Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who Knew?

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
By: Philip Hoare

“While I read illicit American comics under my bedclothes, fantasizing about a world of sleek-suited superheroes, new processes – sulphurization, saponification, distillation – extended and rationalized the use of whales in lubricants, paint, varnish, ink, detergent, leather and food: hydrogenation made whale oil palatable, sanitizing its taste. Efficiency ruled, in place of the early whaler’s waste. Whale liver yielded vitamin A, and whale glands were used to make insulin for diabetics and corticotrophin to treat arthritis. Nineteenth-century trains had run on whale oil; now streamlined cars with sleek chrome fins used brake fluid made from the same stuff. Victorian New Englanders had relished doughnuts fried in whale oil; now children with crew-cuts and stripy T-shirts licked ice cream made from it. Their bright shiny faces were washed with whale soap, and having tied their shoelaces of whale skin, they marched off to school, past gardens nurtured on whale fertilizer, to draw with whale crayons while Mum sewed their clothes on a machine lubricated with whale oil, and fed the family cat on whale meat. In her office, big sister transcribed memos on typewriter ribbon charged with whale ink, pausing to apply her whale lipstick. Later that afternoon, she would play a game of tennis while a whale-strung racquet. Back home, daddy lined up the family to take their photograph on film glazed with whale gelatin."

I’m guessing this is set in the early 70’s, since Britain began to ban whale products in 1973. Still, I had no idea so many products were made from the Whale? And the number of whales killed each year is staggering. It's amazing that any managed to survive at all.

I highly recommend this book, although it's not exactly an easy read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Phone Service

I got my cell phone all hooked up with ACS; not because I particularly prefer ACS over any other service but because that’s who my brother told me to use when he gave me the cell phone. It wasn’t until later on that I thought about going with GCI, which is where I get all my other service from (internet, cable, and land line).

Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep it all bundled together, rather than have multiple bills coming in from all over the place?

So, I went to GCI and asked them about it. The girl behind the counter went thru all the options available, and showed me that the costs would be quite comparable – even though at first glance it looked like it would cost more.

But then I showed her my phone; that’s when she told me that GCI doesn’t work with that particular model and I would have to get a new phone. I don’t want a new phone! I just got this one, and I’m still getting used to it.

So that took care of that whole idea.

My next question to her was to see how much it would save me if I canceled my land line service: no point in having two phones. After going over all those options, we discovered that it would actually cost me more to drop it: when you bundle everything together like I have it now, it saves you quite a bit.

So, the end result is that nothing has changed. I still have my cell phone service with ACS and my cable/internet/land line service with GCI.

I do need to find out how much it would cost to have my cell phone service upgraded to include long distance phone calls, though. Wouldn’t you know it: the one number I call most often is an out-of-state number.


I have been feeling rather like a truck has run over me repeatedly lately, so thought perhaps a massage would help. Thankfully, I happen to know a very good masseuse: my best friend’s sister!

Her name is Rhoda Zanella, and she owns Heart in Heart In Hand Massage Therapy (907-746-7755)

She normally operates out of a chiropractor’s office in Wasilla, but also has an office in her house. Her rates are quite agreeable: $60 for 1 hour, $90 for 1.5 hours, and $120 for 2 hours. She can even deal with insurance, if you go thru the chiropractor first. Thankfully she was able to fit me in, so I headed out there this weekend.

Her house, by the way, is a gorgeous log cabin that she designed herself and helped her brothers build. I arrived just in time to join her for some salmon with fresh veggies. How could I say no to that? We chatted for a while and got caught up on the goings on of both our families, then went downstairs to get to business.

It has been quite a while since my last massage. I used to get them all the time, but with the weight gain and the lack of insurance, I stopped. Now that I’m skinny again I felt comfortable with the idea, even though my insurance won’t pay like it used to do.

I am so glad I went! Rhoda is very good at it, and I so needed it. I do have to admit that it hurt, however. I had a lot of knots that needed to be worked out, to say nothing of the rib that keeps popping out of joint.

But it’s a good kind of pain! And I really do feel a whole lot better now.

The Dog In Front Of Me

The other day, as I was on my way to work, I saw the most horrible thing.

It was on the day that the roads were so icy, people were driving slowly (appropriate for the conditions, but still slow) and were being extra-carful. The car in front of me had made it thru the light, but I had not; so I sat there and watched him make his way up the road.

Not 50 feet from the intersection, a dog ran out into the road. Its owner had just opened the door of their house. The dog ran straight for the road, and of course was run over. The car did everything it could to avoid the dog, but with road conditions being what they were it was impossible to do much.

It truly was a horrible sight to see: it actually took me a few seconds to realize it was a dog I had just seen run into the car. I thought for a moment that it was a coat (of all things).

The car stopped immediately, and two people got out. The owner of the dog met them and went to see what could be done, but the dog was most definitely gone. Nothing could have lived thru what I had seen.

I just sat there at the light with my hands held over my eyes, peeking thru the fingers at the scene in front of me.


To make matters worse, the day after that I saw 5 or 6 ravens at that very spot – so you know there was enough residual “stuff” left behind to occupy that many birds.

Again, I say - Shudder!

Mid Life Crisis

The other day my sister accused me of having a mid-life crisis. This was just seconds after I showed her my new tattoo, so it’s not entirely out of the question.

But it really made me think: am I going thru that mid-life crisis? I have done a lot of rather impulsive things lately. Things you normally would not expect from me, such as:
     I’ve lost over 40 pounds
     I’ve pierced my eye brow
     I’ve had a black widow spider tattooed on my arm
     I’ve climbed both the North Face of Mr. Alyeska and Flat Top
     Heck, I even went and got a cell phone

But honestly, I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. I think I’m just trying to counter a lot of the negative stuff that’s been going on with me lately. Things I haven’t had much choice in, but have had to endure anyway. And no, I’m not going to list them all out.

