Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Legend of the Seeker

In 1994 I took on a second job. It wasn’t so much that I needed the money. Back then, I was working for Big Oil and had more money than I knew what to do with. No, my second job was more an experiment.

I had this half-baked dream of retiring one day and opening up my own bookstore, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what exactly I was getting myself in to. I went to work part-time at Waldenbooks in the University Center.

It was hard work – a lot harder than I expected it to be. That’s probably because I was working 40 hours a week at my real job, and then an extra 20+ hours a week at my second job. Even as a youngster, I got tired.

Plus, they put me in charge of the Romance section, of all things. I have nothing against romance per se, but it is probably the one part of a bookstore you are least likely to find me in under normal circumstances. I had hoped for the Sci-Fi section, or maybe the children’s section.

Mostly, though, my duties involved restocking the shelves. Bookstores go thru a lot of books, and for every one sold another one has to be put on the shelf in its place. Hours upon hours were spent hauling boxes of books from the back room out onto the floor, and then arranging the books onto the shelves.

Working at a bookstore not only gave me the employee’s discount, but also gave me first pick of all the books. As I restocked the shelves, I’d come across an interesting book – about once every other minute or so – and set it aside. Then I’d hide them all in the back room where nobody would find them. Once my paycheck was handed over to me, I’d hand it right back to them and purchase all those books! I was like a kid in a candy store.

One of the books I came across while restocking the store one night was “Wizard’s First Rule” by brand new author, Terry Goodkind. I didn’t know if that was a male or a female author, since the cover didn’t have any picture. But it piqued my curiosity so I set it aside till payday.

12 books and a TV series later, I am so glad I did. What a great series that is! I love it, and have all my sisters, nieces, nephews, and friends hooked on it as well.

Have you read it? Have you seen it? You should… really.

As for my dream of opening a bookstore: I don’t think that’s for me. Not that I’m afraid of hard work – I just saw that being an independent bookseller would just not be possible. I’d have to be part of a chain to be able to survive the competitive market.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Animals of The Alaska Zoo: Ahpun & Lyutyik

A comment was posted on my blog some time ago requesting more information on the animals of the zoo: so I am planning on doing a series of posts – in no particular order and with no particular deadline – on just that.

Refer to archived posting dated January 19, 2009 titled A Birthday Party.

Actually they specifically asked about the polar bears – but I prefer to take it as a request for information on all the animals. The first one I am doing will be on the polar bears, though, so that will hopefully make them happy.

So – to commence the series – let us talk about the two polar bears in residence at The Alaska Zoo.

Ahpun is our female polar bear. She came to us as an orphaned cub about 11 years ago from a place called Point Lay, Alaska. Her mother had been shot in self defense when a native seal hunter got too close to the den without realizing it. It’s sad that it happened, but at least he did the next best thing and called the Fish & Game to come rescue the cub. She would not have survived on her own.

At the same time she arrived at the zoo we got an orphaned brown bear cub as well. Since bear cubs tend to fare better with company, and they were both of the same approximate age, it was decided to place the two cubs together and see what happens. As far as we knew, we were the only zoo to ever put a brown bear cub together with a polar bear cub – so we had no idea what would happen.

Happily for us, and for the cubs as well, it was a perfect match. The two girls became close friends and lived together until they matured into full-grown adults. At that time the brown bear moved in with our male Kodiak bear and Ahpun got the brand spanking new enclosure – complete with a swimming pool and two waterfalls – all to herself.

Since the fate of polar bears world-wide is under considerable stress currently and it is thought that they may not survive the next 50 years, the available gene pool for captive polar bears is a very precious thing. Since Ahpun was born in the wild and will introduce a whole new strain of genes, our young lady drew international attention once she hit child-bearing age. We started looking in to finding her a mate!

The male that was finally chosen for her came to us from Australia, of all places. Obviously he wasn’t a native; he was born in Russia and had moved with his sister to Sea World Australia when they were one year old.

His journey to the Alaska Zoo was facilitated by Fed-Ex, the only company with a plane big enough to transport a full grown male polar bear. He was a great traveler, sitting in his custom-made crate for over 35 hours while they hauled him from one side of the planet to the other.

