Sunday, November 30, 2008


It started snowing last night and has not yet stopped. I’ve got well over a foot of snow so far, and have had to shovel my driveway twice just to get in and out.

The plows have been by several times so far, each time leaving a huge snowberm in front of my driveway. Thankfully, the neighborhood where I live is a really friendly one. When neighbors see you out battling a 3-foot berm, they generally come and help you out.

This year, my neighbors have most definitely earned the box of Northern Delights chocolate I try to get for them each Christmas – even though I’m unemployed and should conserve my spending. They are well worth it, let me assure you.

A little boy, probably age 12 or so, always comes around offering to shovel for me for the low price of $10.00. He’s not very good at it, but he is out there and any little bit helps – so I usually let him, if I have money at the time.

He actually woke me up this morning, ringing my doorbell at 10:00. Yes, I admit it = I was still sleeping at 10:00 in the morning. I had a bad migraine last night and took sleeping pills to try and get some rest. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

He told me he would be back by tomorrow to shovel some more, if it keeps going. Looks like I will be hiring him again, because it does not look to be slowing down at all.

It sure is pretty though!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Medical Emergency

I noticed yesterday that the Alien had a wet spot on his behind. It was as if he had diarrhea, but he didn’t. It concerned me; he is 17 years old, after all. I decided to keep an eye on him and if he got worse, I’d have to take him in to the vet.

Today, my sister and her daughter-in-law came in for a visit. When I took them upstairs to meet the Alien, we noticed that he was swollen back there. It looked pretty bad, but didn’t seem to hurt him all that much. He continued purring even when I poked around to see what was what. Even so, I knew he needed to have it looked at, so I called the vet.

Of course, they were booked solid all day. When I explained what was going on, they went ahead and squeezed us in between appointments so that we wouldn’t have to wait two days till Monday for him to be seen. I got Alien bundled up in his travel box with his portable heater and got him to the doctor’s office.

As luck would have it, we got to see the best vet there = Dr. Riley Wilson. He’s the zoo vet! He’s seen Alien before, and we like him a lot.

He knew right away what it was: a blocked anal gland.

At first he said that he’d send me home with antibiotics and Al would be fine. But, when I said that Al really doesn’t like taking pills, he changed his mind and had me take Al to the back room to try and drain the abscess manually.

In case you were wondering = Aliens really do not like to have their anal glands drained manually.

It was really bad.

Dr. Riley was amazed at the amount of puss. He even called to his assistants to come and see it, and they all kept saying things like “Cool” or “That’s awesome!”

Poor Al was not a happy camper even though they had given him a local anesthetic.

They got all that gunk out, flushed it out with a Betadine solution, and then topped it off with an antibiotic shot in the butt.

Dr. Riley told me that he was glad he’d changed his mind. If he had sent me home with Alien the way he was, he could have gotten really sick.

Alien is home now, snuggled up to his heating pad and nursing his sore behind.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Day, full of good food, family, and friends! My day was spectacular!

I got to sleep in – although that’s not really a treat, since I sleep in every day now that I’m unemployed. But my cats enjoy snuggling with me in the mornings: Thing curls up at my stomach and Djuna lays out on my hips. Even the Alien comes in and joins us sometimes, although he can’t jump up on the bed anymore – I have to haul him up and get him situated under the covers with me.

When I finally got myself out of bed, I relocated to the computer room and got started in my daily routine of checking all the job banks and applying to any that catch my eye. I’ve sent my resume out to about 41 places so far – and have heard back from quite a few of them.

See previous postings for job interview status.

Once I got that out of the way for the day, I started getting things ready to take out to Palmer for the big dinner. I had two jars of apple cider, some mulling spices & a cinnamon stick, and a big pot placed in one big tote bag. I had the crock-pot and three packages of corn placed in another big tote bag. And last but not least, a bunch of miscellaneous items placed in a third big tote bag.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to drive all the way out there this time. My friend Lisa and her husband Mark said that I could catch a ride in with them! So, I headed on over to their house around 1:00.

Unfortunately, the turkey was being difficult. Lisa had gotten up early to put it in the oven, timing it so that it would be ready by the time I got there. However, something wasn’t right – and the turkey was still very much undercooked.

We waited another hour, hoping it would be finished by then – but it wasn’t.

In desperation, Lisa called Heather to ask her to have the oven preheated so that they could finish cooking it out in Palmer. We bundled the thing up, loaded the car with all our stuff, and headed on out – arriving only slightly late.

