature since suspended particles absorb more heat resulting in a reduction of dissolved oxygen since warmer water holds less oxygen, and 4) smothering fish eggs and benthic macroinvertebrates.

E. Coli Bacteria: while coliform bacteria are natural and most are harmless, the presence of high levels of coliform bacteria and, in particular, of fecal coliforms may indicate that sewage is being discharged into the water. Certain species of pathogenic bacteria can cause typhoid fever, dysentery, and cholera.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

What a great day we had yesterday!

Dinner was held over at my brother’s house, a buffet type affair. We all brought too much food, of course. A sign-up sheet had been circulated a head of time so we didn’t have very many duplicates and no holes (except for the mashed potatoes that accidentally got dropped on the way in).

Mother made what she calls “dead baby chickens” – otherwise known as Cornish Game Hens – instead of turkey this year. My brother Stewart brought a spiral-cut ham, too. Plenty of meat for the carnivores in the family. There were all kinds of salads, veggies, fruit, and pies to round it all off.

All told, there was about 30 people, ranging in age from about 1.5 to 86. My niece even called in from college over in Scotland, so we all gave her a very loud “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Lets see if I can name everybody: Mother, Stan, Dorothy, Stewart, Julie, Kelly, Danny, Tara, Laurel & her partner, Gareth & his girlfriend, Robin & his wife, Hank, Noel, Lauren, Katy (via phone), Henry, Martha, Myself, Heather, Reed, Chris & Sara, Tucker, Lisa, Mark, Madelyne, Mabel, Pam, Gleo, and Zieh & Dave – but they had to leave early.

My other niece, Lauren, has just returned from Seattle where she went to have surgery. She was still quite swollen and could only eat mashed potatoes, but at least she was there. She regaled everybody with stories of her horrible surgery and showed off the metal pins holding her jaw together.

I got to show pictures of my Mongolia trip. Believe it or not, there were still some people who hadn’t seen them!

The weather was the most surprising thing: it was about 50 degrees out there! Driving home, the rain was so heavy I could barely see the road in front of me. Hard to believe it was a record-breaking snow storm just a week ago.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I just got home from the most interesting science lecture! A scientist from Fairbanks came down to the Campbell Creek Science Center and gave a talk on the winter survival techniques of the Chickadee.

Think about it: just how does that tiny little bird survive 18 hours of 30 below weather? It's barely 12 ounces in size (that's smaller than the little bag of peanuts you get when you fly the airlines nowadays)yet it's been spotted as far north as Anaktuvak Pass.

Just a brief summary here (I am not a scientist, so I'm only repeating what I heard): the bird utilized 3 basic physiological strategies and 3 basic behavioral strategies.

Physiological Strategies:

1. it has more feathers per square inch than it's southern cousins.
2. the feathers are structured differently to maximize heat retention.
3. it has the ability to put on fat very quickly

That last one is the most amazing one: that little bird can put on an additional 10% of its body weight in fat in just 6 hours! That's the equivalent of a 150 pound person putting on 15 pounds.

Behavioral Strategies:

1. it stores caches of food all over the place for lean times
2. it roosts in small spaces to minimize heat loss
3. it's an early riser to maximize daylight hours for optimal food gathering

All of these behaviors together allow a bird that, if you took off all its feathers - is no bigger than your thumb to keep an inner core temperature of 104 degrees.

Truly an amazing bird!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Begining To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Man, is it ever snowing out there.

It all started Saturday night. By Sunday it was coming down in big huge fluffy flakes. In fact, I read in the papers yesterday that we broke a record for the amount of snowfall in one day: 5".

Today it started aroun 2:00, and by 4:30 (the time I leave work) it was thick & heavey. My windshield wipers could barely keep up with it, and the road ahead of me was lost in all that whiteness.

The really sad part about it all is that I have yet to put my winter tires on! Yes, I'm one of "THOSE PEOPLE" - but at least I am driving sensibly. I haven't gotten stuck, or ran into anybody, or swerved out of control yet. It's really not that difficult if you just drive properly and don't get to hasty.