Unfortunately, he wiggled around a bit while in his crate and wore off all the hair from his bottom. I’m sure you know that a polar bear’s skin is black, which presumably helps them retain heat out in the frigid north. Couple that with the fact that in his previous home they had given him bark chips to roll in which turned his hair a bright orange color, and you can imagine what he looked like. Eventually all his hair grew back – and in the proper color - so that he is now even more beautiful than we’d hoped for.

Lyutyik – which in Russian means something like “Beautiful Flower” or “Fragrant Flower” – was five years old when he moved to Alaska. Ahpun was seven, so she had the advantage of age & maturity. Lyutyik had the advantage of size, however, weighing in at 1,069 pounds – completely dwarfing Ahpun’s more girlish figure at nearly 700 pounds.

The beginning of their courtship was a little rough. Ahpun immediately gathered up all of her toys and jealously guarded them against his futile attempts to steal them. After a month or so, when she realized that he wasn’t going to go away, she grudgingly let him have a beat-up old bucket that she wasn’t interested in any more.

They’ve since worked out all the kinks and are now cozily cohabitating. They are also practicing their mating habits quite diligently (this makes giving tours to the little kids very interesting at times) so, until we have things ready for cubs, Ahpun is on the pill.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bad Hair Day

When I picked up Cute Scientist Guy from the airport, he gave me a look that said – loud and clear –I looked nothing like what he expected. Then he asked me, “Do you like your hair that way?”

That’s when I knew I should grow it out. I had cut it all off for my Mongolia expedition, figuring that no hair would be easier to deal with out in the desert than three feet of hair, and had kept it short ever since.

I like it short, but I also like it long. What I don’t like is the in-between stage. The stage where it’s long enough to fall into your eyes every time you look down at your desk, but not long enough to be able to do anything about it.

Sure, I can put clips on or slip a band around my head. But then I look even more ridiculous because I have “wings” that stick straight out the sides of my head.

It’s very frustrating, and if memory serves me from the last time I grew my hair out, this stage lasts a good six to nine months.

Noel does what she can for me. She’s a great hairdresser – I drive all the way out to Palmer to have my hair taken care of by her, rather than use anybody here in my own town (and not just because she’s my sister) – and has all kinds of tricks that she uses to help me thru it. She even has me using a product that speeds up the hair growth, although it’s still slow.

But, I figure by the time Cute Scientist Guy comes back up for another visit, I’ll have hair. We’ll see what he thinks then!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Typical Sunday

I found myself wide awake at 3:00 in the morning Sunday. Mostly that was due to the alien, who wanted to snuggle. I hauled him up into bed with me (for a little guy, he sure is heavy) and laid there with him for about an hour.

I could have fallen asleep again except for two things. One: I’m afraid he’ll get up and fall off the side of the bed. He’s done that before – he is blind, after all – and with his spindly little legs, I’m afraid he’d break them. Two: I was feeling nauseous due to the migraine that was simmering in the back of my head.

That’s what finally got me up out of bed. I put the alien back in his box and went downstairs to sit at the kitchen table for a while. I must have had a creative spurt of something during the night, because as I sat there I started to play around with my paper crafting – and came up with 6 cards!

After my medication kicked in and the nausea abated, I finally went back to bed and slept for another couple hours. When I got up for real that day, I putzed around the house a while until time to head out for my usual lunch at The Perfect Cup. I wrote my letters, read my book, and ate my lunch – just like always. I’m nothing if not predictable.

This Sunday, however, I was reading a new book. I finally finished reading the book mother got me for my birthday (see blog posting from May 2008 titled “My Birthday Book”). It was a very good book, but since I only read it on Sundays it did take a while to finish.