The house was crammed full of people when we arrived. There were so many cars in the parking lot they were backed up into the driveway even. I guess Lisa and I were the only ones to think of carpooling. Heather did several head-counts and I think the final tally was somewhere around 37 people, ranging in age from 6 months to 90 years of age!

Heather had her dining table and three folding tables set with napkins and placemats, so amazingly almost everybody got to sit down to eat. All the food was laid out on the kitchen counters, buffet style.

That poor turkey never did get cooked all the way thru – but they carved off the cooked parts and kept putting it back in the oven. We also had a nice big ham that was quite scrumptious (or so I’m told) so people did not go hungry for meat. I can’t even begin to list all the food we had – there was so much of it! All of it was good, and all of it got eaten.

Lisa and I left the party around 6:00, but I’m told a lot of people hung out till well after midnight. Quite the party!

Third Time’s a Charm

Of course, they also say “three strikes and you’re out”. I’m hoping that first saying is the one that fate is going to choose for me this time.

What I’m talking about it job interviews. I had my third one the other day.

Technically, it wasn’t really a job interview. They called it “an informal meeting” just to see if both parties really want to have a job interview. And oddly enough, they didn’t really want me for the job I’d applied for – they had a different job in mind.

The company is the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and the job I applied for was the Computer Aided Design Technician III position. The one they wanted me to apply for is the Lead Computer Aided Design Technician, which is actually a management type job.

Both of the positions sound like good ones, and I do qualify for both of them – so which ever one I decide to go for will be a good choice. Unfortunately neither of them are in the architectural field. I’m not too happy about that.

I met the man who would be my immediate supervisor at the front desk promptly at 1:00 (I did not show up an hour early this time, thank goodness) and he showed me around the place. It’s a typical engineering office, with as many cubicles crammed into the office space as possible: very utilitarian, grey, and sterile. I’ve been spoiled these past few years, working in an office that prides itself on the working environment.

We sat down in his office and went over the particulars after the tour. He showed me some samples of the work being done, an organization chart of the company, some of the work that he himself had done, and gave pointers to me on how to make my resume more suited for the management job.

I feel pretty optimistic about this one – even though it’s not architectural, it is on the computers still, and they are using a 3D program that is similar to Revit. The pay is almost indecent and the benefits are most excellent.

My task now is to update my resume, resubmit it for the Lead position, and gather up three references. I should have all that done by early next week so will most likely hear from them the following week.

Cross you fingers and toes for me, but I think by the New Year, I just might be employed again.

My Good Deed for the Day

I went to the grocery store the other day to pick up the food I’d need for Thanksgiving Day.

As usual, I parked in the far back corner of the parking lot to avoid most of the crowd. As I walked up towards the store, I came upon an elderly lady unloading a cart full of grocery bags into her car.

“I’m heading that way – why don’t I return that empty cart for you?” I said.

She turned and just looked at me for a moment. Finally, she said “That’s the nicest thing anybody has done for me in a long time.”

I just thought that was so sad.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family Movie Night - Part 2

Our second Family Movie Night gathering was this Sunday, and it was another success.

The movie this time was to have been Mother’s choice – however, she didn’t want to choose one, fearing that nobody would like whatever she picked. My brother Reed suggested that they “go together” on the choice, since his is the next one. So, we ended up watching “They Call Me Trinity” this time, and will watch part two of the series next time.

The write-up on the boxed set calls these movies “Spaghetti Westerns” which I can only assume is similar to my favorite B-Grade Sci-Fi movies. I really do wonder how they came up with the term “Spaghetti Western” though. Does anybody have any input on that? Leave a comment below if you do.

Anyway, the movie was interesting – a lot of gun fights, cattle rustling, slap-stick comedy, and some pretty shabby horses. Unfortunately, the movies did not come with captions, so we could not turn on the “words”. There are way too many of us in the family who are hard of hearing, and couple that with my brother’s penchant for turning up the TV way too loud – it was very hard to understand most of what was being said.

It was till fun, though. We had quite a crowd, too: Mother, Stewart, Julie, Kelly, Tara, Noel, Hank, Reed, Heather, Tony & his wife (she’s from Thailand and I can’t remember her name), Gleo, and myself.

As always, the buffet was set with all kinds of food. We had tomato soup w/ black beans in one crock-pot; beans w/ meat and onions in another crock-pot; home-made bread with tuna spread; rice with almonds, pecans, cranberries, veggies, and lots of other good stuff; cookies; lemonade; and a big pecan pie for dessert.