I will definitely get them put on this weekend: I have a speaking engagement on Sunday out in Eagle River at their Nature Center, which is located about 7 miles up the mountain! My car would never make it with summer tires on.

I also have yet to find a snow-blowing service. With my back out of whack like it is, I really should not be shoveling my driveway (that beautiful thick heavy snow is just that: HEAVY) but as steep as it is I can't afford to leave it there to later turn in to one big sheet of ice.

If anybody can recommend a reliable snow-blower, I'd be most appreciative.

By the way: those of you who are interested can joine me on Sunday, November 18, at 2:00pm at the Eagle River Nature Center for a talk on my Earthwatch Expedition to Mongolia!

Monday, November 12, 2007

What a Weekend I had!

I spent the weekend out at the Alyeska Hotel in Girdwood - you skiers out there will know that place well. The AIA State Convention (American Institute of Architects) was going on and I had volunteered to work their registration table.

This is not the first time I've done that for them, so I had a good idea of what was in store for me. I have to say that this one was a lot better organized than the last one was. We still had a few issues, and I really don't like crowds of people, but for the most part it went off fairly well.

It did serve to remind me how amazed I am sometimes at some people's nerve. One lady signed up for the cheapest thing she could find on the registration website: the banquette meal on Saturday Night. She then proceeded to attend the entire conference, eating 6 meals in the process - all without paying!

Well, she THOUGHT she wasn't paying. I happen to know that she is going to get one heck of a bill in the mail. Of course, there's nothing to enforce her payment of said bill - but if she doesn't pay, she will be black-balled from all further AIA events, and her husband (who is the actual architect in this picture; she is just a wife) will be extremely embarrassed in front of his peers.

The overall theme of the conference was - as it is almost everywhere - the state of our climate and what the building sector has to do with it. Of the three sectors most blamed for the CO2 in our atmosphere (Transportation, Industry, and Buildings)the built environment is responsible for close to 50% of the CO2 emissions! So you see, it really is up to us to do something about that.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Update on My Jaw

Apparently when I injured myself in Mongolia, I really injured myself.

My doctor now believes that I bled out - not that we're talking gallons of blood or anything quite so dramatic as that. Just enough to form a pocket of blood, which was popped during that last physical therapy session. She said the odds of something like that happening were about a million to one. Don't you know I'd be that one! She also said the force of that "explosion" was equal to about 900mph = no wonder my body went into a form of shock!

What she didn't really understand was why the response was so delayed? Normally, the reaction should have been immediately after the popping, and with mine it waited long enough for me to walk out of the office and drive back to work. If she had known what was going on she would never have let me leave.

The good news is that I'm that much farther along in the healing process and will be discharged next time I go in!


Monday, November 05, 2007

The Writing on the Wall

I work in a professional office in down-town Anchorage, for an Architectural firm. Our restrooms, while being considered public restrooms, are mostly used by just the people in the firm. One of them had the great idea of getting several sets of those "Magnetic Poetry" thingies and plastering them all over the doors of each stall. It really makes for some interesting reading while you're in there!Here is just a sampling of things I've read:

Running deliriously on raw meat

Heave wax over the sun to produce a gorgeous shine

Tiny mean squirrels enjoy milk

Chew with your mouth closed

Go away and let me read

You’re never more than yourself

Your sister robbed the maid

The size of her apparatus is enormous

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I dislocated it AGAIN

When I came home from Mongolia last month, I discovered that I somehow managed to dislocate my jaw while I was out there. I find it rather amazing that one can have a dislocated jaw and not know it. I may not have known I had a dislocated jaw, but I certainly knew I was in pain!

But - there you have it. I did, and that has had me in physical therapy twice a week for the past few weeks. It had been going fairly well, too. I thought I was on the road to recovery.

Until today, that is. Today we managed to dislocate it again! Funny how you can forget just exactly how painful something is in such a short time. I remember now, that's for sure.