The book I’m reading now is titled “An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't” by William Wilson and Judy Jones.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

“How do you tell the Balkans from the Caucasus? What’s the difference between fission and fusion? Whigs and Tories? Shiites and Sunnis? Deduction and induction? Why aren’t all Shakespearean comedies necessarily thigh-slappers? What are transcendental numbers and what are they good for? What really happened in Plato’s cave? Is postmodernism dead or just having a bad hair day? And for extra credit, when should you use the adjective continual and when should you use continuous? An Incomplete Education answers these and thousands of other questions with incomparable wit, style, and clarity. American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History: Here’s the bottom line on each of these major disciplines, distilled to its essence and served up with consummate flair.”

A lady sitting at the table next to me must have been reading over my shoulder, because at one point she interrupted me to ask about the book. She had a very strong accent – Polish, if I’m not mistaken – and was quite knowledgeable about art and wanted to know if I was in school. I explained that I simply like to learn things, and showed her the book. She took down the title and said she was going to go get a copy of it for herself. I had a coupon in my pocket for 25% off one book at Borders, so I gave it to her and sent her on her way.

The Ballad of Soapy Smith

Cyrano’s Bookstore is a funky little shop in downtown Anchorage (413 D Street) that is part bookstore, part cafĂ©, part playhouse, and part art gallery.

I have been to several plays at Cyrano’s: "Waiting for Godot", Kafka’s "Metamorphosis", and one who’s name I’ve forgotten (it was about these sea creatures that came up from the depths and befriended a pair of humans). Each play was very good albeit a little off the beaten track.

Unfortunately, I have to say I did not enjoy the play I saw there this weekend: “The Ballad of Soapy Smith”. I’m a little bummed about that, too. I had so been looking forward to it.

I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it was about the play that I didn’t like. It could have been that I expected a melodrama or a comedy: it was neither of those. It could also have been that there was a lot of bad language and yelling in the story: I don’t like either of those, and at one point contemplated leaving because of it. Or it could simply have been that I didn’t believe the actor playing the main character: he just didn’t suit the part, in my mind.

The sets were very well done. Cyrano’s is not your typical playhouse, and the stage they use is really just a room with some chairs in it. They did the best they could with what they had, though. It was very sparse and minimalistic.

I liked the costumes, too. They did a very good job providing period clothing to the members of the cast, and it was a very large cast too. The only caveat to that statement would be the director, who had to step in at the last minute for somebody who was unable to show up that night. His clothing was just your regular 20th century clothing – and he really stood out for it. Of course, he also stood out for the script he held in his hand; apparently he didn’t know the part. But kudos for the entire cast for being able to play anyway, despite the “sore thumb”.

But, no: I still have to say that overall, I did not like the play.

Earthwatch at UAA

Lynn Barrett is a board member for the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, and represents our Alaska Branch. She is the owner of Paragon Design Interiors and is a local representative for the DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) Wall Systems. She is also a teacher at UAA, teaching their “Sustainability in the Built Environment” class. And, to top of the list, she is a friend of mine.

She invited me to give an Earthwatch presentation to her class, which prompted the whole computer fiasco as noted in my previous blog posting.

Computer problems aside, the presentation went quite well. I was nervous, but that’s pretty much standard operating procedure for me: no matter how many times I do this, I just can’t seem to shake the nerves (pun intended).

Part of the problem was that Lynn was not there. She was in Seattle, which I think had something to do with why she wanted me to give a presentation on that day. It negated any need for her to get a sub!

The students in the class were all about my own age, which made it rather fun. They were also predominately male, which is typical for my profession. There was one girl in the room, but something tells me she was only there to use a computer and wasn’t part of the class. She paid no attention whatsoever, coming and going at will throughout the presentation. I just ignored her.

The presentation I gave was one I had created just for her class. My contacts at the Earthwatch home base gave me a prototype to use that went over the basics (who Earthwatch is, how they do what they do, and some of the statistics from over the years) - I simply added a few slides to the program highlighting my own expeditions. They had also sent me a bunch of brochures, catalogs, and post cards to hand out – most of which got distributed to the class.

All in all, it was a good evening. I even ran into an old friend from years ago. He didn’t recognize me, though – not until I spoke to him.

Computers hate me.

Just ask my brother - he’ll confirm that statement.

He was helping me with my personal computer the other day because I needed to get a power-point program put together for an Earthwatch presentation I was scheduled to give.

