Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Have a Roommate

I picked her up at the airport last night. So far, she’s nice; we’ll get along fairly well, I think.

Getting ready for her was an ordeal, to say the least. I’ve already told you about the closet issue. That was bad enough, but it pales in comparison to moving the computer – to say nothing of getting the furniture arranged! Talk about an aching back… I may never move again.

Thank God for good friends! Lorna went above and beyond the call of duty, I have to say. I met with her on Wednesday at the Terra Bella Café for some tea and to look at her photographs, and happened to mention that I had no idea how I was going to deal with the computer. She very generously offered to help out.

Little did she know what she was signing up for!

I got most of the small stuff moved ahead of her arrival, so when she did show up all we would have to do was the big stuff. The real bugger turned out to be the desk. I don’t like the desk in the first place but can’t afford a different one at the moment. Taking it apart and putting it back together turned out to be … difficult, to put it mildly.

With some rather impressing body contortions and a few acrobatic moves, we finally did manage to get it put back together. And I must say – it looks rather spiffy in its new corner! She got the computer hooked back up again, and GCI got the internet working again – so I’m up and running.

Then we tackled the furniture.

My sister-in-law had a bed for me to borrow, along with a night stand. The trouble was getting it from Palmer to Anchorage. Both she and my brother are currently down with tonsillitis, and had spent the previous day in the hospital: neither was in any condition to move furniture. My mother had a truck, but it has no top and it was raining pretty heavily (still is, for that matter).

Once again Lorna stepped up to the plate and offered her van.

So, we drove down to my brother’s house to pick up the furniture - only to discover that the bed wouldn’t fit into her van! The four of us did some brainstorming and came up with a plan.

We put the mattress and other smaller stuff into Lorna’s van. We put the frame into my brother’s truck (which also has no top). I drove his truck into Anchorage with Lorna following me in her van, and we put all the furniture into my garage. The following day, Reed drove Heather’s car to work, while Heather hitched a ride with my mother who was coming in to shampoo my carpets. Heather drove their truck home, Mother and I worked on my carpets, and everybody got their cars back.


The carpet cleaning went very well, I must say. I had spot cleaned the worst areas with a solution designed specifically for cat urine (poor little Alien didn’t use his potty much) so along with the cleaning solution she had all the stains are now gone. I’m not very happy with the smells, however… I can still smell cat urine. I’m hoping that will dissipate with open windows and a candle.

Moving the furniture was my next battle, and for this I called on my friend Bryan.

That bed frame turned out to be almost more of a hassle that it’s worth! When we picked it up from Heather’s house, she told me “What ever you do, don’t take it a part! The frame is twisted, so getting it put back together again is REALLY difficult.” But when Bryan and I tried to get it up the stairs into the house, it simply wouldn’t fit. We had to take it apart.

That’s when we discovered that not only did we not have the proper tool to get the screws undone (they required an Allen wrench, not a flat or Phillips screw driver) but the screws themselves had been stripped and were darned near impossible to get out. He finally managed somehow, by applying bruit strength I think, and we got it disassembled and up into the room where we found out that it was a BREEZE to get back together! Perhaps having spent all that time as an actual bed got the frame bent back into shape? Regardless, I was very happy about that and was able to get the final touches on her room just in time to go pick her up.

Today, I’m going hiking… and I’m NOT moving ANY furniture!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back!

I’ve made a bit of progress today in my attempt to rearrange the house for my new roommate. In fact, I may have done too much – at least, according to my lower back: I’m getting spasms as we speak. Sleep tonight may not be very restful.

I feel good about how much I accomplished, though. I went thru all my clothes and weeded out the ones I haven’t worn in at least a year, and ended up with a pile of clothes on the floor that would have stood taller than me had it not fallen over.

I kept a tally of it as I bagged it all so that I could deduct the donation on my taxes this year. I ended up with 10 dresses, 65 shirts, 25 sweaters, 12 pair of pants, 13 pair of shoes, 10 coats, 1 robe, 1 sleepshirt, and 2 pantsuits.

I took them down to the Alaska Women’s Resource office off Northern Lights Boulevard between C Street and Arctic. If you have women’s clothing you no longer use, please consider giving to them! Talk to Megan at 279-5000 to arrange everything.

Once I got all my clothes weeded out, I organized the closet in my own bedroom in order to fit them all. This entailed cleaning out the dresser that’s in there so that I could use the drawers for clothing rather than for miscellaneous stuff. This also entailed cleaning out the closet in my library so that I could store the miscellaneous stuff there instead. I also had to clean out the coat closet downstairs as well as the entry way where I keep a lot of shoes.

So, by cleaning out one closet (in the spare room) for my roommate, I ended up cleaning out three other closets (my bedroom, the library, and the coat closet downstairs). I also ended up waxing the wood floor in the entry way; might as well, since it was cleaned off anyway.

After taking 7 large bags full of clothing to the Ak. Women’s Resource office and treating myself to lunch at the Middle Way Café, I then decided to face the computer issue.

I called GCI and scheduled an appointment for them to come give me another hook-up downstairs. I worked out somewhat of a plan for how I want to arrange things down there. And I cleaned out the file drawer, throwing away unnecessary paperwork and filing stuff that had been piled up for (I’m embarrassed to say) almost a year now.