This time we got it back in place right away, but back at the office I could barely think it hurt so bad. And since I had to drive myself home later on in the day, I couldn't take any painkillers. I had to just tough it out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This Is Not A Drill

I went to a meeting in City Hall today, about promoting sustainable building practices here in our fair city. The speaker was the founder of a company called DIRTT, or Doing It Right This Time.

He gave a very interesting speech, full of just the right balance of dry, boring facts and light, witty humor. He had quite a crowd, too: I think there must have been close to 50 people in that room.

He only got about half-way through his speech, however, because right in the middle of it the fire alarm went off. A voice came over the loudspeakers saying, "This is not a drill! Please evacuate the building immediately!"

Trust me, you do not want to be in a government building when you hear those words. All sorts of alarming possibilities went through my mind as I wound my way down the exit stairwell. I was thinking anything from a bomb scare to anthrax to some psycho with a machine gun!

When we finally made it out to the street, we found five firetrucks with their crews busily unloading all their gear and hooking up their hoses. They even got the ladder truck up and running.

I never did find out what was going on. I had to leave right then anyway, to make it to my next appointment. By the time I got back, two and a half hours later, they were all gone and it was business as usual at City Hall.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


For over a year now, the local phone service company has been trying to convert my system over to their "new and improved version." At first, I went along with them: I set an appointment, took off work to meet them at the house, and four times IN A ROW nobody showed up.

Naturally, I was not pleased. So I decided to simply ignore them from then on. I didn't really need to switch over anyway: I was perfectly happy with my service as it was.

About 9 months pass and I get yet another message from them on my answering machine, this time offering 3 months free. So I figured: “What the heck - I'll try it again.”

I very politely called them back on the number they provided and explain my situation only to be told I should actually be calling a different number: a local one rather than an 800 number. So when I finally get thru to the person who is actually able to handle me, I tell them my story again about the four missed appointments, all the time off work, and the hassle and what not, and she is very sympathetic.

She gives me not only a new appointment (this time on a Saturday to ensure that I will not have to take time off work to be there) And the 3 months free as advertised in their phone call, but also credited my account $20.00 to try to make amends for all my pain & suffering.

Who can beat that?

So, you'll never guess what I did today. I totally forgot about the appointment and was gone when the repair man showed up!!!

Honestly, it was not on purpose! And of course now I'm either going to have to suck it up and live with the inferior phone service or call them back and explain that this time it was MY fault and may we please try a sixth time?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Interesting People

I met the coolest lady at the Bioneers Conference. We both had taken Mr. Oh My God's workshop titled "Reducing Your Home's Carbon Footprint" and got to walk over to the dining hall together afterwards.

She is the girlfriend of the guy who owns one of my favorite places to eat lunch - talk about a small world! Embarasingly I have no clue as to what her name is. I am so bad with names!

Anyway, I ran in to her again today while having lunch at my favorite place (I had hoped to run in to her: it's one reason I went there), and again we got to talking.

The building where the eatery is located is an older building with several apartments above. She and her boyfriend are in the process of fixing up, hense the workshop at the Bioneers Conference.

It's the coolest building! It started out life as a Tile company; they used it as their show room, so they put tile down on every surface in every patern imaginable. Over the years, and thru the many different owners, layer after layer of all different types of flooring and/or wall coverings have been piled on top of each other, and they have had to dig down to the first layer in order to restore it to its original state of being. It's been a lot of hard work, but it is so worth it!

I'm very impressed with this lady (I swear: I'm going to not only find out what her name is, I'm going to make the hurculean effort to actually REMEMBER her name - some day). She is doing most of the work herself: everything from plumbing & electrical to tile repair and paint stripping.

I'm hoping to take Mother there one day, to show her.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


For those of you keeping track: dinner last night was really good. He made the best meal! If you want the recipe, let me know and I'll post it.