I had actually hauled the thing out to Palmer so he could work on it for me. I was having difficulties writing discs, among other things, and I needed a way to get my program from my PC to my laptop. He checked it out and said there was nothing wrong with it. So, back at my house, I stuck a disc in the drive and tried to copy the program onto it.

Guess what – it didn’t work.

I called him and he took me thru the whole process, step by step, to be sure I was doing it properly. Turns out, I was doing it properly – and it wouldn’t work for me even though it had worked just fine for him. We tried it with every disc I had on hand, even – twelve of them.

Since I had to get that program transferred, he said I could upload it to his personal FTP site, then download it the next day from my work computer and copy it onto a disc from there. Again, he led me through the whole process, step by step.

Guess what – it didn’t work.

That’s when I finally decided to go and buy myself a flash drive, although my brother thought I should instead buy a handle to attach to my computer so I could just carry it to the presentation.

In my opinion: handling computers is like handling snakes. They can sense your fear, which makes them nervous. That, of course, makes you even more fearful (who wouldn’t be with a nervous snake in their hands?) Pretty soon, it escalates to the point where the snake bites you.

Monday, February 16, 2009


The Eagle River Nature Center offered a free lecture on Woodpeckers this weekend, so Mother and I met up at 2:00 to attend. They are tucked away up in the mountains on the outskirts of Eagle River. It is a gorgeous place, with all manner of trails and scenic views to offer. I’m actually considering adding it to our Family Hiking schedule this season, for a change of view.

The speaker was a volunteer naturalist, Beth Baker, who was quite knowledgeable on the subject. She showed us pictures and played sound bites – she even had some hands-on items for us to look at: a woodpecker skull, a piece of a tree that had a woodpecker nest excavated into it, and several books on the subject.

They have lots of bird feeders set out throughout the winter at the nature center, and during the talk a couple of woodpeckers showed up (a hairy & a downy). Beth commented on the fact that when she gives talks on such animals as moose or wolverine, THEY never oblige her by showing up, and yet the woodpecker almost always does. It was very cool to watch them outside at the feeders while learning all about them inside the center.

There are seven (7) species of woodpecker in Alaska: the northern flicker, the red-breasted sapsucker, the yellow-breasted sapsucker, the hairy, the downy, the three-toed, and the black backed. Only 5 of those are commonly seen in Anchorage, however: we don’t get the two sapsuckers.

Beth talked about how the bird is able to peck wood the way it does - special adaptations to the beak, skull, brain, and muscles as well as modified skeletal structure - and how they’re able to function vertically rather than horizontally - specially adapted feet and modified tail feathers.

She talked about their diet - insects, sap, seeds, animal fat - and their nesting habitat - inside the tree rather than on the tree.

She explained their importance to the ecology of a forest – consuming insects inaccessible to other birds, providing nesting locations for other animals once the woodpeckers are done with them, and contributing to the decay of old trees.

All of this information, and more, can be found in the Wildlife Notebook Series of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game although if you have a chance to hear Beth’s presentation, it’s really worth your time.

After the talk was over Mother and I had to check out the books on the table, and I ended up purchasing one. I am now the proud owner of a really good Birds of Alaska book. It will make a fine addition to the books I haul along with me on each of our family hikes – although if I get too many more of them, I’m going to have to hire a Sherpa just to carry my backpack for me. It’s getting quite heavy!

Valentine's Day for the Animals

This saturday was our second annual Valentine's Day for the Animals celebration at The Alaska Zoo, and I worked a couple hours at the raffle table.

We had lots of stuff going on throughout the day: arts & crafts in the greenhouse where kids could make Valentines for the animal(s) of their choice, a "Birds & Bees" tour for people 12 and older, several keeper talks at the bear cubs exhibit, the seal & otter exhibit, and the great horned owl exhibit, free Valentine's Day cake for humans and special treats for the animals, hot cocoa & cider for sale, the petting zoo was open all day, and several mascots were walking the grouds (we have a fox and a polar bear costume that volunteers can wear).