It’s a good 100 miles round trip each time I go out to my brother’s house. In this time of high gas prices and no employment, I really have to think twice each time I want to head out that direction. It’s worth it for the family gatherings, though – and gas prices continue to come back down to a more reasonable level.

Another thing to consider is the road conditions. This time, they were horrible. It was so icy the entire drive; my car kept wanting to go sideways. I saw several cars in the ditch along the way, one of which was upside down!

Their driveway wasn’t any better: I almost got stuck on the way out. My big brother helped, though (my hero!), so I eventually made it back onto the highway and arrived home safe and sound an hour later.


Hello. My name is Ruth, and I am a vegetarian.

Sounds like I just joined some 12-step program, doesn’t it? Like it’s some sort of disease that needs to be healed, or a chemical dependency that needs to be overcome so that I can fit back in to the mainstream of society.

It’s not a religious belief, or a political statement. At least, for me it’s not. I simply don’t like the taste of meat. I was born this way. Mother told me once that even as a baby she had a hard time getting me to eat meat.

We were quite poor growing up, so didn’t have the luxury of fixing a different meal for each child at dinner time. This meant that we were expected to eat whatever Mother made for dinner, and no arguments allowed. She did let me take very small portions at least; I filled up on the veggies and had a bite or two of the meat, and that was good.

Now that I’m all grown up (what!?) I simply don’t have meat in my house.

It’s kind of funny, some of the reactions I get. Some people really just don’t get it, you know?

My favorite was one of my old shooting buddies (yes, I shoot trap = its clay pigeons, not real ones!). He had a hard time grasping the concept of not eating any meat. He kept asking, “What else is there?”

How about: Everything!

Another favorite is the people who “catch” me eating chocolate. They gasp, point at me, and loudly proclaim, “I thought you were a vegetarian!”

Duh! Chocolate comes from plants.

I’m not vegan, so milk is ok – although I really don’t care for milk chocolate: the darker the chocolate, the better for me.

I’m not even a super-strict vegetarian: I do like fish. It’s mostly the cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, etc. that I don’t care for. I swear: if I eat some, it actually makes me aggressive!

I suppose I could claim it as a cost savings strategy. It really is expensive to buy all that meat all the time. One year for Christmas I got my sister and her family a gift certificate to a local butcher’s shop. I thought that for the amount I gave them they would end up with several meals worth – turns out they had one (1) meal.

I have made the conscientious decision to buy local as often as possible, as well as organic. Unfortunately, the two do not often go hand-in-hand. But the Saturday Market is just down the street from me, and is open throughout the summer months. It’s not only healthy for me but for the planet as well.

I can feel good about that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Namaste Shangri La

I tried to go to a talk on Global Climate Change today at lunch – but apparently I had the location down wrong. I showed up, but no one else did.

I was rather bummed about that – I had been looking forward to meeting the speaker, Jackie Poston from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. I had heard she was very interesting, and had thought to volunteer some of my time to the cause – since I have so much time on my hands lately.

I hung around till noon, hoping to run into somebody that might know what was going on – but finally hunger drove me off.

I decided to treat myself to lunch at a relatively new place called Namaste Shangri La ( and boy, am I glad I did.

It’s a small place tucked into a strip mall off of Tudor near Lake Otis: not the easiest place to get to, but well worth the effort. Inside, it’s painted an interesting shade of celery (?) greed and decorated with photos from Tibet and/or Nepal.

It was rather chilly, so the waitress seated me towards the back of the room so I wouldn’t get cold up front by the door. Unfortunately, I was seated directly underneath a light that reflected off the glass tabletop right into my eye, exacerbating the migraine that was just starting to form. That was no fault of the waitress, though, and I really should have moved over to another chair at that same table.

While I read thru the menu, I sipped a cup of Chiya: imported Indian tea brewed with aromatic spices. Mmmmm… that was almost better than my choice of meal – but not quite.

What I chose was the Canoe Potato – an Alaskan potato stuffed with mixed vegetables and paneer (home made cottage cheese) served in a rich sauce with nuts for garnish.

I highly recommend you try this place! But – it’s small, so go early to ensure you get a good table. And if you’re prone to migraines, don’t be embarrassed to switch seats, dummy!

Predators and Prey in Denali National Park

I attended another interesting lecture last night. This one was part of the Fireside Chat Series hosted by the Campbell Creek Science Center titled “Predators and Prey in Denali National Park” as presented by Layne Adams, a wildlife biologist with the USGS-Alaska Science Center.

