Friday, September 25, 2009

Acidophilus Pills

On the advice of several trusted friends, I went to Natural Pantry the other day and picked up some Acidophilus pills for my trip to Africa. I’m told that this will help calm my stomach down despite all the foreign foods I will be eating, and might even keep me from getting the dreaded Traveler’s Diarrhea.

There were several brands to choose from, most of which required refrigeration. Since I will be out in the middle of nowhere for 16 days, to say nothing of the three days on either side of that just getting to and from my destination, and will not have access to electricity of any kind – I had to go with the brands that can be kept at room temperature, which narrowed down my options considerably. I still had four to choose from, however, so asked the clerk helping me which one she would recommend.

I ended up purchased Jarro-Dophilus EPS, whith each individually blister sealed capsule containing 5 billion organisms “for intestinal and immune health.”

Right on the front of the box, it states that these are vegetarian capsules – and yet, if you read the back of the box it states (in very small lettering) that it contains “less than 0.01% milk”

How can it be considered vegetarian if it has milk in it? Isn’t milk an animal product? Or am I thinking Vegan rather than Vegetarian? Is it the amount that makes it vegetarian? I mean, 0.01% is a very small amount… it’s just all so confusing.

Another question I have is: Does “room temperature” include temperatures that I will be encountering in Africa? I can assure you they will be nothing like the “room temperatures” I am used to up here in Alaska!

Room to Rent

I posted an add on Craig’s List last night, offering up my spare room to rent. I worked on the add for a couple days, drawing on a friend’s experience from when she had to look for a place as well as on my own wants & needs. What we came up with was short and sweet, but enticing and gave all the pertinent information.

I already got two responses!

Oddly enough, both of them are nurses: one is from Finland and the other, while she doesn’t exactly say so, I am assuming is also not American. That is more than fine with me: I like being exposed to other ethnic personalities as it helps expand my own individuality.

Hopefully I will have the room rented out by the time I leave for Africa. Also hopefully I will be comfortable with my new roommate so will not have to worry about her while I’m gone.

I have responded to each girl’s contact with a follow up email. I’m hoping to be able to meet with each one so that I can make a decision. Both sound quite nice so far.

I’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ticket Price Check

I just checked on the price of a ticket from Anchorage, Alaska to Nairobi, Kenya: it is currently sitting at about $2,228.00 (including taxes). I bought my ticket back in January and only paid $1,763.00

That’s a savings of $465.00 – quite a good deal, I’m thinking!

My flights will take me from Anchorage to Seattle on Alaska Airlines, and then from Seattle to London on British Airways. In London I get a 20-hour layover: part of that is over night, but I will at least get to spend the evening in town. My friend Anne has given me some advice on a walking tour to see as much as I can while I’m there. I will take off again the next morning from London to Nairobi on British Airways.

My return trip is basically just the reverse, except the layover in London is just 9 hours. That’s not really enough time to get out and see much, so I plan to just stay at the airport. I’m told it’s like a huge shopping mall anyway, so I will be able to keep myself amused, I’m sure.

Maybe I can get some good Tea while I’m there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer Hiking

Had a great summer’s hiking season this year. Most of the hikes listed below were with family – but some of them were with other friends, too. All of this was to get me in shape for my Africa trip, and I think I did fairly well.

May 04 = Ptarmigan Valley
May 16 = Potter’s Marsh
May 24 = Ship Creek Trail
June 02 = Eklutna Flats
June 7 = Coastal Trail - Point Woronzof
June 11 = Seward
June 13 Bird Point/Potter’s Ridge Trail
June 21 = Power Line Pass
June 27 = Winner Creek
June 28 = Matanuska River Trail by Noel's House
July 5 = Albert Loop Trail (ERNC)
July 19 = South Fork Eagle River
July 26 = Hatcher's Pass
August 2 = Alaska Botanical Gardens
August 16 = Winner Creek
August 20 = Trail of Blue Ice
August 23 = Walk of Trees (UAA)
August 30 = Crevasse-Moraine Trail
Sept 13 = Trail of Blue Ice
Sept 21 = Dew Mound Trail

If anybody wants to see pictures, just ask and I can send you some.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s actually been quite a busy week for me.

Monday I had a Discovery Tour. It wasn’t the best one I ever had, but it was a good one, still. The fall colors and the new baby yak – it was a good way to end the season.