And, as I mentioned at the begining of this posting, we were raffling off a huge stuffed polar bear for $1.00 a ticket (or 6 for $5.00). That's a huge deal when you consider that if you were to buy the bear at our gift shop he would have cost $140.

They had the table set up in the green house, which on the surface of it appeared to be a good location = it's warm, it's in close proximity to other "for purchase" items, and the kids who came to participate in the arts & crafts were sure to see it and convince their parents to buy tickets. Unfortunately, the reality of it wasn't quite so good: we just weren't selling any tickets.

When the news crew came in to the greenhouse to get some shots of the kids creating their masterpieces, I decided to take the bear for a walk - thereby NOT ending up on the nightly news and at the same time perhaps selling some more tickets.

I'm glad I did - I ended up selling roughly $50 worth of tickets in just half an hour, simply by being seen with the bear and talking to the people on the trails.

The biggest surprise of the day was the birth of a baby Yak! We had no idea the mother was even pregnant, although in hind-sight we should have known. This is the third time she's done this to us. Apparently it's not so easy to tell visually if a yak is pregnant or not. Our male, however, is quite viral and can impregnate his ladies thru a fence even.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Worst Snow Storm EVER

Several years ago, my sister had her 40th birthday. Her husband arranged a surprise dinner for her and invited the entire family to celebrate with them - that's about 25-30 people!

I drove in from out of town to attend the event. It was in December and there was a snowstorm brewing as I came in. Mother kept telling me that I should stay at her house and drive home the next day in daylight, but I wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.

That had to be the worst snow storm ever I have ever seen in 40 years of living in Alaska! The snow was so thick I couldn't see the front of my own car. A drive that normally takes me 45 minutes took well over 3 hours.

The ONLY thing that got me home that night was the car in front of me. I don't know what kind of car it was because all I could see were the tail lights, and only every once in a while. I kept my eyes focused on those lights, hoping and praying the whole time that I would stay on the road and not loose myself in a ditch somewhere.

The most amazing thing about that night was that those lights took me all the way home! TO MY DOOR practically! I never knew who that was - but I suspect it was my guardian angle working overtime that night.

I Will Never Forget

There are certain events in life that are so monumental that you will forever remember where you were and what you were doing at the time they occurred.

For example, I remember exactly where I was when Elvis died. Not because I was particularly enamored of him, but because a friend of my Mother's was, and she made such a spectacle of herself over the news - wailing and throwing herself to the ground in grief - that it stuck in my head.

That's how it is with the events of September 11, 2001 . I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it.

I was in my car going to work. I had just come up to the turn off from the highway and was waiting for my light to turn. I could see that other people around me were listening to the same radio station because they all had the same facial expression that I had. When the light turned we all just sat there, staring at the radio in disbelief. No one went, and no one honked their horn either.

As with most people I've spoken to about it, at first I didn't know if it was for real or not. Then, once it sunk in that it really did happen, I actually felt guilty for having slept thru it. Alaska has a 4-hour time difference with New York, so it was about 4:00 in the morning when the event occurred. I felt that I should have known; I should have felt it somehow, and woken up. That many people dying at once should have sent a shock-wave thru the world and woken everybody up - but it didn't and I slept on, blithely unaware.

Not much work got done that day, as you might expect. My boss had the live news videos playing on his computer, and we all crowded into his cubicle to watch. I'd run back to my computer occasionally to check on the local newspaper's website and read outloud any updates.

One of the comments made by the local newspaper was that people should think about donating blood. Undoubtadly the Blood Bank would need a lot in order to take care of all the survivors they were expecting. No one could even begin to comprehend that there might not be any.

Since that was about the only thing I could do, I went after work to our local branch of the blood bank intending to give my pint. I was astonished to see that hundreds of people had that same idea - the line actually wrapped all the way around the outside of the building!

I give blood quite regularly, but have never seen anything like that before or since. The nurses and staff at the blood bank were completely overwhelmed. I decided that rather than donate blood, I could help out much more by helping to take names down and make appointments, thereby freeing up actual staff/nurses to deal with more critical tasks.