This one was particularly interesting to me since it so closely resembled the work I had done in Mongolia last year, on my Earthwatch expedition to study the Argali (the world’s largest mountain sheep). As I sat in those very uncomfortable chairs for well over an hour and a half, watching the presentation and listening to Layne speak, I got to relive my experiences all over again; only this time, I didn’t go home with a fractured kneecap and a dislocated jaw!

Layne has spent the past 20 some-odd years in the park, studying mainly the caribou/wolf relationship – but also moose, sheep, bear, wolverine, eagle… pretty much every possible connection. He looked at herd/pack size, birthing rates, calf/pup mortality rates, weather conditions, food sources, and competition rates – to name just a few aspects of his research.

Unlike the work we did in Mongolia, where everything had to be done either on foot or on horseback, Layne and his coworkers used helicopters and airplanes to facilitate the gathering of data. They typically would dart the animal from the air, then track it down on foot to attach the radio collar and gather the biological samples and measurements they needed.

They also looked at carcasses found occasionally; gathering data on mortality rates and causes, as well as diet and growth factors.

Weather conditions can be harsh in the Alaskan wilderness. Sometimes they had to work in snowstorms with 12 foot accumulations, as well as summer heat waves and massive mosquito swarms.

The biggest surprise he encountered in his work was the importance of salmon in the dynamics of the predator/prey relationships.

Typically, when you think about a wolf’s diet, you automatically think moose or caribou, not fish. And when you think about the Denali National Park, you just don’t think about salmon at the same time. And yet they are a huge presence.

Salmon follow the Yukon River up from the west, traveling as far as 700 miles to reach several spawning areas throughout the park. Biologists have done a considerable amount of research on the salmon, so they have a pretty good estimate of how many salmon spawn there: of the 4 runs that occur comprised of three different species, they estimate upwards of 260,000 pounds of salmon each year!

Layne did a biomass calculation, and believes that is the equivalent of 750 moose = as you can see, they are indeed an important factor in the park’s food chain.

The presentation ended with Layne stressing the point that predators and prey are both heavily dependant on each other, on the landscape, and on the seasons. Take away or modify just one of those factors, and you change the dynamics in ways that may be detrimental to the ecological balance.

Another Interview!

I got called in for another job interview the other day! The company is called RurAL-Cap, and they are a day-care school for infants and toddlers. The position I had applied to was for a Teacher’s Aid.

I suppose you’re wondering why I would step so far out of my experience circle and apply for such a job. I am kind of wondering that myself!

But – I’ve had some experience (a very little bit) in that area, what with my work at the zoo and the volunteering I used to do at the schools on my lunch hours – so I thought perhaps I could do this sort of thing.

It would definitely be a change of pace for me. I am used to sitting at my desk all day long, doing my work with minimal social contact. There were some days where I hardly spoke a word at all, even to my coworkers! That sort of situation suits me quite well.

Working at a daycare would no doubt involve social contact – and then some! As a teacher’s aid, I wouldn’t be directly responsible for the children, but I would lend a helping hand with all aspects of running the various classes, and would have to deal with all ages, from students to parents.

The interview went relatively well, I thought, despite my lack of qualifications. The two ladies conducting the interview each took turns asking question they had prepared ahead of time. They each wrote down their comments on my responses, and were quite friendly. Questions ranged from “what would you do in ‘this’ situation?” to “what do you think ‘quality care’ means?”

I gave honest answers, even when they asked me things like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” (in an architectural office, sitting at a computer, turning out construction documents) and “what prompted you to apply for this position?” (facing unemployment for an undeterminable length of time)

Honestly, I highly doubt I’ll get the job. If they do offer it to me, then I would have to seriously wonder what kind of place they are to hire one so obviously under-qualified.

But, it would certainly be an interesting job – at least until I find myself a “real” job.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bringing Back the Aleutians

The people at Alaska Geographic ( host a lecture series called Wildlife Wednesdays, held at the library once a month and featuring various talks on such topics as Polar Marine Mammals, Climate Change, and Life on Thinning Ice.

The lecture this Wednesday was titled “Bringing Back the Aleutians” and was given by Stacey Buckelew of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Steve Ebbert of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Steve began the talk by telling us a little bit about the organization he works for.

The Alaska Maritime NWR is comprised of over 2,500 islands, roughly 4.9 million acres and 47,300 miles of shoreline, mostly located in the Aleutian chain, the remote Pribilofs, and icebound lands washed by the Chukchi Sea. These islands provide essential habitat for some 40 million seabirds, representing more than 30 species. The refuge’s activities focus on long-term ecosystem monitoring, marine resource research, and invasive species management.