Today has been quite busy. Work is going well enough: I had an internal review done on the project I'm working on, and it actually turned out better than I thought it would. I guess I'm not as lost as I feel. Just a little bit left to do, and it will be ready to turn in as the 95% Submittal.

I had to leave work early in order to make it to the physical therapist's office on time. Turns out I injured myself in Mongolia: I have microfractures in my left knee which only hurts when I try to kneel on it. She has told me to stop going to the gym till it heals - which is a bummer, because I just signed on at the gym, and want to develop a habit of going as often as I can!

I also seem to have dislocated my jaw! Now, that one surprises me greatly. How the heck did I dislocate my jaw = and not know it! I only knew that it hurt and that I couldn't really open it that wide: barely wide enough to eat. She's been able to get it back in place - now we're just working on getting it to stay in place, since it spent at least 3 weeks OUT of place.

Directly after the PT session, I went over to the AHFC (Alaska Housing Finance Corporation) for the first lecture in their 8-part series, titled Weatherization, designed to help you make your home more energy efficient. Who wouldn't want that?

As an added bonus: Mr.Oh My God is the presenter!

This particular workshop was actually a longer version of the one I took at the Bioneers Convention, so most of it was just review of what I'd already learned. But - one can never reveiw something too often! I did learn a few new things, and will learn even more at the rest of the workshops.

Future workshops will be: Lighting, Heating Systems, Ice Dams, Indoor Air Quality, Peak Oil, New Construction, and Crawl Space & Attic Ventilation

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The first snow of the year has definitely arrived!

It seems odd, though - like I didn't exptect it to be here already, even though it is the end of October. I guess my 3-week vacation really messed with my head.

And me without my winter tires on yet! I don't know when I'll have time to get them on, either. I have a dinner tonight with a friend (a male friend, but sadly just a friend). I have a work-related seminar tomorrow after work. I have a Project Wild workshop Friday & Saturday. I have my creek monitoring duties on Sunday - and of course I'll have to go to my favorite cafe and write letters ahead of that, and then go work out at the gym afterwards.

Maybe Monday - no, wait. I'm meeting up with a contractor on Monday to see about doing some odd repairs around my house. I've already accidentally missed one appointment with him - certainly don't want to miss another one.

Then on Tuesday is a meeting at the zoo for the volunteers. That leaves Wednesday... As far as I can recall, Wednesday just might actually be free.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lecture at the Museum

I had a very pleasant evening tonight. Mother met me for dinner at our favorite resaurant afterwhich we walked over to the museum for a lecture. The lecture was presented by a trio from Sweden; an architect/product designer firm called Claesson Koivisto Rune.

The three men each took turns describing a product or design they had worked on, highlighting everything from floor plans to furniture to cookery!

My favorite residential project of theirs was located in Spain and set up on a hill. The house itself wasn't that big, perhaps 2000 to 2400 square feet, but it was stretched out long to take advantage of the topographical aspects of the site, and was situated to have the best view.

My favorite commercial building of theirs was set in Japan; a 5-story tall building with a skin of titanium panels, each of which had been punched with holes to form a patern of leaves which allowed the sun to make shadows on the interior during the day, or for the interior lighting to shine thru during the evenings. It was very unique looking.

I have to admit that I did not care much for their furniture designs, except for one of the chairs they made for the building in Japan. They continued the punched patern onto stainless steel and created what they named the "Origami Chair" each one costing about $2000.00 each!

As for their pots and pans, they were interesting and required a lot of planning, but were rather unremarkable, in my opinion. I'm sure they cost a pretty penny too, however.

All in all, Mother and I had a very nice

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Last Day

The last day of the conference went well enough. I wasn't feeling too good, so didn't stay for the whole thing. But I did manage to attend the workshop I'd been looking forward to: Reducing Your Home’s Carbon Footprint, as taught by none other than Mr. Oh My God.

Honestly, I attended the workshop for the content, not the scenery. Really I did. Of course it didn't help matters that he wore a tight fitting t-shirt showing off each and every one of his chest muscles. Not that I noticed, of course.