I was on a roll by this time, so I gathered together all the CDs scattered all over the house, and from the car as well, and put them back in to their place in the CD cabinet. Then I cleaned the kitchen and got the dishes washed.

The highlight of the day was finding a wooden box stored in the back of one of my closets that I’d forgotten I had. I love wooden boxes (strange, I know – but I do) and this one is just perfect for organizing all my hand-made cards! I think it used to be either from an old library or office or something – it has divider cards in it, labeled with the alphabet, and an adjustable backstop so I can store however many cards I have at the time.

I love it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Camping in Seward

This week I got to go camping out on the beach in Seward with my friend Elizabeth. We had a great time, even though it rained all night and was quite chilly.

Elizabeth is taking some really difficult math classes at the University, so really needed to take a break from all that heavy thinking. She drove directly from her last class of the week to my house Thursday afternoon. We packed up my car and headed out from there.

I’d like to take a moment to brag, here: I drive just a regular old car. It’s a 2001 Nissan Sentra - nothing special, but I like it. It does get GREAT gas mileage, however – even better, in my opinion, than some of those high-priced hybrid cars. We drove all the way to Seward and back on LESS than half a tank of gas!

Anyway, our camping spot was at Miller’s Landing. If you drive through Seward and keep going passed the huge waterfall, you eventually end up at a little point sticking out into the ocean. I’ve been out that way before, but this was my first time staying there.

As we were driving out I saw something in the ocean, so we stopped to see what it was. I was amazed to see a group of roughly 8-9 sea lions just hanging out in the water, flapping their flippers and burping like sea lions do. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many so close to town before. We looked around and actually found about 5-6 groupings of them. We thought perhaps there must be some good munchies or something, to attract that many of them.

We eventually got our spot located and went to work setting up camp. The tent Elizabeth brought was a nice little one, a two-man tent and supposedly easy to assembly. I have to admit it did take a while to figure out exactly how to put the thing together, but with both our brains working on the problem we did eventually get it figured out.

Then Elizabeth got our camp fire going and our dinner cooking. She is a great cook, by the way. The few times she’s invited me over for dinner have been eagerly accepted, and I always return home happily full of great food. This time our dinner consisted of a couple fillets of salmon and some Great Harvest bread with locally made cheese. Later on, sitting by the campfire at night, we consumed a bottle of wine and some organic free-trade chocolate that went perfectly with our conversation.

I have my niece to thank for our conversation that night. She is writing a paper for her history class titled “Ethiopia and the Civil Rights Movement” and had sent me the rough draft asking for my advice. Elizabeth and I spent a good two hours reading it and taking notes on what we thought might make it better. It was a very stimulating evening; we hardly noticed the rain except for the fact that it made my red pen bleed all over the paper. I hope Katy can read our notes, although I did summarize them in an email for her.

Having nearly frozen to death out in the Gobi desert last year, I learned my lesson and brought not only my sleeping bag but also a self-inflating insulated pad to sleep on AND a blanket to lay over me! I’m so glad I did, because – as I mentioned earlier – it was a chilly night. It also rained all night long.

We awoke around 6:00 am to the sounds and smells of the forest mixed in with the ocean nearby. A perfect way to wake up! Breakfast consisted of potatoes, onions, and eggs with more Great Harvest bread & cheese followed by a nice HOT cup of tea over in the office where we paid for our camping site.

We had taken our time with breakfast so it wasn’t until around 10:00 that we walked through the front door of the Seward Sealife Center. As we were standing at the ticket counter I realized I had forgotten to bring the paper that had the names of the people we were supposed to meet written on it, but one of the girls working there overheard me and asked “Are you Ruth and Elizabeth from The Alaska Zoo?” She called the education director down to the admissions counter, and he took us back to the mammal research area.

And by the way, thank you Katie Larson for getting that arranged for us. The zoo has sort of an unofficial partnership with the Sealife Center, helping each other out whenever possible – so with just a few emails and phone calls our behind-the-scenes adventure was all arranged!

We got to meet one of the female Stellar sea lions, an orphaned sea otter, and some of the harbor seals – all of whom were hanging out in the research area. The center is attempting to breed the Stellar sea lions this year, so we were not able to meet their male. He’s pumped full of hormones at the moment, and is quite dangerous and unpredictable. We did get a brief tour of their facilities and some insight into the research currently going on, which was very interesting because Elizabeth is currently *studying the field of marine debris* and was asking all kinds of in-depth questions. The scientists working there were more than happy to talk about their projects.

*Clarification: I don’t know exactly what degree Elizabeth is working towards. As soon as I find out, I will come back and edit this posting to correctly reflect the title, since I know it’s a lot of hard work and should be acknowledged as such by giving it the proper name.*

We poked around the public side of the center, also. Amazingly enough Elizabeth had never been there, so everything was brand new and exciting to her. I have been there almost every year since it opened, but I love it and loved showing it to her. The puffin exhibit is always a favorite, as is Woody the male Stellar sea lion – who is roughly 2,200 pounds and is just plain HUGE!

We rounded out our visit to the center by hitting the gift shop. I could spend hundreds of dollars there. They have some beautiful art work on sale, as well as some really interesting books & DVDs. Elizabeth got a couple books and a shark puppet for her nephew, and we headed off to find a place to eat a late lunch.