The main topic for the lecture was invasive species. Most people are aware of the rat problems but might be surprised to learn that other mammals are listed as invasive species as well, such as foxes (both arctic and red) as well as ungulates (such as cattle, caribou, and bison).

All of these animals wreck havoc on the native species that live on the islands, either by direct predation or by overgrazing, trampling of nests, or adversely affecting the plant diversity. And since Man introduced them, Man is attempting to eradicate them now. The refuge has several programs in place to address the issues and has seen some considerable success, mainly with the foxes.

Steve then turned the podium over to Stacey to talk about the rats, specifically on Rat Island.

Rat Island is located almost at the very tip of the Aleutian chain, about 1300 miles west of Anchorage, comprised of 6,861 acres of cliffs, mountains, and tundra. In 1780, rats escaped from a sinking Japanese fishing boat and made their way to this island. Nearly 3000 ships a year pass by on the shipping route between Asia and North America, so the rat population on Rat Island, as well as other islands, regularly gets replenished.

As a result, today there are virtually no remaining seabirds, very few land birds, and no native land mammals left.

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge partnered up with The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation (as well as many other concerned groups) with the goal of Eradicating the Rat Infestation of Rat Island.

This was the largest undertaking ever attempted, with many challenges to face: the logistics of getting supplies, gear, and personnel out to the island, all the permitting required to conduct the eradication program, battling the extreme weather out on the chain, protecting the native species while eliminating the invasives, to name just a few.

The method chosen for the eradication was a type of poison, and anticoagulant, mixed into a pellet of grain which was then spread over the entire island, either by helicopter or by hand. They spread it out twice, to be sure to get every rat – and there were definitely rats on the island! Stacey said they did not have an accurate headcount prior to the eradication attempt, but she estimated perhaps tens of thousands of them.

Spreading the poison took place this past summer, but there is a two-year waiting period to be done still, before the eradication project can be declared a success. Scientists and Biologists will closely monitor the island to make sure every rat was taken, and see how the ecology responds.

If you’re interested, more information on the rat infestation problem and the steps being taken to mitigate them can be found at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Day at the Farm

When I woke up and saw that the snow that had started falling the previous afternoon had continued on through the night, the thick heavy flakes accumulating up to almost 5 inches, I almost considered not driving out to Palmer that day. The roads would be horrible and my semi-depressive state wanted nothing more than to spend yet another day on the couch with my kids watching reruns of 90210 and 7th Heaven.

I’m so glad I went anyway. Turns out the roads weren’t that bad after all – at least, the Glenn Highway wasn’t bad. As soon as I turned off onto the Parks my anxiety levels shot thru the roof. By the time I pulled into Mother’s driveway my head was pounding from the stress of trying to keep my car on the road. I made it safely, however, and dealt with the headache by taking a dose of my pain meds.

Mother was downstairs in the classroom with Lauren, so I hauled my pile of books down to join them. Mother was sitting on one of the twin beds working on her plans to turn the old Colony Barn into a loft apartment. Lauren was sitting at the table working on a travel brochure for Ft. Wainright, an assignment in her Alaskan Geography class. I settled in on a corner of Lauren’s table and worked on my Methods of Building Construction homework.

After about an hour or so of quietly chatting and working it was lunchtime, so we put everything away, picked up the dog that is too old to climb the stairs by herself, and relocated ourselves to the dining room. Mother made us some toasted cheese sandwiches on homemade bread to go with our potato and onion soup – all of which tasted so good! There’s nothing like a homemade meal with family…

With both lunch and school work taken care of, Lauren was finally able to get the board games out. She particularly likes to play Rumicubes, a game somewhat similar to Gin Rummy only with tiles you lay down on the table for everybody to play off of. She, of course, won every game. But it was fun, none the less.

The snow never did stop coming down, so I decided I should head on back to town early enough to ensure that I had daylight the whole way, even if it took longer than usual to get home.

I had a great time!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Family Movie Night - Part 1

Sunday was the first Family Movie Night for the season! We all met over at my brother’s house for dinner and a movie.

This season’s Family Movie Night series is slightly different from last year’s in that each person gets to pick a movie; as opposed to watching a series like we did last season (The Planet Earth and The Body Atlas). This time, I chose the movie: we watched “An Inconvenient Truth”. Next time, Mother will pick a movie, followed by Stewart’s choice, and then Kelly’s, Noel’s, Reed’s, ending with me again. I thought this would be a fun get-together for everybody!