Tuesday I had a Green Building Council meeting and then met my friend Lorna at Century 16 for a movie. We saw “Whiteout” which got me so excited about Antarctica I went and applied for a job down there! Not that it will actually happen – but you never know!

Wednesday I attended a lecture at the Museum. It was sponsored by the Green Building Council, so I worked the table at the entrance, and then had to meet up with a few people afterwards to schmooze with the speaker at a bar for a couple hours.

Thursday I had lunch with my niece Lauren at UAA, then came home and got ready for an Earthwatch presentation, which I gave at the Grassroots Store, next to REI. It was not a bad turnout, and people were quite interested…

Friday I met my friend Lynn at the AIA Conference at the Hotel Captain Cook: she’s a vendor for the DIRTT Wall Systems and she let me sit at her booth pretending to help her. It was a chance for me to get inside and talk to all the architects in town. I got to see a bunch of people I haven’t seen in a while, so it was good.

Saturday I worked at the zoo for 6 hours. They had organized a Teacher’s Workshop that gave all the teachers in the area an idea of what the zoo can do for them. We also gave them a tour of the grounds, which was (as it always is) fun.

Sunday I picked my niece up at her dorm and took her to lunch with me at the Perfect Cup. She had a little bit of shopping to do at the GCI store and at Wal-Mart, and then I dropped her off at her dorm and headed back out to the zoo by 2:00. I sat in the Discovery Center for 2 hours, writing letters and reading my book. I did have about 8 people come in to look around, so I talked to them as well.

Today I’m not going to do a thing except maybe make some cards, read my book, play on the computer, snuggle with my girls, and write up an add for Craig’s List looking for a roommate.

Tomorrow I have a job interview out at the Eagle River Nature Center - Wish me Luck! Since I’ll be there at noon, I’m thinking I’ll go ahead and hike the trails afterwards. I’ve been wanting to check out their Dew Mound Trail, so might do that.

And then finally on Wednesday there is a Job Fair at the Sullivan Arena from 10:00 till 5:00. Much as I hate the Sullivan Arena, I think I do need to go and spread my resume around a bit.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

10 Books to Read - In No Particular Order

Necroscope By: Brian Lumley

This is NOT your typical romantic vampire story. It scared the crap out of me when I read it 15 years ago, and all the books that follow it are just as scary. Highly recommended!

Harry is startled to discover that he is not the only person with unusual mental powers--Britain and the Soviet Union both maintain super-secret, psychically-powered espionage organizations. But Harry is the only person who knows about Thibor Ferenczy, a vampire long buried in the mountains of Romania--still horribly alive, in undeath--and Thibor's insane "offspring," Boris Dragosani, who rips information from the souls of the dead in a terrible, ever-lasting form of torture. Somehow, Harry must convince Britain's E-Branch that only by working together can they locate and destroy Dragosani and his army of demonic warriors--before the half-vampire succeeds in taking over the world!

Decipher By: Stel Pavlou

This is a very exciting book – I had great fun with it, and wrote about it in my blog even. What was even more amazing was that the author himself put a comment in my blog thanking me for my good review!

For 12,000 Years, The Message Has Been Buried. In a frozen Antarctica wasteland, in the depths of the Amazon River, in a chamber beneath the ruins of the Sphinx, something has surfaced: a cluster of crystalline artifacts composed of an energy source unknown to modern science, and inscribed with ancient hieroglyphs. Between them a strange signal courses through the oceans. Where it emanates from is a source that has stunned mankind. The lost city of Atlantis has been found.

Subterranean By: James Rollins

This is another exciting book. In fact, it’s the one that got me hooked on this type of book. I think I read it in three days, and was so tense by the end I was sore for a week afterwards. Very intense.

Beneath the ice at the bottom of the Earth is a magnificent subterranean labyrinth, a place of breathtaking wonders—and terrors beyond imagining. A team of specialists led by archaeologist Ashley Carter has been hand-picked to explore this secret place and to uncover the riches it holds. But they are not the first to venture here—and those they follow did not return. There are mysteries here older than time, and revelations that could change the world. But there are also things that should not be disturbed—and a devastating truth that could doom Ashley and the expedition: they are not alone.

The Skystone By: Jack Whyte
I am a King Arthur fan and have read pretty much everything I can get my hands on about him. This series offers a very unique take on the story: it’s very believable, and just might be how it really was.