A hike up to Exit Glacier concluded our trip to Seward, and we arrived home by around 7:30 Friday night. Now Elizabeth is back to work on her math homework, and I’m getting back to my job hunting.

First Hike of the Season

We had our first hike of the season this weekend! I am of course referring to our annual Family Hiking Series, which this year began with the Ship Creek Trail.

As usual, I arranged to meet up with everybody at the trailhead at 2:00. This meant heading downtown to the parking lot of one of our local tourist shops, called The Ulu Factory.

I wasn’t sure who would be there. Mother usually goes to all of the hikes but was in Cordova this time with my niece Tara. I had heard from my friend Tina saying that she planned to go, but as you know sometimes other things come up. I was prepared to go it alone, but was happy to see not only Tina and her daughter Shannon, but also my sister Kelly and her daughter Laurel. I was even happier to see that Laurel had brought her son Corbin along too! Half-way through the hike, my friend Tuesday and her buddy showed up as well; but they were walking a bit faster than we were, so they headed off by themselves after a brief meeting with our group.

Ship Creek Trail is a nice, wide, paved path that winds along beside Ship Creek through the industrial section of town. It’s about 2.6 miles long, from the Ulu Factory to Tyson Elementary in Mountain View. It was only just opened to the public last year, but already I can see the bicyclers and roller-bladers are claiming it. Unfortunately, so are the homeless people – but we honestly didn’t see nearly as many as we had last year, so maybe they’ve moved on to a less populated spot.

Corbin, who just turned 1 year old a few weeks ago, rode on his mother’s back in a nice little backpack. He is learning all sorts of new words, and is a very happy little boy. He chortled and laughed pretty much the whole two hours we were out there. Once we made it back to our cars, we sat out on the grass a while, letting him stretch his legs a bit and get a change of diaper. He is such a doll…

Our next hike will be on the coastal trail, from Pt. Woronzof up towards Kincaid Park.

New Roommate

Well, I’m doing it. I’m getting a roommate.

I have to admit to a bit of apprehension over the issue: I haven’t lived with another human being for over 20 years! I don’t know how this will go…

But financial difficulties call for extreme measures, so I talked to the curator of the zoo and told her that I could house the summer intern this year.

There are several advantages to this:

1. She’s female

2. She works for the zoo, which not only tells me what kind of person she most likely is but also I’m located nearby so she doesn’t need a car – just a bike or a good pair of walking shoes

3. She’ll only be here for 9 weeks – long enough to help out with my bills until I can find a job, yet short enough that I don’t freak out if it turns out we don’t get along.

She arrives from Wisconsin on May 30, so this gives me almost a week to prepare for her. I have a lot of rearranging to do.

First thing is to tackle my clothes. I have all my clothes in the closet that will be hers (it’s bigger than the closet in my own room) which need to be weeded through and moved over. I now have a HUGE pile on the floor in here, ready to be donated to the women’s shelter. While I’m at it, I’m also going to go through the coat closet downstairs and get rid of old coats I never wear anymore, thereby making room for her coats.

Next thing to tackle is the computer. I need to get it set up downstairs now, but have no real idea of where to put it. I need to figure that out because I’ll have to get GCI to come punch yet another hole through my house to provide internet access. I’d also really like to get a different computer desk. I don’t like the one I have, but really can’t afford a new one so will most likely just keep it anyway.

Once that’s all taken care of, I need to deal with the carpet in this room. Alien, God rest his soul, was a dear sweet cat - but he did manage to pee just about everywhere in here. The carpet really needs to be replaced, as does the molding around the base of the wall – but again, I just can’t afford that. What I will do is a deep cleaning with Mother’s carpet shampooer, and then will have to strategically arrange furniture to hide the worst spots.

Speaking of furniture, that leads me to my next problem. I have no furniture! I think I can borrow a bed from either Mother or my sister-in-law, and I’m hoping to find a night stand for her. I have a bookshelf in the garage she can use, and I’m planning on leaving the chair in here (Djuna has claimed it, since it has her heating pad on it).

Somewhere during all of this, I will have to clean out her bathroom. I have towels and all that, so really it’s just a matter of getting a few little nick-nacks out so she can put her own nick-nacks in. And I really should get the fridge arranged so that she can have a couple shelves for her food.

All in all, it’s a doable thing: it just takes a bit of work. OH, and I should probably make sure she has a key!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I’m So Excited

My favorite author has come out with a new book! I got it today and am so looking forward to reading it.

Here’s what the Barnes & Noble website has to say about it:

The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor
- by Colin Tudge


For more than a century, scientists have raced to unravel the human family tree and have grappled with its complications. Now, with an astonishing new discovery, everything we thought we knew about primate origins could change. Lying inside a high-security vault, deep within the heart of one of the world’s leading natural history museums, is the scientific find of a lifetime — a perfectly fossilized early primate, older than the previously most famous primate fossil, Lucy, by forty-four million years.

A secret until now, the fossil — “Ida” to the researchers who have painstakingly verified her provenance — is the most complete primate fossil ever found. Forty-seven million years old, Ida rewrites what we’ve assumed about the earliest primate origins. Her completeness is unparalleled — so much of what we understand about evolution comes from partial fossils and even single bones, but Ida’s fossilization offers much more than that, from a haunting “skin shadow” to her stomach contents. And, remarkably, knowledge of her discovery and existence almost never saw the light of day.