We’re mostly meeting at Reed’s house, since they not only have a HUGE big screen TV to watch them on, but also have a nice big open space to fit everybody in comfortably. Heather says she likes having the family over as it gives her a “kick in the butt” to have her house clean and tidy! But, this season Noel has volunteered to host the event once; so when it’s her turn to choose the movie, we’ll be watching it at her house.

Food is always a big part of any family gathering – it’s a wonder we’re not all overweight! Somehow, my siblings have managed to stay slim & trim - I am not so lucky unfortunately.

This time, we had a big pot of beans & ham (sister Julie is a great cook: they were fabulous!), bread & tomatoes fresh from the greenhouse (thanks to Noel & Lisa, the minister’s wife), cinnamon rolls with lemon icing (Mother’s contribution), and lemonade or iced tea.

Watching the movie was Mother, Reed, Heather, Me, Stewart, Julie, Noel, Hank, Lisa, Kelly, and Tara.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What an Ordeal

Tula almost got the best of me today.

It started out on the wrong foot, and then almost got on the right track only to fall back on that wrong foot again by the end of our time together.

Kristen and I had to separate the two camels by ourselves this time. The male, while being only 2 years old, is very aggressive and unpredictable – on top of which, neither Kristen nor I are familiar with him and his tricks.

Trying to separate the two is almost impossible at the best of times. Tula doesn’t move very fast, and Knobby is quite literally trying to mount her at every possible opportunity – which annoys her and frustrates him.

Kristen went in the pen to put Tula’s halter on while I attempted to distract him in the opposite corner with treats over the fencing. He would come get an apple slice from me, then run over to the barn to put himself in between Kristen and Tula, making Kristen back off hastily in fear of her very life (okay, maybe not her life – but certainly some of her limbs were in danger).

I’d capture his attention again by rattling his feed bucket against the railing, causing him to run over to grab another apple slice from my fingers before running right back to Tula and Kristen.

Eventually, Kristen managed to get Tula’s halter on, but had great difficulties getting Tula to walk over to where she could close a gate between the two animals. We ended up having to have both of us in the enclosure, with Kristen distracting Knobby while I hurriedly closed the gate. Both of us just barely made it out of the enclosure, with Knobby hard on our heels: teeth bared and a wild look in his eyes.


Then, of course, we had to battle with Tula and her walk. I tried my idea of going up to the greenhouse, and I must say = it worked beautifully! She walked all the way, without stopping, from her gate to the greenhouse. But, then she realized there was no party going on, and refused to budge a single step further. We even went and got some kids off the trails to come admire her for us, hoping to fool her into believing that we had that planned all along.

She finally relented and got walking again. So I decided to push my luck and go down the trail towards the eagles: I should have been happy with my little success and gone on home – but no, I had to ask for more.

There were all kinds of people on the trails today, it being a Saturday and all that, so Tula used every excuse in the book to not move. We finally grabbed Liz, her old handler, hoping she could get the darned camel moving. Liz gave me all kinds of pointers and advice, which I am very grateful for, but still we had a heck of a time with that damn camel.

I was getting frustrated, and Tula knew it. She actually reared up her head and bared her teeth at me. You could just hear her saying “I don’t have to. You can’t make me.”

Between Liz, Kristen, and myself – we eventually got Tula to walk about 2 steps in the direction we wanted her to go, then agreed that we could call that a win and turn around back to the camel enclosure. Which, by the way, was exactly what Tula wanted. She was more than happy to walk back to her barn, however I made her walk to the other end of her enclosure before letting her off the leash and giving her the grain bucket.

We talked to Shannon later on about our difficulties separating the two animals, and it has been decided that I will suspend all further walks until they can figure out a safer way to do that.

So, for now, that is that.

My Day at the Zoo

I’ve been walking with the camel for several weeks now. Tula and I are getting acquainted with each other, and are learning each other’s quirks.

The biggest problem I’m having is that she is basically an extremely stubborn animal, and she believes that she does not have to obey me. Shannon, the Curator of Animals, must be obeyed on sight apparently – all she has to do is walk passed us and Tula is walking like a pro. It’s kind of funny when it happens. The minute Shannon is no longer in view, Tula reverts back to her stubborn ways. She knows exactly what she’s doing!

Just yesterday Kristen and I went into the enclosure – once the 2 year old was separated out – and got Tula’s gear on and headed out for the trails. We did alright until we hit the wide open spot of the trails, in front of the coffee house. This is as far as Tula goes, according to her schedule. My schedule says we go to the Eagle’s enclosure – but we’ve only been there once.