I stood there at the door for a good 2-3 hours, writing down names and assigning time-slots for people to come back and give. Unfortunately for me, my back injury was still quite recent and I had not fully healed yet. I was in excruciating pain standing there that long, and was completely unable to move for fear that I'd start crying. The only thing that kept me going was the line that just never seemed to get any shorter.

I remember I dropped my pencil once. I just stood there looking at it, knowing there was no way I could reach down to get it -my back just would not allow that movement at all (I still can barely make that particular movement, in fact). Finally somebody in line took pity on me and retrieved it for me.

I'd love to hear other people's stories: where were you when 9/11 happened?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seattle Architecture

I wanted to say more about the Architectural tour that my niece and I took on my trip to Seattle last weekend. It really was quite interesting, and I’d highly recommend it to people.

The Seattle Architecture Foundation organizes a whole bunch of different tours, available by reservation or as a walk-in. If you’re heading down that direction – or over, depending on your current location – check out their website and see if they have a tour that might interest you. It’s worth your time!

The tour my niece and I took was titled “Historic Skyscrapers” and highlighted 19 different buildings around the downtown area. It was a 2-hour long walk with lots of up-hill climbs (it is Seattle, after all), so make sure you dress appropriately and wear proper shoes.

Here is a list of the buildings we learned about (although, I think they’re cheating on the Space Needle: they did talk about it, but it was seen only from a great distance).

Smith Tower, 506 2nd Avenue
Frye Hotel, Yesler at 3rd Avenue
King Street Station, 303 South Jackson Street
Butler Block, 2nd at James
Alaska Building 618 2nd Avenue
Hoge Building 705 2nd Avenue
Dexter Horton 710 2nd Avenue
Artic Building 3rd and Cherry
Norton Building 801 2nd Avenue
Jackson Federal Building
Wells Fargo Center, 3rd and Marion
2nd and Senneca Building
Space Needle from 2nd at Senneca
Washington Mutual Tower, 1201 3rd Avenue
Seattle Tower, 1218 3rd Avenue
Cobb Building, 1305 4th Avenue
Westin Hotel (from University at 5th)
IBM Building, 1200 5th Avenue
Rainier Tower, 1301 5th Avenue

I won’t detail each and every building on the list here in my blog – that would take away from the actual tour, should you ever decide to take it yourself – but there were a couple buildings that really stood out for me.

One was the Arctic Building: this was built back in 1916 as a gentleman’s club and includes such features as a life-size polar bear over the 3rd Avenue entrance, life-size walrus heads along the exterior of the 3rd floor, and an opulent dining room beneath a huge stained glass dome. It was sold in 2005 to the Arctic Club Hotel LLC and now consists of 117 rooms. I’m told you can rent The Dome Room for weddings and such.

Another building that made an impression on us was the Rainier Tower. This one is beyond unique. Designed in 1978 by Minoru Yamasaki, best known for designing the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, it looks like it’s balanced precariously on a base half the size of the actual building. It kind of resembles a wine glass, if you use your imagination. I have pictures, if anybody is interested. They’re not the greatest, but they’ll give you an idea as to what it looks like.

The people who put this tour together also recently published a book that I highly recommend: Seattle Architecture: A Walking Guide to Downtown by Maureen R. Elenga. If you don’t find an actual guided tour to your liking on the website mention above, perhaps you will find a self-guided one in the book!

I plan on making use of it extensively next time I’m down there.


The Coastal Kitchen
429 15th Avenue East

This is the restaurant that my niece and I went to in Seattle that served us Tunisian food. It was very good, but very spicy! From the looks of their website they're also serving from other countries, too. It’s definitely worth going there, if you’re in town.

Pizza Fusion
1412 12th Avenue

Here’s the Organic Pizza place we went to; also a good place to eat. They pride themselves on being as “Green” as possible – even their delivery people either ride bicycles or drive hybrid cars. The building they’re located in also has some apartments/condos for sale that look really nice. I really wanted to get in there and look around, but the door was locked.

