Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gearing Up

Now that I have officially committed to the Amazon Riverboat Exploration trip (I put my deposit down just last week!) I am starting on the fun stuff: Gearing Up!

While grocery shopping at Fred Meyers the other day I browsed thru the travel-sized sundries and found a few items I will need to take with me. I even found hand-held battery-operated mini-fans on sale! Earthwatch actually suggests having just such an item, so I went ahead and bought two of them (one pink and one green).

A trip to REI got me the mosquito repellant, sun screen, and electrolyte replacement tablets I’ll need. The head-netting, rain poncho, water purifying tablets, and compass/thermometer/whistle were purchased from the Sportsman’s Warehouse. Last but by no means least, a set of 42 colored pencils (8 of them in metallic colors) from Michael’s Craft Store will go nicely with the two Amazonian Coloring Books I purchased from Title Wave.

So much for the small stuff. I have several more expensive items to purchase, as well.

I need a pair of knee-high rubber boots, a pair of deck shoes, and at least two pair of light-weight pants (perhaps even the bug-resistant ones) = all of which I think I can get from REI, or maybe Sports Authority.

My digital camera is at least 6 years old: I’m thinking perhaps I should get a new one for this trip. I also saw that REI has a dry-bag specifically made for cameras = you put it in the bag and just take your pictures right thru the plastic. I might have to get me one of those. They also have a dry-bag specifically made for my Kindle that I might just have to have as well.

And of course, there’s still the ticket to get. As I watch, the prices keep going up and up and up… but I’m actually waiting to see if my brother can transfer some mileage to my account. That will save me loads of money, and is worth the wait.

Another Great Book

I am reading yet another great book:

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl
     By Stacey O’Brien

“On Valentines Day 1985, biologist Stacey O’Brien adopted Wesley, a baby barn owl with an injured wing who could not have survived in the wild. Over the next nineteen years, O’Brien studied Wesley’s strange habits with both a tender heart and a scientist’s eye – and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl’s lifetime). She watched him turn from a helpless fluff ball into an avid communicator with whom she developed a language all their own. Eventually he became a gorgeous, gold-and-white macho adult with a heart-shaped face who preened in the mirror and objected to visits by any other males to “his” house. O’Brien also brings us inside Caltech’s prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animals they loved. As O’Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes astonishing discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term, “The Way of the Owl” to describe his noble behavior. When O’Brien develops her own life-threatening illness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal.”

Even if you have no interest in owls, you should read this book. It is “a thoroughly engaging, heart-warming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Simply Must Read This Book!

I am reading the best book right now! This is definitely my new Favorite Author – I’ve read two others of his, and loved them all equally.

The Prince of the Mist
     by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Here is the opening paragraph:

Max would never forget that faraway summer when, almost by chance, he discovered magic. It was 1943, and the winds of war were dragging the world relentlessly toward the abyss. In the middle of June, on Max’s thirteenth birthday, his father, an eccentric watchmaker and inventor of dazzling if completely impractical devices, gathered the family in the living room to announce that this would be their last day in the lofty apartment perched high above the oldest part of the city, a place that had been their home ever since Max could remember. A deathly silence fell upon the members of the Carver family. They looked at each other, and then at the watchmaker. He had that smile on his face they all knew so well, the one that always meant he had bad news or another of his crazy ideas.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Expedition #4 = Fund Raising Event

So – I’m planning another Earthwatch Expedition (my 4th) and am asking for help getting there.

I will be heading off to Peru in February of 2012 for the Amazon Riverboat Exploration program where I will work with a team of biologists and other volunteers to collect information about the wildlife populations in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, along the Samiria River – a major Amazon tributary. A more detailed description of the work being done is included at the end of this post for those who are interested. If you want even more information, I’d be happy to talk to you.

One major hurdle is – of course – the costs involved. The expedition is just under $4,000.00 – airfare to and from Peru is roughly $2,000.00 – there will also be costs for hotels, taxis, and food along the way. All together, I’m looking at something like $7,000.00.

With that in mind, I have set up an Expedition Fund thru Earthwatch with the goal of raising the $4,000.00 needed for the expedition. Friends and family members can make donations (minimum $25.00 per donation) if they wish. Heck, complete strangers can make donations if they feel so inclined! Any and all donations will be GREATLY APPRECIATED!

To make your donation: simply log on the Earthwatch website at www. earthwatch .org (no spaces) and hover over the tab labeled Expeditions; click on “set up an Expedition Fund.” In the middle of that page, click on “Login or Find a Fund” and enter my name in the search bar to the right of the page. It sounds complicated - but really, it’s not.

What you get: Not only will you get the personal satisfaction of being a part of the Earthwatch Mission (to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education in order to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment), you will also get to deduct your contribution from this year’s taxes!

What I get: Not only will I get to participate in actual scientific field research, I will also collect fodder for my Travelogue and my Blog as well as adding another presentation to my collection of public talks I can give!