So if you do have to call it a Mid Life Crisis, then I say, “I’ve Earned It and I’m Going to Enjoy It!”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Earthwatch Presentation

I was invited by the Eagle River Nature Center to give another presentation last weekend. They requested that I talk about my travels to Mongolia and focus on the Mongolian Ger (what we know as a yurt) since they have one up at the center that people could go look at after the talk. I was more than happy to accept their invitation; I love that place and am happy to help support it. I am also always happy to talk about Earthwatch.

The drive up there is just spectacularly gorgeous. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend you go. Just make sure you have your winter tires on: it’s about 10 miles up in the mountains past the Wal-Mart in Eagle River.

Be sure to bring your hiking boots, too, as they have lots of really nice trails you can explore – from a short half mile stroll to a more adventurous 6 mile loop. If you’re the out-doorsy type, you might even be interested in the 3-day hike thru Crow Creek Pass. I haven’t done that one, but I’m sure it’s wonderful too.

My presentation was set for 2:00, but I got there early to ensure that I had time to set up the projector and have everything out and ready. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of an audience since it is such a drive in winter conditions. I was pleasantly surprised to see around 20 people sitting there listening to me! That’s probably one of my better attendance records for that place.

One of the guys from work even showed up. Patrick is very interested in the sciences, and I think I managed to hook him into the whole Earthwatch thing: he’s seriously considering going on the Mongolian Expedition himself someday. I brought some more information to work the next day to show him (and to set the hook more firmly).

I really hope he goes; I think he’d be perfect for it!

Zoo Boo 2010

It’s been a while, but I should at least mention the fact that I worked at the zoo on Halloween as they celebrated with their annual Zoo Boo event.

We set up at least 14 stations all over zoo grounds where kids could go trick-or-treating and have fun that night. We gave away tons of candy and other things like pencils, postcards, and glow sticks. We even had a big bon fire going to warm up at.

I don’t have the final numbers yet, but I’d estimate somewhere around 2,500 people came thru the zoo that night in just 3 hours. It was a madhouse!

Thankfully, the weather wasn’t as bad as it usually is at this time of year. I remember zoo boos in the past being held at 45 below! It was a more manageable 35 degrees this year. I had the added advantage of being assigned to the only station that was indoors at the Discovery Center! It pays to be the Volunteer Coordinator’s friend, I guess. I certainly wasn’t complaining.

Among other attractions that night was the Costume Contest: being inside at the Discovery Center meant that of course I wasn’t able to witness it first hand, but I did get to see a lot of the costumes as they passed thru my station – and I’m just glad I didn’t have to be one of the judges!

There were some really cool costumes; lots of Fairy Princesses and Ninja Fighters this year, with more than a few animals like a Giraffe and a Horse (that was my particular favorite). There was even a Robbie the Robot, although I’m dating myself by identifying it, I think.

It was a fun night for everybody, but I must say that many people really wore me out. I came home afterwards and snuggled up with my girls on the couch with a quiet movie and a cup of tea, and called it good.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I Finally Did It!

I have lived here in Anchorage for well over 15 years, and have never actually made it to the top of Flat Top.

This weekend, I finally did it!

According to the books Flat Top has an elevation of 3,510 feet, but trail head is most of the way up the mountain so the actual gain in elevation is only 1,350 feet. Still, it’s a very steep trail – and it was completely covered in snow and ice, which just made it that much more difficult.

I had my friend Noah pick me up so we would only have to pay one parking fee. Plus, my car doesn’t have its winter tires on yet, so I really didn’t know if it would make it all the way up there. As it turned out, his car didn’t have any on either – but he made it just fine.

We both dressed lightly, knowing that even though it was really cold at the trail head we would quickly heat up on the climb. I didn’t have the right gloves on, though. Those little cloth gloves I like so much really are not made to handle snow and ice: and I did have to actually handle it, too, pretty much the entire way back down was on my butt and hands.

Noah is a retired paratrooper with the army, and an avid mountain biker as well – so this was a piece of cake for him. He very gallantly went at my pace however, and even kicked toe-holds in the worst spots so that I could more easily make my way up. He made sure I stopped occasionally to ensure that my head didn’t explode from the exertion (well, that what it feels like it’s trying to do sometimes – not that it actually would explode) and kept handing me the water hose to keep hydrated.

With surprising ease, we actually made it to the very tippy-top!

First thing I did was text my Mother: I’m standing at the very top of Flat Top! The next thing I did was eat a protein bar and walk around the top and take in the view. OMG! What a view… unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me so couldn’t take any photos. Noah had his cell phone with him so got a quick shot of the two of us. Hopefully I can get him to send me a copy of it.

Then we had to make our way back down the mountain. That was a lot harder as the slope is really, really steep when you’re looking down at it instead of up at it. I developed a technique for some of the worst spots of crouching down and using my feet as sleds with my hands to help guide my descent. It worked really well, except that the snow and ice still managed to find its way inside my pants to thoroughly freeze my butt.

The entire climb took a lot longer than I expected it to. We started out at 11:00 and didn’t get home till around 4:00. I had planned on heading out at 10:00 and being home by 1:30 ish…

Oh my gosh, am I a sore puppy today. Rob laughed at me all day yesterday as we walked around town: every time we came to some stairs (which of course there were a lot of them) I would very gingerly easy my way down, biting my tongue the entire time so as to not groan.

But it’s a good kind of sore – the kind that reminds me at every step that I JUST CLIMBED FLAT TOP!