With exclusive access to the first scientists to study her, the award-winning science writer Colin Tudge tells the history of Ida and her place in the world. A magnificent, cutting-edge scientific detective story followed her discovery, and The Link offers a wide-ranging investigation into Ida and our earliest origins. At the same time, it opens a stunningly evocative window into our past and changes what we know about primate evolution and, ultimately, our own.


Colin Tudge is a biologist by education and a writer by inclination—on biology, food and agriculture, and the philosophy of science. His books include The Tree, Feeding People Is Easy, Consider the Birds, and The Time Before History.

For more information about the author, go to

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lauren’s Graduation Ceremony

My niece, Lauren, graduated from high school last night.

I went to the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage to attend the ceremonies along with my sister Noel (her mother), my brother Reed and his wife Heather, her grandmother Martha, the Pastor of their church and his wife, and our friends Lisa & Mark. Lauren also had some friends sitting with us, but I’m so bad with names… I’ve forgotten them!

The group of students graduating was from the IDEA Homeschool Program from out in the valley. There was quite a few of them up there, too: I didn’t do an actual headcount, but I’d estimate there were roughly 80+ kids.

It was a very well-choreographed event, with every child knowing exactly where to sit and when to stand; no one stumbled or got out of line (although one girl almost fell off the bleachers when she sat down a little funny). They even had the parents participating.

I was, of course, the super-proud Auntie and got all emotional about my little niece standing up there accepting her diploma AND the scholarship she won for being in the top 10% of her class. I just don’t know how parents can do that on a daily basis: I’d be an emotional wreck if I had kids of my own.

Each child had an opportunity to say a little something before accepting their diploma: most offered thanks to God, their parents, their siblings, and their friends (almost always in that order). Not all of them to advantage of it, but some did.

I have to say one of the more emotional events was when a girl named Jerusalem was called. She walked up to the microphone and got out a paper from which she read her prepared speech. I think she did this because she knew she’d get too emotional to do it without the props.

Turns out, she’s a Hale child. Alaskans will recognize that name from four years ago when the state prosecuted and convicted a man known as Papa Pilgrim. He and his family lived up on a homestead in the mountains near McCarthy. He was convicted of some very serious charges and was given a 14-year sentence, but died in prison back in 2008.

Jerusalem thanked her “new” parents for taking her out of that situation – “unspeakable” was the word she used – and for showing her what a real family should be like, allowing her to grow and learn and have a normal teenage life.

My niece sat in the second row almost dead center of the group. Her beautiful red hair made her stand out, so she was easy to keep an eye on. Her mother handed her diploma to her while I stood by the steps leading up to the stage and got some pictures.

You can see them on my facebook account, if you’re interested!


I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the new Cascadia Region Green Building Council - Alaska Branch (CRGBC-AK) president.


I’ve been a member of the CRGBC-AK for about 3 years now, and have participated in the group as often as I could, but I never thought I’d be the leader of the group. I’m rather nervous of the idea, truth to tell. I’m more of a follower than a leader.

But they really needed somebody to pick up the reigns, and since I’m a really good organizer and can keep things neat and orderly – they all thought I would be good at the job.

Time will tell.

The Alaska branch of the CRGBC is relatively new. Not many people even know we exist, or if they do they don’t know exactly what it is we do. Our goal for this coming year is to educate people on Energy Efficient Building Practices and to raise awareness of both ourselves and our beliefs.

We don’t really have much of a branch website yet but you can visit the headquarters website and get a better idea as to who we are.

Critter Classes at the Zoo

I’ve been doing a lot of Critter Classes at the zoo lately. The school year is almost ended, so classes from all over the state are getting in that last field trip: a critter class offers a great way to keep little ones engaged for half an hour before turning them loose onto zoo grounds!

I typically meet the class at the admissions booth where they divide themselves up into groups. My classroom can hold 50 people; but for littler ones, it’s best to keep the classes to around 20 kids - otherwise it just gets too much and you loose control of the kids. I have no idea what the other groups do while I take the first group inside – I assume they wander the zoo until it’s their turn to come in.

Inside, I have the kids find a seat, filling up the front rows first and filtering on back to the last row. We have tables set up three across and three deep, each one seating three students. We also have extra chairs scattered here and there for the adult chaperones.

I introduce myself and go over a few of the ground rules (indoor voices, raise your hand, don’t talk while I’m talking, etc…) and then I get to the exciting part of the class.

I have four tubs full of critter stuff: pieces of fur, sculls, bones, teeth, horns, antlers, feathers, and whatnot. I typically take something out of the tub and hold it up for the class to see. Then I ask the kids to raise their hands if they can guess what animal it comes from. Since I only have about 20 minutes with each group, I usually only call on 2 students to see what they think it might be. Sometimes they surprise me and get it, but most times they’re way off (“Is it a dinosaur bone?”). Once we identify what animal it comes from, I’ll tell them a little bit about the animal in general and about the animal we have at the zoo that matches it, maybe even show them a photograph of the zoo animal.