As an Earthwatch volunteer, I’ll help collect data on ungulates, macaws, wading birds, large-bodied primates, caimans, dolphins, giant river otters, manatees, river turtles, game birds, large cats, other large mammals and large fish. I’ll help research staff to sight animals, determine animal group sizes and composition, determine distance parameters, record information on datasheets, and weigh and measure animals. I’ll also have the opportunity to explore wildlife use and community-based conservation plans in local indigenous villages.

Macaw censuses will be conducted at points along the river and lakes accessed by an auxiliary boat.
Ungulate, primate and game bird censuses will be conducted by walking along forest trails.
Dolphin censuses will be conducted from an auxiliary boat floating slowly on the river or lakes.
Fish censuses will be done by fishing in the rivers and channels using auxiliary boats and canoes.
Caiman censuses will be conducted using the auxiliary boats in the lakes, rivers, and channels.
Giant River Otter and Manatee censuses: If these species are sighted during any of the terrestrial or aquatic surveys, they will be observed and information will be recorded.

Ungulates, including the white-lipped and collared peccary, red and grey brocket deer and lowland tapir, are the most important bush meat animals for the local indigenous people. Understanding their populations is essential to developing sustainable use strategies through community-based wildlife management.

Dolphins are an excellent way to determine the health of the river, since they are the area’s top predators of fish. Decreases in dolphin populations indicate over-fishing, while increases indicate recovery. Long-term monitoring of the dolphin population will be used to evaluate the multi-year health of the river ecosystem.

Macaws indicate the health of the forest ecosystem as they feed on fruits and will only stay in an area if the forest is healthy and productive. If the macaws decrease this indicates a deterioration of the forest ecosystem, while an increase indicates ecosystem recovery.

Common species are the red howler monkey, brown capuchin monkey, squirrel monkey, tamarins, woolly monkey, saki monkey, white capuchin monkey and the rare spider monkey and red uakari monkey. Primate populations are good indicators for conservation, since they are very vulnerable to hunting and forest degradation.

Game Birds
Common species include the curassow, spix’s guan and piping guan. Game birds have been over-harvested in the past in many areas of Loreto for the bush meat trade. Their populations are recovering in some of the protected areas, and population studies need to determine their rate of recovery and the sustainability of their hunting using sustainable use models.

Three species occur along the larger rivers and lakes in Loreto: the black caiman, common caiman, and smooth-fronted caiman. These animals were once killed for their skins to make shoes, handbags, belts, and other items. They are recovering along many rivers of Loreto and are again relatively common.

Giant River Otter and Manatees
The giant river otter was extensively over-hunted during the professional pelt period from 1940 to 1970. Currently, giant river otter populations are recovering in the Samaria and Yavari River basins. The manatee is a rare and endangered species that requires conservation action. They are not recovering as rapidly as the giant river otter and are vulnerable to local extinction.

Fish are one of the most important resources for local people and their sustainable use is linked both to the health of the ecosystem and the socio-economic wellbeing of indigenous communities. The abundance, diversity and age structure of large fish species, such as the paiche fish, will be monitored to determine the impact of local fisheries.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let's Try This Again

Everybody keeps telling me I should treat myself to something extra special now that I have this wonderful new job, so I took their advice yesterday.

I got my eyebrow re-pierced!
This time I got a titanium piece rather than the surgical steel type I had the first time. Plus, it’s a different shape: more of a “bone” than a “ring”. And it got placed deeper into the brow, underneath and around the old scar tissue.

Hopefully these changes will help ensure that it stays in there this time! As you may recall, my last one was rejected and was eventually pushed out. This one will, hopefully, STAY PUT!
And it’s a beautiful shade of green! No one has said anything yet, but I’m just positive that it complements my eyes and makes them look greener – especially now that I’ve died my hair a nice fiery red!

Okay, that’s enough vanity… but really, I’m quite excited about it.

The New Job

The first week of work went quite well, despite that first day. I so hate “first days” - almost as much as I hate new jobs. Honestly, I thought I was going to throw up! But amazingly enough, I fit in there. I feel right at home already, and am getting along with everybody.

Boy, that makes it sound like it’s a big office with lots of people, doesn’t it?

There’s not: there are only 5 people, me included! GDM used to be the largest architectural firm in Anchorage, back in the day, with over 35 employees and two offices (briefly there were actually three: one here, one in Fairbanks, and one in Juneau). Now, however, they’ve been reduced to just 6: three architects, two drafters, a bookkeeper, and their front desk lady.

Okay… I can’t count. That made seven total, so you can make the adjustments.

I’m just plain exhausted, because even though I’m fitting in it’s still a new job and is therefore quite mentally taxing. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been continuing to help out at Treeline! 9 hours work at GDM followed by 3 hours work at Treeline makes for some very long days.