Elliot Bay Book Company
101 South Main Street

Even if you’re not an avid reader like my niece and I are, I think you’ll like this place. The building was built back in 1891 as part of the reconstruction after the big fire. It’s a gorgeous 4-story building with tall narrow windows and rusticated sandstone arches. As mentioned in my previous posting, the interiors are all wooden floors and antique book shelving.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hanging By A Thread

Alien was trying to get me to wake up this morning so I'd lift him up into bed with me. He does this by sitting down on the floor and smacking his lips for a while. When that doesn't work he'll reach up with his paw and pat the bed for a while. When that doesn't work he'll actually stand up and reach further with his paw, patting whatever he can reach.

This morning when he did that he must have had his mouth open because when he sat back down again he got his two front teeth (the long canines) hooked on my blanket. He pulled a string loose so he was basically hanging by his teeth, choking and gagging while trying to pull himself off the string.

Cats never want to come forward when they're hung up on something - you ever notice that? They try to pull instead.

When I reached down to rescue him he actually tried to pull away from me. Eventually I got him off the string and into bed with me - which is what he wanted in the first place.

He purred and purred and purred...

Monday, February 09, 2009

My Trip to Seattle

I had a friend take me to the airport Thursday night: my flight was scheduled to leave Anchorage at 10:45, so Corissa dropped me off at 8:30.

Unfortunately the plane was stuck up in Barrow, so didn't even get to Anchorage until 11:25, which meant that I didn't get in to Seattle until well after 4:00 in the morning! Poor Katy and Taylor had to get up in the middle of the night to get me, and then had to sit there and wait for me! We crashed into bed as soon as we got to the apartment.

Friday morning, Katy took off for work and I got to sleep in till noon. What a comfortable bed she has! I totally slept in...

After a quick shower and a bowl of oatmeal, I headed outside to walk over to her shop. She got off work at 2:00, so I did some window shopping to kill some time then met up with her at the salon. I found the coolest little shop, full of recycled nick-knacks and whatnot. They had these bugs encased in acrylic as key rings, necklaces, and finger ring. I almost bought myself a ring with an ant in it... like I need a ring with an ant in it. Still, it was cool

After she finished up at work, we headed off down the hill to her favorite bookstore, the half-priced one. I promised myself I wouldn't buy any books, but you just know I did. She did, too - so we were both happy. We ate lunch at a little cafe she likes, then headed on downtown to Barnes & Noble to see if she wanted to spend her $25 gift certificate. I think we were both a bit tired because she decided not to buy anything just yet.

We headed off to the convention center to get her favorite treat: Lemon Crepes! My goodness, they're good. We ate our snack and then went back to the apartment and took a nice, long nap.

Dinner that night was a really good pizza at a funky little joint she likes. It was very good, but very Garlic-y.

Saturday we both got to sleep in a bit, not getting out of bed until 9:00. Katy took her shower and off we went for downtown Seattle. I'd signed us both up for an Architectural Tour of Historic Skyscrapers... it was very cool. A 2-hour walking tour that highlighted some of the buildings and their impact on Seattle.

We had just enough time for a bite of lunch afterwards before Katy had to go to work. She left me with all kinds of ideas on how to spend my afternoon, so I was well taken care of.

I took a 1-hour boat cruise of the harbor (very interesting), did some shopping at Pike's Market (of course), got myself another lemon crepe, and managed to locate the bus stop to get me back to the apartment in time for yet another nap.

This time Katy got off work at 6:00, so I met her at the salon and we walked over to an Organic Pizza place that I had seen during my window-shopping the day before. Yes, I know... more pizza. But it was really quite good.

Sunday was even more relaxing: Katy and I got a sack lunch and headed off to a park she had just found out about called Volunteer Park. I have no idea why it's called that - but it's a very nice park. They had a greenhouse full of the coolest plants, an Asian art museum, a water reservoir, and very nice grounds with HUGE trees.

We found a park bench and ate our lunches, wandered around a bit in the greenhouse and museum, then headed off for downtown again. I wanted to go to Victoria's Secret (since we don't have one here in Anchorage) and she wanted to go to the Clinique counter at Nordstrom's.