At this point, I call on volunteers from the adult section to hand-walk the item around the class, making sure each child has a chance to feel it, inspect it, smell it, what ever. When I first started doing these classes, I just let the kids pass the items around – but that quickly turned in to a tug-o-war over who gets to hold what and for how long. It’s just so much easier to have the adults help out – even if they did think they were going to just sit back and let me handle the kids a while!

These classes can be a lot of fun, but I learned early on that I should not do them if I’m working on a migraine. The classroom is really bad for echoes! One tiny little voice can reverberate all over the room until it’s turned into a very loud roar. Multiply that by 20+ little kids, all of whom are SO excited to be at the zoo, and the critter stuff is SO gross, or SO cool – you get the picture, I’m sure.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Has Anybody Read This Book?

When I was in high school, probably around 1978 or so, I read a book.

I don’t remember the name of it, nor do I remember the author, but I‘d really like to read that book again. If I can only find somebody who knows what I’m talking about and can give me the missing information!

The basic story is about a man. He’s a very rich man – perhaps the owner of a factory or a big building. He gets burned in a fire, and ends up retreating from society because of the scars. He automates his factory – or building – to the point where he lays everybody off; now it’s just him in the building.

He goes out at night when everybody else is asleep, and comes across a zoo that has been emptied out, all except for a seal that has somehow been abandoned (like that would ever happen in real life!). He befriends the seal and takes it back “home” with him.

He nurses it back to health, builds a huge tank for it, and basically heals a part of himself in the process of taking care of the injured animal.

One day, he decides to take the seal for a swim in the actual ocean. The seal has such a good time he realizes that it needs to be set free. So he goes about having an underwater house built for himself so he can go live with his seal.

One thing leads to another, and you find yourself in the Marianas Trench with the guy and his seal. The trench is so deep that the oxygen bubbles from his scuba gear go down instead of up, leading the man in the wrong direction. He runs out of oxygen and becomes disoriented even further – and winds up taking his mask off.

Does this sound familiar to anybody? Can anybody tell me the title and author of this book?


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ptarmigan Valley Trail

Aqua Aerobics Man’s new truck had to go to the shop for some maintenance work the other day, so I agreed to take him to his recertification class that night. Since it was out in Chugiak and would be 4 hours long, I browsed thru my hiking book and came up with a trail I had never been on before and decided to check it out.

Contrary to all visual evidence, it is springtime in Alaska – and that means bears, so I brought along my backpack loaded down with bear spray, books, binoculars, a water bottle, and my bear whistle. Unfortunately, what it did not contain was mosquito repellant. I really need to get some in there, because springtime in Alaska also means mosquitoes, and they are hungry.

They had the actual parking lot for the trail blocked off, so I had to park my car down the hill a ways at a gravel pit and start my hike out there. That should have told me right off the bat that I was looking at an up-hill hike. Of course, I should have known that to begin with since the book did say that there was some elevation gain.

Ptarmigan Valley is a multi-use trail, so it’s nice and wide to allow for snowmachines, dogsleds, 4-wheelers, you name it. Springtime in Alaska also means break-up: there’s still quite a lot of ice and snow left on the ground, interspersed between patches of mud the occasional dry spot. I had on my good hiking shoes, though, so wasn’t too worried about the terrain.

The elevation gain was a problem, however. I just don’t do up-hill very well: even though my legs have no problem tackling the hills, my head starts pounding almost immediately. Normally I would take some migraine medication prior to starting a hike like that, but I had let my purse run out so didn’t have any on hand.

I would love to say that the surrounding area was just gorgeous, with a view to die for – and I can tell that further on into summer it actually would be. But right now, with no green to be seen and nothing but mud and volcanic ash everywhere – it really was awful looking.

On closer inspection however, I did find that green is beginning to peek thru the winter debris. Trees as just starting to push out their first leaf-buds and plants on the ground have started to send out their first tendrils. Having just attended that lecture on edible wild plants, I actually had a light snack as I headed up the hill.

I end up at Little Peter’s Creek Valley before having to turn around due to trail conditions. Little Peter’s Creek Valley is listed as being 2.5 miles from the trail head, which puts my round trip hike was 5 miles. I must say, that pretty impressive given that it’s the first real hike of the season and I’m NOT in shape.

As always, even on level ground, heading back to the trail head is much faster than the trip out – so I was back in my car a lot sooner then I planned on. Rather than try another trail, I simply drove back to the high school where I’d dropped Aqua Aerobics Man off.

I had forgotten to bring along the book I’m currently reading (Deeper, by Jeff Long) so got the books out of my hiking pack and read thru those instead, re-familiarizing myself with them:
- Hiking Alaska: a Falcon Guide, by Dean Littlepage
- Animal Tracks of Alaska: a Lone Pine Field Guide by Sheldon & Hartson
- Birds of Alaska: a field guide by Stan Tekiela
- Alaskan Wildflowers by Verna Pratt
- Alaska Trees and Shrubs by Leslie Viereck

It was such a nice sunny day I laid out on the hood of my car. I had the windows rolled down so I could hear Norah Jones singing thru my CD player. The birds were playing up in the sky. The high school baseball team was practicing in the field off to my left.

Everything was going great until all of a sudden the music stopped. I thought maybe there was something wrong with my disc (which greatly upset me, because I love Norah Jones) but I could‘t see any visual scratches or anything like that. When I tried to put it back in the player, it wouldn’t go back in.