I think I’m going to try a new tactic today: instead of aiming for the Eagle’s enclosure, I’m going to head back to the greenhouse and see if she will do that for me. She likes going to the greenhouse because that’s where birthday parties are held. She likes birthday parties.

I wonder if I can go a different route entirely? I’d like to take her back by the caribou – but that has quite a hill, and then we’d have to walk passed the tigers which might cause a stir. Maybe I’ll save that for summer time, when the trails aren’t as icy and slick.

After having taken our walk, I decided to walk around the zoo a bit. I hadn’t really taken the time to visit all the other animals in a while, and it was such a nice day.

The tigers were both out and about, enjoying the sunshine. They were pacing back and forth along the fence line. What amazing animals they are! Even from 10 feet up on the boardwalk, you could see the feline power in each move they made. The difference between a 4 year old tiger and a 17 year old tiger is very apparent!

Having the tigers up and about got the wolves, right next door, all in an uproar – literally! All six of them were sitting there next to the boardwalk, voicing their opinions about everything. They have such a wonderful voice, and it really sends a chill down your spine when all six of them start in on the howling.

The local hunters in and around Anchorage have been very generous this season, donating their used carcasses for our animals. The wolves get some really great treats, like a whole moose’s rib cage or all four legs, each Wednesday (or Treat-Day, as their handler calls it). They had the remains of Treat Day scattered all about their enclosure the day I was visiting with them. That means, of course, they had lots of ravens around, too. Man, those are big birds! I wouldn’t be surprised to see one make off with a whole leg!

Heading back to the infirmary, I got there just in time to help Shannon and several of the keepers unload a truck-full of supplies. We had an assembly line going: Shannon unpacked bags of feed off the pallets and handed them to me; I passed them on to a keeper standing in the doorway of the storage shed, who handed it off to another keeper (or three, by the time we were finished) working inside the shed to organize everything.

The bags of feed weren’t really that heavy (probably 25 lbs each) but there were certainly a lot of them! Shannon makes an order each month for all the food the animals will need for that month, and considering the fact that we have as many as 100 (plus or minus a few) animals at the zoo at any given time = that’s a lot of feed! My back was complaining all night long.

You should see the walk-in freezer in the kitchen! All kinds of meat and produce in there, including whole animals – like road kill or donated carcasses. You never know what you’re going to see when you walk in there. Not exactly a pleasant place for a vegetarian to visit, if you know what I mean!

After unloading all the feed, Shannon let me go with her to visit a brand new resident, over in the orphanage enclosure: a little brown bear cub! He’s very small and badly starved – but seems to be doing well, and is perking up nicely. He should be the size of a very large dog by this time of year, but he looks like a tiny little teddy bear instead. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, but hope that will good food and medications, he will survive and grow big & strong.

Shannon brought 6 bales of straw to his enclosure, to make a den for him. When she went into his space, he cowered in the corner and bawled at first – but then got brave and actually lunged at her, growling and snarling. That’s a very good sign! It means that just the two or three feedings he’s received so far are making a difference already!

So, hopefully the walk with Tula today will be a good one!

Cross your fingers for me…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Did Not Get The Job

Remember that job interview I had last week? Well, I just got an email from them, basically saying “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Honestly, though, they were a lot nicer than that. They actually said “Your skills and reputation did not hold you back - if we had the necessary workload we would make you an offer of employment.”

I’m just disappointed in not getting the job.

It’s only been a month and a half – last time I was unemployed, it took 3 months to find a job. And I do have the funds to get thru almost 6 months of unemployment if I have to.

But I so hate not working!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I voted – did you?

I joined the throng of people who voted early this election season.

My intention was to avoid the crowds, but apparently most everybody else had that same intention – there was a line wrapped all the way out the door and around the waiting area in the building where the early voting was taking place! They had it moving quickly along, though – so it really wasn’t that bad of a wait.

I am optimistic enough to think that this election might bring out a record number of voters this year, judging by the numbers so far. There’s a lot at stake, and I think people are more inclined to get involved now because of it.

It will certainly be an interesting one, and hard to predict the outcome.

If you feel comfortable telling the world - who did you vote for? I voted for Obama...

Job Interview

I had my first actual job interview the other day!

One of the local architectural firms I had sent my resume to called me in to talk to me. We had actually spoken for about half an hour on the phone ahead of time, so I wasn’t sure exactly what was left to talk about, but I guess a little face-time was called for.