Before the time of Arthur and his Camelot, Britain was a dark and deadly place, savaged by warring factions of Picts, Celts, and invading Saxons. The Roman citizens who had lived there for generations were suddenly faced with a deadly choice: Should they leave and take up residence in a corrupt Roman world that was utterly foreign, or should they stay and face the madness that would ensue when Britain's last bastion of safety for the civilized, the Roman legions, left? For two Romans, Publius Varrus and his friend Caius Britannicus, there can be only one answer. They will stay, to preserve what is best of Roman life, and will create a new culture out of the wreckage. In doing so, they will unknowingly plant the seeds of legend-for these two men are Arthur's great-grandfathers, and their actions will shape a nation . . . and forge a sword known as Excalibur.

Firefly By: Piers Anthony

If you’re familiar with this author at all, you’ll know him for his whimsical humorous stories. This is his first (and only?) attempt at horror, and I must say – the man has a sick, twisted mind.

Anthony conjures up a nightmarish creature who stalks humans through sexual attraction and leaves them grotesquely sucked dry of their protoplasm. When bodies reduced to skin and skeleton are found on a remote wildlife sanctuary, the reclusive owner of the estate refuses to call in outside help to track down the killer. His employees are left to fend for themselves against the menace of a predator who lures them in the way a firefly traps its prey--by emitting pheromones, powerfully sexual chemicals--and uses digestive acids to dissolve the bodies of its victims.

Gravity By: Tess Gerritsen

I thought for sure they were going to make a movie of this one. It’d be a good movie, too – although as always, I’m sure the book is better. She has since written a lot of other books, but I have to say this is her best.

Much of this scary thriller is set aboard the International Space Station, where a team of six astronauts suddenly find themselves threatened by a virulent biohazard. Victims first register a headache, followed by stomach pains; then their eyes turn blood red. Finally, they convulse so violently they literally bash themselves apart. Most frightening is what spills out of their bodies: green, egg-filled globules. As astronaut Emma Watson, the station's onboard doctor, struggles to fight the outbreak, her colleagues are dying one by one. A Japanese astronaut, the first to get sick, is sent down to earth via the space shuttle, but he's dead on arrival. Panic spreads when military physicians discover a deadly mutant--a creature that's part human, part frog and part mouse--in the eggs that spill from his body. The military, fearing bioterrorism or even an extraterrestrial invasion, quickly traces the contaminant to an experiment on the space station that was funded by a company researching tiny organisms in the ocean off South America, where an asteroid hit thousands of years ago. Meanwhile, back on the station, Watson is the only one left alive. The military says she's already infected and must be left to die in space, but Watson's husband, fellow astronaut/physician Jack McCallum, won't tolerate that decision, and scrambles to find a way to get her home.

The Descent By: Jeff Long

This is another book that scared the crap out of me. It’s a MUST read, for sure. The author has several other books out, and they’re all quite good.

Hell Exists. In Tibet, while guiding trekkers to a holy mountain, Ike Crockett discovers a bottomless cave. When his lover disappears, Ike pursues her into the depths of the earth.... In a leper colony bordering the Kalahari Desert, a nun and linguist named Ali von Schade unearths evidence of a proto-human species and a deity call Older-than-Old.... In Bosnia, Major Elias Branch crash-lands his gunship near a mass grave and is swarmed by pale cannibals terrified of light..... "So begins mankind's realization that the underworld is a vast geological labyrinth riddling the continents and seabeds, one inhabited by brutish creatures who resemble the devils and gargoyles of legend. With all of Hell's precious resources and territories to be won, a global race ensues. Nations, armies, religions, and industries rush to colonize and exploit the subterranean frontier.. "A scientific expedition is launched westward to explore beneath the Pacific Ocean floor, both to catalog the riches there and to learn how life could develop in the sunless abyss. Is there a natural explanation, as the scientists hope? Or is there a true supernatural basis? Are the "demons" part of our evolutionary family tree? Is their enigmatic leader merely a freak genius, or could he be the legendary Satan?

Moonseed By: Stephan Baxter

I love the concept of this one! It is so possible, and so ingenious. Talk about a disaster movie… I have actually bought this book multiple times to give to several people.

When a mysterious "moonseed" dust is accidentally spilled in a Great Britain lab, it begins to eat away at the Earth's crust; soon the rock-solid crust is altered to shifting sand. NASA geologist Henry Meacher is the only one who fully understands the situation's serious implications. Moonseed is a taut, well-researched, and finely tuned speculative spine-tingler that solidifies Baxter's position as one of the genre's most imaginative scribes.