We also had another bookstore to go to: Elliot Bay Book Store, down in the historic part of town. What a COOL PLACE that was! We went in the back door, unbeknownst to us, so all we saw to begin with was a crowded little shop with wooded floors, antique book shelving, and used books in piles EVERYWHERE. Katy and I browsed around for a while, slowly making our way to the back of the room.

That's when we realized that what we thought was the back was really a corner where you turned to get into the real bookstore. OMG! That place is 3 stories tall, and is filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of books! Katy and I just kept saying, "Oh my gosh - do you see that!", "Look at that!", and "Oh I've been looking for this book!"

Unfortunately we were on a schedule that night and had to catch the bus to take us to our final diner together. We found the coolest restaurant called ... hmmm... I forget what it's called. But it featured food from around the world = each 3 months is dedicated to a new country, then they switch gears and head off to a different one.

While we were there, they had food from Tunisia = very tasty, although also very spicy. Taylor had a seafood chowder that had swordfish, shark, all kinds of interesting fish in it. Katy had a tuna dish that was baked into a pastry triangle and came with a side of pickled lemons. I had the couscous with olives, apricots, chickpeas, and all kinds of things in it.

Of course we had desert: Taylor had something called Yo Yos (fried donuts in a very tasty dipping sauce), Katy had something similar to ice cream but made of honey and tahini (ground up sesame seeds), and I had your basic Hot Fudge Sunday.

This left us with JUST enough time to get me to the airport and on the plane home.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hello from Seattle

I'm sitting here at my niece's appartment in Seattle - just thought I'd post a quick note to say hello.

She's going to college down here, and lives in the coolest little apartment with the nicest roommates.

We've been having fun together: took an architectural tour and learned about the historic skyscrapers of Seattle, went to several bookstores - we're both avid book readers, did an hour-long tour of the harbor.

Today we plan on going to "the volunteer park" and then to Victoria's Secret (we don't have one at home, so I try to go everytime I'm in town) and possibly another bookstore.

I'll fill in more of then gaps when I'm home but just wanted to say howdie for now.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Computer Upgrades

My computer has been out at my brother's place getting an overhaul done. It's an older model, so it just needed some routine work.

Basically, he did the following:

Cleaned up a bunch of temp files
Defragmented hard drive
Updated the antivirus program
Downloaded all MS patches
Installed two new programs: Adobe Acrobat and Nero Express

He's bringing it back to me tonight, so I should be up and running again!
And, yes - I'm posting this from my office at work (it's lunchtime).

Stories from Costa Rica

The Rainstorm:

We were in the rainforest, so it's no surprise that it rained. But this was an all-out, no-holds-barred DELUGE. Imagine turning on the faucet at your bathroom sink: all that water, coming out at full force. That's what it was like, only the entire sky opened up. I have never in my life seen that much water come down: the energy, the sound, the smells even. It was invigorating, and more than slightly frightening.

We were at a biological research station called Tirimbina, located about 5 miles up the mountain. There was just the 8 of us, and we all sat out on the porch - under the safety of the roof overhang - to witness the storm. It was so overpowering that it actually took us several minutes to realize that we were not alone.

I noticed the cockroach first: he was about 3 inches long and was sitting on the porch right beside me. I got to looking around and realized that probably every single insect, bird, bat, frog, lizard, whatever - was under that porch with us! All of them had come in from the rain to the protection our roof provided.

It was very strange - almost surreal...

The Great Termite Orgy:

Apparently there is one night a year where every single termite in the country gathers together for a night of sex, and we just happened to be right in the middle of it during my expedition.

There were quite literally hundreds of thousands of them. They were flying everywhere - in the cabin, in my bed, in the sheets, in my hair. I could hear them even thru my mummy-like cocoon I'd created out of the bed sheets - a futile attempt to keep them off of me.

We got no sleep that night, needless to say: the termites kept us all awake. Poor Leo (the volunteer from Brazil) lost it and went running off into the forest with his arms flailing about and his voice raised to a high-pitched scream.

The following morning revealed that all the males had died and the females had lost their wings. I'm assuming they crawled back into the forest to start some new nests.

Cleaning up after them, we found wings in the toilets, in our food, in our shoes, basically everywhere.