It was rather unexpected, really. I sent them my resume without their soliciting it, meaning it was a “cold contact” and not a reply to a job posting. I guess one of their employees recognized my name and told them to give me a call (and if I actually get a job there, I owe her big time!).

I have actually worked with the man in charge in the past on a few committees I’ve taken part in for the local AIA group (The American Institute of Architects, or but he didn’t remember me until I pointed that out to him. I had also run into him several times at the conventions out in Girdwood, so I was relatively comfortable talking to him right off the bat.

I tried so hard to be on time for my interview. Those of you who know me well know that I am chronically early for everything. This time, I vowed to be ON TIME. And I would have been except that I had the wrong time down on my schedule! I thought the interview was to be at 1:00 but it was supposed to be at 2:00 instead, so I showed up an hour early.


They were kind enough to say that it was not a big deal, and went ahead with the interview anyway.

It’s a good company – they have a nice office, with a first-class feel to it. I think I would like working there. It’s a small company with only about 20 people, as opposed to the 38 people in the last office I worked in. But that’s ok – I like a smaller firm anyway.

They’ve done some impressive work, too. Looking at their walls while waiting for the interview, I saw that they had a part in the Seward Sealife Center even!

I’m fairly optimistic and hopeful…

Pumpkin Carving Party

I had the family over this year for a Pumpkin Carving Party!

As you know from my previous posting to this blog – Halloween is not my favorite holiday in the world. But it was a good excuse to have a family get-together, as well as a way to get a bunch of pumpkin seeds to roast! I love pumpkin seeds.

I told every body to bring their own pumpkin to carve as well as a snack to share, and I would provide the hot spiced cider, carving tools, and patterns.

The carving tools & patterns were actually left over from the last two or three pumpkin carving parties I’d had in the past, but I bought a few extra just in case. Patterns ranged anywhere from the standard “scary smiley face” to Frankenstein, the Mummy, or the Wolfman. Some people even elected to carve out their own ideas, eschewing the patterns altogether.

The hot cider was scrumptious, if I do say so myself. I used the mulling spices from Dean & Deluca ( DEAN & DELUCA's Mulling Spice Blend includes cloves, allspice, soft quill Ceylon cinnamon and dried orange peel) and had a big pot simmering on the stove for an hour ahead of time, so the whole house smelled yummie by the time people started to arrive.

I had a fairly good turnout, too: Mother came with two big pots of chili and some cupcakes & cookies. My friend Corissa came with some peanut butter rice crispy treats. My friend Anne came with some crackers and artichoke dip. My friend Barbara came with a mix of spiced nuts. Noel & Lauren came with… well, shoot – I can’t for the life of me remember what they brought! Kelly & Tara came with a huge bag of Kettle Chips. And last – but certainly not least, nor chronologically in order – Heather came with a cheese ball and some tortilla chips.

We had fun. People carved their pumpkins, ate lots of food, chatted with everybody, and had a relaxing afternoon – just what I intended.

And I got a nice big bag of roasted pumpkin seeds – again, just as I intended!


I know that Halloween is The Best Day Ever for some people, but for me – it’s really not that big of a deal. I never really dressed up as a kid, or went trick-or-treating or anything like that. We lived out of town “in the boonies” with the closest neighbor being miles away, so a typical Halloween for us would be a family affair consisting of a home-made piƱata down in the basement followed by a taffee-pull up in the kitchen.

Now that I’m older, I’m even less inclined to dress up or go to parties. I was invited to my next-door neighbor’s this year, however. Rather a monumental occasion, actually: people who know me know that I never go to parties, so they never invite me. Well, he did invite me, so I went.

I hated it.

There was a bunch of people I don’t know, standing around in his garage (which he had decorated with cob-webs, ghosts, rats, and spiders) drinking beer and wearing costumes. I hung out for about an hour, and then made my escape back to my safety & solitude.

That was the week before the actual day of Halloween. I usually spend the day itself working at the zoo. They have Zoo Boo each year, where the kids can come trick-or-treating at the zoo, wearing their costumes and having a fun, safe, evening with the animals.

This year, unfortunately, I got sick and could not participate. It was probably one of the worst cases of food poisoning I’ve ever had. I believe it was some bad Thai food that did it. I was throwing up every two hours all night long Thursday night, spent the entire day Friday with a bad case of diarrhea, and by Saturday my entire body ached and I had a horrible migraine to top it all off with.

Needless to say, this was not the best Halloween I’ve ever had.