Evolution By: Greg Bear

This one starts out before history began and ends millions of years in the future. In between is some very interesting content… really makes you think. It’s a little hard to “get” at first, but if you persevere, it will get better so that by the time you’re finished, it will be one of your favorites, too.

Stretching from the distant past into the remote future, from primordial Earth to the stars, Evolution is a soaring symphony of struggle, extinction, and survival; a dazzling epic that combines a dozen scientific disciplines and a cast of unforgettable characters to convey the grand drama of evolution in all its awesome majesty and rigorous beauty. Sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, there lived a small mammal, a proto-primate of the species Purgatorius. From this humble beginning, Baxter traces the human lineage forward through time. The adventure that unfolds is a gripping odyssey governed by chance and competition, a perilous journey to an uncertain destination along a route beset by sudden and catastrophic upheavals. It is a route that ends, for most species, in stagnation or extinction. Why should humanity escape this fate?

Dust By: Charles Pellegrino

This one is a great story of what could happen if we continue to abuse our planet. I tell everybody I know to read it, and have given it out to several people to make sure they do.

The change begins silently, imperceptibly, inexorably. One natural effect topples into the next, like an array of dominoes that stretches to every corner of the globe. Before anyone realizes it, the earths ecology has utterly transformed itself. And the days of the old world are finished. In an idyllic Long Island community, paleobiologist Richard Sinclair is one of the first to suspect that the environment has begun to wage bloody, terrifying war on humanity. What initially appear to be random, unrelated events are, in actuality, violent eruptions in a worldwide biological chain reaction. Along with a brave group of survivors, Sinclair must learn to understand the catastrophe while it rolls around them, slowly crumbling a panicked world and energizing a reactionary fringe that welcomes the apocalypse. The survival of humankind depends on finding an answer immediately—for all else is dust.

The Ruins By: Scott Smith

This book is fantastic. You’ll never go on vacation again! Or at least, not to Mexico. They mangled it in the movie – so even if you’ve seen it, you simply must read it. As far as I know, he’s only written one other book; it was good, but not nearly as good as this one.

Best friends and recent college graduates Amy and Stacy and their boyfriends, Jeff and Eric, are thoroughly enjoying their summer vacation in Mexico. In a few weeks the quartet will begin new chapters of their lives -- but until then, the group is partying with fellow travelers from all corners of the globe. One tourist, a German named Mathias, tells the four about his brother, who disappeared with a seductive female archaeologist working at a dig near Cobá, one of the oldest Mayan settlements on the Yucatán Peninsula. The four Americans agree to accompany Mathias in his search but the journey quickly turns into a waking nightmare…

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Earthwatch Update

My duties as the field representative for all of Alaska have been relatively light lately – I haven’t done much of anything except hand out a few brochures and talk to people. But a few weeks ago I happened to be in a cool store called “Grassroots a Fair Trade Store” and talked them in to letting me do a presentation for them!

Check out their website at

I’ll be there on Thursday, September 16, from 7:00 to around 8:30 talking about Earthwatch. Feel free to stop in and join me!

I also got a call from the Eagle River Nature Center a few days ago asking me to do another program up there! I do love that place, so was quite happy to agree. I’ll be there in December talking about my trip to Africa.

While I was on the phone talking to them about doing the presentation we ended up talking about a job opening they have for an Operations Manager. I went ahead and applied – we’ll see what comes of it.

Cross your fingers for me!

Africa Update

Just eight weeks left – I’m definitely getting excited.

I got my inoculations all taken care of. Thankfully I only needed a Yellow Fever shot. It wasn’t too bad: I ended up with quite a knot in my arm at the injection site, but that went away fairly quickly. The doctor also gave a prescription for malaria pills – I’ll have to fill that in about 7 weeks and take them throughout the trip and for a month after.

Other than that, I have just the basic travel medicine kit full of things like aspirin, Benadryl cream, Neosporin ointment, bandages, and my migraine pills. I got myself a blue plastic pencil case from the Back-to-School sales that everything fits into quite nicely. Funny: no matter how old I get the Back-to-school isle still gets me all excited. I just love brand new pencils and packages of paper that haven’t been opened yet.