That’s when I figured out what had happened. Apparently in my car, you can’t listen to an entire CD without turning the car back on = the battery died! I couldn’t believe it, but I was stuck with no jumper cables and a dead car.

Thankfully one of the staff members took pity on my and got my car going again before Aqua Aerobics Man got out of his class. I felt really silly about the whole thing and didn’t really want to admit to him that I’d done that.

So of course, that was the first thing I said when he came out of the door and walked over to my car. But, we had a good laugh about it and headed back in to town.

Our first stop was Fred Meyer’s to get some jumper cables. I had to put my shoes back on since I had taken them off after my hike, so we sat in the parking lot for a while till I got everything put back in order. I stood up, locked the car and shut the door.

Then I turned around, looked into the car, and saw my keys sitting there on the driver’s seat.

This just wasn’t my day!

We actually had to call a cab to come break in to my car to retrieve my keys for me…

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Random Quotes

The following are a couple of random quotes taken from some books I'm reading.

The first quote is taken from a book that is extremely well writen: I'd highly recommend it to anybody interested in either the bible, Judaism, or the Middle East.

The second quote is taken from the film appreciation section of the book, and is taking about a film called "L'Age D'Or" (or in English "The Golden Age") which was made in 1930. Oddly enough, this film made the top ten list for Best Ever Made.

Walking the Bible
by Bruce Feiler

Inside the museum we left our bags and proceeded into the atrium. More like a warehouse than an archive, the Egyptian Museum feels like a giant pharaonic pawn shop, where four-thousand-year-old sarcophagi are stacked on top of three-thousand-year-old cartouches on top of five-thousand-year-old mummies. And everything needs dusting. Founded in 1858, the museum outgrew its current facility within months and has never quite recovered. Allowing one minute for each object, it would take nearly nine months to view its 136,000 artifacts. Forty thousand more objects lie crated in the basement, where many have sunk into the ground, requiring excavations. Egypt: where even the museums are archaeological sites.

An Incomplete Education
by Judy Jones and Wiliam Wilson

May as well begin with the documentary footage of the scorpions. Not that it prepares you for the bandits, or the Majorcans, or the fellow kicking a violin down the street. In a way, it does prepare you for the man and his mistress, though not necessarily for the mud they’re rolling in. Things are a little more upbeat at the marquis’ party (ignore the kitchen fire and the gamekeeper who shoots his little boy), especially once the man and mistress get out to the garden, where they try to have sex while seated in two wicker garden chairs. Try, that is, until he is summoned inside to take the minister’s phone call and she busies herself with the toe of the statue. At some point somebody throws a Christmas tree, and archbishop, a plough, a stuffed giraffe, and several pillowfuls of feathers out a window. Then, before you know it, we’re leaving a chateau in the company of four worn-out orgiasts; look for a cross, covered with snow and festooned with a woman’s hair. The End – accompanied by a happy little Spanish march, the kind you might hear at a bullfight.

Edible Wild Plants in Alaska

I joined Mother and my friend Elizabeth up at the Eagle River Nature Center today for a talk on edible wild plants in Alaska. Summer is upon us finally, and for me that means doing the Discovery Tour at The Alaska Zoo. I used this talk as a refresher course on the material I’ll need.

It was a great talk with a slide show followed by a short hike on some trails to see the plants in person. Not that you could see much; summer may be here, but Green isn’t yet.

Briefly, here’s the rundown of some common edible plants.

Please do keep in mind that you may have allergies to some of these foods, so use caution with all plants until you know for certain that they are safe for you. Please also be sure of your identification; some plants that are poisonous mimic others that are edible.

In a disturbed area (for example, the ditch alongside the roadway), you might find horsetail, pineapple weed, dandelion, yarrow, plantain, wild mustard, shepherds purse, lambs quarter, chickweed, goldenrod, stinging nettle, wormwood, sorrel, and Dock.

In a forest, you might find willow trees, cottonwood trees, red elder, red current, raspberry, devil’s club, cranberry, dogwood, sphagnum moss, fiddle head ferns, and watermelon berries.

The speaker didn’t really talk much about plants found in meadows, since there really aren’t any meadows nearby the nature center – but she did mention the cow parsnip, which can be eaten if great care is taken in the harvesting. Some people find that they are severely allergic to this plant, so it might be best to just avoid it and eat celery from the grocery store instead.

All of these plants listed above are edible in one form or another; raw, boiled, steamed, or roasted. On some you eat the leaves, others you’d eat the stalks.

There are several books available to guide you in harvesting the abundance that nature provides. Feel free to head out to the Nature Center and check out their selection!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Return of Aqua Aerobics Man

He’s back!

He’s in Anchorage for a few months to get his apartment buildings in order again, and to reinstate himself as a lifeguard for the municipality. He showed up at my doorstep a week ago, having just gotten in. It was a very nice surprise.

Today he called to tell me he’d bought himself a new truck, so of course we had to go try it out. It’s a Chevy – which is cool. An older model, but I don’t know the year. It’s jewel-tone blue with a hard top on the bed that matches. It even has a CD player, so I brought along some music to listen to.

We drove out to the coastal trail and sat on the railing overlooking the ocean for a while; chatting and watching the people go by. Then we headed off for Point Woronzof to sit on the railing there and watch the people go by. We relocated one more time, out to Kincaid Park – but didn’t have any railing to sit on. There was plenty of people to watch, however – I’ve never seen the parking lot so full before.