The class itself was very interesting, and since I am in the process of attending to a few matters in my own home, it was also quite pertenent. Here's what the website had to say about the workshop:

The issue of your home’s impact on the planet can get pretty confusing: greenhouse gas emissions, efficiency, healthy / green materials, renewable energy, etc. How do you gain perspective? Where do you begin to make changes? In this session Mr.Smith (the name has been changed in order to protect the innocent) will share tools and information participants need for a focused, prioritized approach that can make a real difference in reducing their home’s carbon footprint. Recommendations for existing homes and techniques for new homes will be addressed.

After the workshop, as I left the building, I overheard several people say that it had been the best workshop of the whole conference. I agree that it was certainly the most applicable one.

a link to my travelog

with thanks to my brother, who's website it is put on!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Two Down - One to Go

My second day at the Bioneers Conference went well. It's so invigorating to attend these conferences. To know that there are other people in the world who are just as concerned as I am and yet who are actually doing something about it is a great relief. I must admit, there are times where I am actually ashamed to be human.

Here's a quote from their program book that I found very interesting:

“The annual Bioneers conference is a hub of practical solutions for restoring the Earth and people. It’s a thriving network of visionary innovators who are working with nature to heal nature. Bioneers draw from more than four billion years of evolutionary intelligence and apply nature’s operating instructions in practical ways to serve human ends harmlessly. We herald a dawning age of interdependence founded in natural principles of diversity, kinship, community, cooperation and reciprocity. The good news is that for the most part the solutions to our problems are already present. The models percolate up from the deep wisdom of the natural world. Extraordinary human creativity focused on problem solving is exploding the mythology of despair. Bioneers focus equally on the creative social strategies that can help us realize these solutions by restoring community, justice and democracy. Over and over, it’s the story of how one individual can make a difference.”

For today’s plenary speakers, I heard Paul Anastas talk about Green Chemistry, I heard Majora Carter talk about Greening the Ghetto, and I heard Evon Peter give an Indigenous Perspective on How to Survive the Next 100 Years. After a wonderful lunch of local organic food I attended two workshops: the first one titled “Managing and Describing Natural Resource Development and Possibilities by Means of Systems Approaches” by Henry Cole, and the second one titled “Electrical Efficiency: How and How Much Money” by Ian Sharrock.

And for those of you paying attention: no, I did not run in to Mr. Oh My God today. This is a good thing, since I really did want to concentrate on the message (and not the scenery). I did, however, meet up with a Biologist from Seattle who was on his way to Dutch Harbor to be a Crab Watcher. He was very interesting, and if anybody knows anything about the crab fisheries off the Aleutian Islands, you’ll know he’s in for the ride of his life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Ultimate Distraction

I am in the middle of the first day of a 3-day conference: the 4th Annual Bioneers Conference in Anchorage Alaska. It is, actually, a sattelite presentation of the 18th Annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael California.

The official website states: Bioneers are biological pioneers who are working with nature to heal nature and ourselves. They have peered deep into the heart of living systems to devise strategies for restoration based on nature's own operating instructions. They come from many cultures and perspectives, and all walks of life.

So far, in Anchorage, we have listened to some of the plenary speakers and had some interaction with the Bioneer community there at the conference. We have not yet broken out into the many available workshops: that's my favorite part.

The next few days will see us learning all about things like: Socially Responsible Investments, Building Sustainable Relationships, Reducing your Carbon Footprint, Adapting to Cascading Global Change, Raising & Harvesting your own Meat, Solar thermal systems in Alaska, Biodiesel and Beyond, and Teaching Values the Athabascan Way.

The "ultimate distraction" spoken of in the title of this posting comes from the fact that I could barely concentrate on the speakers this morning due to the fact that probably THE most gorgeous man I have seen in many years was sitting next to me. It's very hard to concentrate on the big screen TV in front of you when Mr. Oh My God is sitting not a quarter of an inch away from you. And it doesn't really help matters that I know him and have worked with him in the past on various workshops and task forces throughout the town, because now I know that he not only is really good looking but also a very nice man. And he’s married.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Biology Humor

A proton, a neutron, and an electron went out to dinner one night.