Anyway – I’m getting all my gear gathered together. I found a really nice hat and a clip-on watch for my backpack. I even got a clip-on thermometer that is also a compass AND a magnifying glass! Never know when that will come in handy. My friend Rachel loaned me her neck pillow for the airplane ride: my doctor recommended that for my neck, but honestly I’m not to sure about it. I’ll have to get used to it before hand and decide later on if I’ll actually take it. Mother has been finding all sorts of knick-knacks that I will need to have with me, and I hit the End-of-Summer sale at REI to get some pants and a nice shirt for the trip.

I am in the process of leaping over the last major hurdle: getting the visa from the Kenyan government. I went to the photography department at Sears to have the photos taken. The girl operating the camera was a tiny little thing. She had to stand way up on her tippy-toes just to ensure the picture was full-on to my face! I offered to kneel, but it worked out anyway. I packaged up all the paperwork, my passport, and the photos into an envelope and sent it off via certified mail. According to the email I received a few days later, my visa & passport will be sent to me within the next week or so, and I’ll be good to go!

Now if I can just figure out my bookreader…

Zoo Update

I took a bit of a break from the zoo: it was getting just too hard to pretend to be happy and cheerful for the tourists on my tours. I do love giving tours, though, so I’m back at it again - albeit on a scaled back schedule now that school is back in session. Fall in Alaska is beautiful and the animals do love the cooler weather, so this is a great time to come visit us.

I’ve been helping out with bottle feeding six orphaned moose babies, which has been a wonderful experience. There’s nothing quite like being covered in moose snot/formula! They’re all weaned off the bottle now, and are getting ready to face the world on their own soon. They will be tagged and collared before being turned loose so the Fish & Game can track their progress, but honestly they don’t really stand a chance. We’re hoping for the best but are prepared to hear of their demise soon after being released. We just don’t know how to teach them what they need to know to survive on their own – and we couldn’t find a home for them elsewhere.

We got an orphaned river otter this year, and she is a doll. We are slowly introducing her to our male with the intention of having them live together once she’s bigger. It will be nice to have a pair again after our other female passed away early this spring.

The fox kit that came in a few months ago is making great progress. He’s almost brave now, and no longer screams in fear when somebody enters his cage. He’ll even take pieces of food off a stick when offered to him from a distance. He is a beautiful one; a dark-haired Cross fox. We have hopes that he will become an educational animal, helping our education staff with their outreach programs.

The two brown-bear cubs that came to us last fall are getting ready to depart soon. They will be living in Minnesota, I believe, and have a very nice enclosure awaiting them there. They are quite healthy now, and have gained all the weight they were missing when they first arrived. Their hair is filled out, too – which is a good thing, because when they first got here they looked quite frightful.

Our musk ox baby is growing up big and strong, as is our little yakling. Both of them still have a year or so to be with their mothers before we have to start thinking about finding a home for them. I may have heard a rumor that we’re planning to keep the little yak – I haven’t confirmed that, though.

Just last week I got to help take our porcupine on an outing for an outreach program. That was fun! She loves to go out, so all you have to do is put her traveling cage next to her and she runs right in. She knows she will get her favorite treats, and will beg for them the entire time. Unfortunately she wasn’t in a very good mood this time, and was not very cooperative – but she was still a big hit, and the tourists loved meeting her. When she got back to her house, she ran out of the cage and just flopped down in a corner like it was the most exhausting thing she’d ever been forced to do!

Can you say “spoiled”?

Unemployment Update

Not much to report on the job front. Those two job interviews I wrote about earlier on in my blog never evolved in to anything other than a vague promise, so I’m still unemployed and am still searching for a job. At this point in time, I’d take pretty much anything – although I do still hold on to a shred of hope that I’ll get “the perfect job”

Money is tight, but it’s still there. I have to be very careful with my spending, but at least have a little bit of wiggle-room. I can splurge on the occasional lunch out, either with friends or by myself. Life would be really depressing without that.

I am going to have to get another roommate, however. I really got spoiled on my last one (you rock, Trish!) and hope that I can be just as lucky the second time around. If anybody knows of somebody looking for a room, please pass this on:

For $650 a month you get your own bedroom, your own bathroom, access to the rest of the house, and parking on the side of the road. I’m thinking of offering either a 3-month, a 6-month, or a year’s lease – with perhaps a discount on the year’s lease.

Of course I prefer a female, non smoker, no pets, and they must love cats. I’m right on one of the major bus routs, so it would be the perfect place for a college student.