I felt so bad about leaving them in their busiest time (honestly, I applied for this job way back in November – their slowest time!) I offered to continue coming in till they found my replacement. Then of course, I had to volunteer to help TRAIN the replacement and make sure the workload didn’t get too overwhelming for him.

I do believe I can safely hand the reigns off now, however. Brandon seems to be working out, and will eventually get up to speed on things. I’ll go back in on Monday just to check up on him; answer any remaining questions he might have, and ensure that things are going well. But then, I’ll just be”on call” as an emergency back-up only.

Whew! And I was complaining earlier about not getting the hours I needed!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Alarm Clock

So, for the first time in something like 2 and a half years, I’m going to turn my alarm clock on for tomorrow morning.

I haven’t needed it for so long because I’ve either been on unemployment and so did not need to get up in the morning, or I had a job that didn’t start until later in the morning and I could just wake up naturally.

Now –YAY! – I have a job that requires me to get up on time.

Not sure what I think of that.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Summer Update

Summer in Alaska
As always, summer is a busy time. You only have about 3 months to make up for the past 9 months of darkness, so you tend to pack everything you can think of into your days – leaving barely any time at all for the more mundane things, like updating one’s blog or keeping one’s house clean. So, once again, you’re getting the update all in one fell swoop.

Life is Good
When I compare my mental state now to what it was a year ago, I am well pleased to report a stupendous improvement. Things truly are looking so much better now: my personal life is improved, my roommate is gone permanently, and my financial situation is going to be improving shortly. Heck, even my house is improving! About the only thing NOT improving is my cat, Djuna – more about her further on down this posting.

Family Hikes
The family hikes haven’t been very well attended, but they’ve still been fun. We hiked one of my favorite trails last time: Winner Creek Trail, out in Girdwood. Such a beautiful place with towering cottonwood trees, tall white spruce, and even the occasional fuzzy hemlock, lush green ferns, lots of blueberry bushes, and this time we got to see a bear alongside the trail! This coming Sunday we will be hiking up in Eagle River on the Dew Mound Trail. I suspect I may be the only one going however, as the only feedback I’ve received on it so far has all be to say they will not be going. But that’s okay – I will hike it anyway. There are more hikes in the year that people will be able to go on.

Seward with Rob & the Kids
I drove down to Seward last weekend to meet up with Rob and his kids for two nights of camping out. That was so much fun, even though it rained each night. On Saturday, Rob and Trey spent the day out on a halibut fishing charter while Sierra and I spent our day in town. We went to the SeaLife Center (my favorite place to visit in Seward), walked the docks, went hiking up Mt. Marathon, and watched a huge sea otter play in the waters near where they were cleaning fish. On Sunday, all four of us went out to Exit Glacier. We hiked up to the glacier itself and then spent an hour or so skipping rocks in the river. All in all, it was a great trip.

My Best Friend
Kathryn is in town, up visiting from her home in New York. We got to spend a good 3 hours the other day catching up on all the news. It was such a nice day out that we went to Pt. Woranzof and  walked about 4-5 miles back towards Kincaid Park. Thankfully, the mosquitoes weren’t as bad as the last time I’d done that trail so we didn’t have to run from them and could just enjoy the scenery and company. I really do miss her, and am very thankful she takes time out of her vacation to come see me. I will have to return the favor one of these days and go visit her in New York!

My Craft Room
Work continues on the craft room – not nearly as quickly as I would like, but it does continue none the less. Rob and his kids were over just the other day to finish painting the walls. I really like the colors I chose! When you’re looking at color swatches that are an inch square it’s so hard to imagine what they’ll look like in your home, you know? Thankfully, they look great – and will look even better once the trim goes up.  Then I can move in the furniture and get it all set up and in use. I plan to commemorate the Grand Opening of my craft room by finally learning how to use all my Quilling supplies!

Thing and Djuna
As promised, here is an update on my girls. Djuna and I are getting used to the IV thing so that it’s actually going quite well. I am able to do the whole procedure on my own without any help from Rob – which is a good thing since he would not be able to come over each Sunday. Djuna doesn’t like it, of course, but she tolerates it and is showing signs of great improvement (her fur has turned thick and is even coming in on her belly). She will go back to the vet’s office soon for another blood/urine test to see how the kidneys are responding to all this fluid. Hopefully I can stop the IVs and just rely on the water fountain and canned foods. Disturbingly Thing was not feeling good last night, exhibiting some of the same symptoms that Djuna had. I’m fairly certain I’m just gun-shy and that she’s fine… but still, it would REALLY suck having both of them with kidney failure.

Last Day – First Day
Today is my last day at Treeline Construction. That’s both sad and exciting, all at the same time. They really are a great company, and I’ve enjoyed my time with them. I got to meet some really nice people and learn a very interesting new program on the computer. But, my new job (which starts July 5th) will also be a good one too, I’m sure. I don’t know the people I’ll be working with but have heard good things about them from somebody I trust. I’m nervous, of course (who wouldn’t be), and really do hate new jobs… but it’s all good.