After a luxurious meal, the waiter brought the check to the proton and the electron.

The neutron was perplexed as to why the waiter didn't bring him his check.

So, he summoned the waiter to the table and asked him about it.

The waiter explained to the neutron, "For you, there's no charge!"

Two atoms are walking down the sidewalk one day, each coming at each other from opposite directions.

The first atom accidentally bumps in to the second atom and knocks him to the ground.

“Oh, my gosh!” cries the first atom, “Are you alright?”

“No,” replies the second atom, “I think I’ve lost a proton!”

“Are you sure?” asks the first atom.

… and the second atom replies, “I’m positive!”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

50% Savings!

In January of this year I changed out all the light bulbs in my house to the more energy efficient ones, and immediately saw a substantial difference in my electricity usage.

I am on a level payment plan, however, so it wasn’t till the end of their “cycle” that the electric company adjusted the amount I pay each month.

I’m happy to say that as of July, I no longer pay $79.00 a month for my electricity = I now pay only $35.00 a month! That’s less than HALF of what I used to pay, and all for just changing a light bulb.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Serendipity in the exploration of biodiversity

“After all, is it not now obvious that the world hunger problem cannot be solved by growing more food, but only by growing fewer people, and that more food will always result in still more people, who in turn will devastate ever more nature, inevitably exterminate ever more plant and animal species, and in the long run, make life for themselves and their children ever more difficult?”
“For this reason, among others, I have no patience with the phony requests of developers, economists, and humanitarians who want us biologists to “prove” with hard evidence, right here and now, the “value” of biodiversity and the “harm” of tropical deforestation. Rather, it should be for them, the sponsors of reckless destruction, to prove to the world that a plant or animal species, or an exotic ecosystem, is not useful and not ecologically significant before being permitted by society to destroy it. And such proof, of course, neither they nor anybody else can offer!”
“The Moon and the planets will be there forever, but the Earth’s biological diversity is being exterminated now. It is therefore imperative that we study and carefully preserve nature on this planet now, for this will be our last chance to ensure that biodiversity will survive for future generations. Protection of biodiversity needs to receive top priority in national and international planning. But if nature preservation is to be effective and long-lasting, it must become codified into law and incorporated into ethics and organized religion. Not only biologists and agriculturists, but every thinking citizen, every responsible politician and religious leader, has here an indispensable role.”
by: Hugh H. Iltis, Director of Wisconsin Herbarium, Madison, Wisconsin
these quotes are from the book "Biodiversity" in the chapter named above in the title. It is a very good book, but this chapter in particular is a good one.

I recommend it highly!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Liberal –vs- Conservative

On the train in Mongolia, heading out to the base camp where I was to spend the next 3 weeks, I shared a compartment with three other ladies who got to talking politics.

Now politics really isn’t my thing, so I just sat there listening and watching the scenery go by. They got onto the subject of Liberal –vs- Conservative and what type of person would be most likely to join in on an Earthwatch expedition.

At that point, Mary (a retired nurse from Homer, Alaska) noticed that I was not participating in the conversation, so turned to me and said, “What do you think? Would a liberal person be more likely to join Earthwatch, or would a Conservative person be more likely?”

I replied, “Define Liberal.”

And they all immediately started saying things like, “Oh, she’s so right!” and “Exactly!” Or “That is so deep.” and again got lost in their conversations.

Meanwhile I’m sitting in my little corner thinking to myself, “Damn. I still don’t know what Liberal means…”

A Brand New Day

Okay. Let's try this again.

I have every intention of posting random thoughts on this blog. Nothing earth-shattering or note-worthy. Just whatever pops into my head at the time.

I hope that you will enjoy and participate in the discussions!