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.