By that time we realized we were hungry, so we headed over to the Arctic Roadrunner for a burger (I assured him there was food for me to eat there). He ran in to some friends of his, so we joined them outside next to the creek.

It was such a gorgeous day out! I loved it…

After eating our dinner, we decided to head south and ended up at one of my favorite trail heads. Again, we sat on the railing – but this time we watched the ocean for a while. Rather, we watched where the ocean should have been – the tide was out, and I do mean OUT. There was nothing but mud out there for as far as the eye could see practically.

I think it was about 9:00 by that time, so we headed back to my house for a movie. He picked thru my selection and came up with “The Arrival”

Have I mentioned that he’s also a masseuse?

I’m sitting there, on the floor in front of him sitting on the couch. I’m trying to watch the movie, all the while every fiber of my body is screaming “AQUA AEROBICS MAN IS SITTING RIGHT BEHIND ME!!!!” And then he starts to rub my neck for me…

In my defense, we had been talking about my neck problems, as well as my penchant towards migraines.

But… one thing leads to another, and well… I don’t really remember what the end of the movie is like.


Today marks the one-month anniversary of my unemployment. I’m still angry about that, but am working diligently to rectify the problem.

Each day I spend a few hours online, searching the jobsites and sending out applications to anything that looks promising. To date, I’ve contacted 36 companies – some of them had positions listed on the job boards, but most I just contacted “cold”.

Occasionally, I get an actual interview out of the contact. Four companies have had me come in to talk with them so far. Three of them ended up saying that I just wasn’t what they were looking for; I’m holding out hope for the last one, though. The job I applied to sounds perfect for me, and the people giving the interview looked like they were impressed with me.

It is a part-time position, however. That’s not exactly what I want, but I think I can work with it. The zoo has a part-time position available also (as a Naturalist, which is what I do anyway – might as well get paid for it) so I could juggle the two jobs simultaneously and make ends meet that way. Once the zoo job ends in September, I could perhaps convince the other part-time job to switch over to full-time, or could search for another part-time one elsewhere.

I’ve had a lot of help from friends and family. Evelyn, a former coworker from KPB, invited me to attend a NAWIC meeting (National Association of Women in Construction) which resulted in several leads and even an interview. Brian, another former coworker from KPB, tried very hard to get me in to the company he now works for – and I’m still holding on to a shred of hope that it might actually happen. Mother scours the papers for me each day, forwarding any promising leads she finds and giving me lots of options to think about.

Thankfully I am still eligible for unemployment money from the government, and also thankfully that amount has been raised since the last time I was on it. That will cover all my living expenses, with the mortgage being taken care of by the severance pay from Nvision.

I’m still thinking about the possibility of getting a roommate, although my first choice fell through. The zoo hired a new zookeeper who moved in from Arizona. She had thought she would rent from me, but decided that her dog would not enjoy sharing a house with two cats.

Now I’m looking in to perhaps getting the summer interns as roommates. I’ve even been asked if I’d consider letting two of them stay here. I could get bunk beds in my spare room, I suppose. Since they’d be summer interns, I would only have to deal with them for 3-4 months. Time enough to get on my own two feet by then…

Friends: Old and New

With all this time on my hands, I’ve actually been catching up with some a lot of old friends. Not that they’re old – just that it’s been a while since I last saw some of them.

Tina is a girl I went to high school with. I ran in to her on facebook a while back and finally arranged to meet up with her for coffee/tea at Terra Bella’s. I hadn’t seen her for well over 25 years!

I have to admit we didn’t really hang out together back then. I was the silent, shy type with only one or two close friends. But Tina is a very nice person, and I truly enjoyed talking with her. We managed to sit there and chat for over 2 hours!

Another old friend I ran into on facebook is Joe. He and I worked together back about 15 years ago. He’s now married and has several daughters – but back then we were both single and flirted unashamedly the entire time we worked with each other.

I was a little nervous about meeting with him, I must admit. I wondered if the attraction would still be there, and if I’d need to worry about anything on that account. But – again – it was great just to sit there and chat with an old friend for 2 hours (at Kaladi Bro’s, not Terra Bella’s).

Don’t get me wrong – the attraction is definitely still there! But the nerves dissipated almost immediately after sitting down. He is a great guy, and very easy to talk to. He loves his family and thoroughly enjoys being both a husband and a dad.

I’ve even managed to make a new friend – an accomplishment for me, considering the fact that I used to be such a shy loner!

Lorna is a photographer that I met at one of the Earthwatch presentations I gave a few months ago. She likes to take close-ups of insects = just the sort of photos I would take, if I knew how. She has very generously offered to take me out to the flats come springtime (oh, will it EVER get here?) to give me some pointers on how to use my camera.

I want to get better at photography so that when I’m in Africa I will get some great shots!

Just yesterday she and I spent a couple hours at the zoo, chatting and visiting all the animals there. We had lunch together afterwards at the Tap Root Café and made some plans to get together for shooting later on. She’s a slope worker, on a two-and-two schedule, so we have to wait till next time she’s in town.

Added to time spent with old and new friends, I’m also spending time with family. I head out to Palmer about once every other week for lunch with Mother, walking with my sister, brother, and anybody else who happens along, as well as just hanging out in the valley (a nice change from big city life).

Family has also been coming in to town to spend time here: my sister has to take her daughter to the doctor’s each week, so I’ve met up with them each time for lunch afterwards. My sister-in-law has been in a few times, bringing her beadwork along. We sit and do our crafts for a couple hours, then go out and walk somewhere or maybe do some window-shopping. And just the other day, Mother came in to walk with me and my friend Elizabeth, looking at houses for sale downtown.

Unemployment sucks, don’t get me wrong – but I have to say I’m enjoying time spent with good friends and family!

New Addition to my Family

I am happy to announce a new addition to my family: I am now the proud parent of a dozen earthworms!

I must admit I hadn’t intended to get earthworms. I went with my mother and sister to a lecture out at the Eagle River Nature Center to learn about composting and came home with them.

Its all Noel’s fault: she talked me in to it.

But it’s kind of cool, actually. They will live in a Rubbermaid tote in my kitchen, and will eat all the scraps from my organic veggies. The soil they produce will go to my sister – which is why she convinced me to get the worms in the first place All I have to do is get them set up and keep them happy.

The first thing I need to do is go get the Rubbermaid tubs; two of them that nest inside each other. The outside one is to contain the “tea” or liquids that they produce. The inside one will have holes drilled in the bottom, for drainage, and along the sides, for air. The lid will keep them contained to prevent any mass escape attempts (trust me, the last thing I want is hundreds of earthworms making the trek across my kitchen counters in search of a better homeland).

Inside the tub, I’m to put shredded newspaper, straw, coffee grounds, and a little bit of dirt. The earthworms will mix all that together, along with their poop, to create good, rich, organic soil for my sister’s garden!

A big thanks goes out to Terra Bella’s Café, who gave me a huge bag of organic coffee grounds! They didn’t even bat an eye when I explained that it was for my worms.

I plan to feed them the scraps from my CSA box. I had been giving them to the zoo for some of the animals there. I can still give them some, though – I don’t think my worms will need it all.

The types of foods an earthworm likes are just what I eat: lots of leafy vegetables, root vegetables, “soup” vegetables (the exception would be onions – they don’t like onions) etc… And since I’m not a meat eater, they won’t have to worry about accidentally getting any animal products.

Currently, there are about a dozen earthworms. They’re tiny red ones – not the big fat juicy ones you have out in your garden; for some reason that type doesn’t do well in an indoor composting system. Once they get themselves established in the totes I will set up for them, they will start to reproduce till I have hundreds of them. At that point, I will separate some out to create composting systems for anybody who might want to try it out. Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll keep you in mind!

The lady giving the lecture at the nature center even gave some advice on some common problems encountered with the indoor earthworm composting systems:

If they stink = drill more air holes in your tubs; put more bedding in the tubs; slow down on the feeding for a while to let the worms catch up

If the worms try to escape = their environment might be too dry or too wet; they might need more food; there might be too many worms for the tub; they might need more bedding

If you get fruit flies = burry the food a little bit deeper in the soil; don’t feed any fruits or citrus to the worms

So – my task for today is to get the tubs. We’ll see how well I do at raising Earthworms.

The Alaska Zoo

A lot has been happening at the zoo for me this month, mostly due to the fact that I am unemployed once again and have time on my hands. It’s also spring time – FINALLY - so all the schools in the state are getting in as many field trips as they can before the end of the school year.

I have done lots of guided tours; sometimes as many as two or three each week, with attendance ranging anywhere from six kids and two adults to 50 kids and 25 adults. Some of these schools are from right here in Anchorage; others have come to us from as far away as the Aleutian Islands. Ages have ranged anywhere from 6 years old on up to their teens.

They have all been fun groups, though. How can they not be fun = they’re at the zoo!

The animals are loving spring. They all seem to be a lot more active now, enjoying the sunshine and taking advantage of all this light. Soon enough we might even start seeing some GREEN around here. I am so ready for that…

Spring does tend to bring out the “love” in some animals. I don’t know for sure of any pregnancies, but there are a few possibilities.

We have taken steps to ensure that we don’t get babies with a few of our animals: the male caribou has been sequestered, as has the male yak. We simply don’t have room for larger herds.

Spring also brings out the need for certain male tigers to assert themselves as being the more dominant male. This means our zoo vet has had a busy month, patching up paws and cleaning up torn ears. It got so bad for a while there that neither boy would go in to the dens at night, thereby forgoing their meals for over a week!

Smitty, the zookeeper in charge of the tigers, was rightfully concerned and made the decision to have them both neutered. This will hopefully stop them from fighting and calm them down considerably.

There have been a couple events at the zoo this month. I’ve already told you about the Easter Egg Hunt in a previous posting. April 18 was National Kids Day, which we coupled with our Earth Day celebration. We had a record attendance of over 3,000 people come to the zoo that day! The line for admittance was crazy; it wrapped all the way around the parking lot. The line for cotton candy was almost the same length. I have to admit it was very draining to work there that day, but I think people had fun.

Coming up for the month of May we have the Kid’s Fun Run, a Bear Aware Day, Migratory Bird Day, and a lot more guided encounters. I will be busy, I’m sure…