Monday, December 27, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Holiday Brag Sheet

Holiday Greetings, Far-flung Friends and Other People I care about (in my fashion):

Hope you are all well in these tough economic times. And don’t get me started on the environment: if another polar bear comes knocking on my door for a handout of salmon or moose meat or muktuk I’m gonna scream. Oh, that’s just a joke—you would have to drive for hundreds of miles to get to the Arctic Ocean to see a polar bear and all you’re gonna see anyway are a bunch of leaky oil pipes out there on the sea ice.

I am lucky and thankful that my job as lab manager, with basic medical, is good for another few months. The work is progressing but very top secret you know. Kaneesha our jeep is doing well but I don’t want to give her a swelled head. Lately she has gotten into the habit of relaxing her driver’s side door muscles and smacking the car next to us just as I’m getting out. It’s very embarrassing but fortunately we haven’t been caught. I think Kaneesha has the car equivalent of tennis elbow, which I have in spades now from skiing. It’s been too cold to ski, or even really to breathe, but we do what we can. We try not to spend too much time wiping our bums in the outhouse on really cold mornings—thank goodness there’s baby wipes indoors to finish the job!

Joe is at Toolik until the 23rd. After that it’s the bike shop for several months until spring. I have taken up a new hobby: brandy. It gives us both something new to look forward to being around each other in a log cabin for the remainder of winter.

What else? Gareth turned 16 and Simon had a party last night. There was roast chicken and chocolate cake and several bottles of wine. Except for the Birthday Boy the other guys were way over 40. Dale and Jeff and Ken were there, so were Anna and Elizabeth (who are way under 40). Hey did you know I can turn completely invisible in a room full of people? It must be one of the new superpowers you get turning 50. I could have walked out with all the silverware and nobody would have noticed!

It would not be a proper holiday form letter without a graphic play-by-play of medical issues. Don't like to hear gory medical details? Well suture self!

Me: mammogram and pap smear, normal; tennis elbow is flaring up. I am still getting my periods which at my age is something.

Joe: still gets rider’s rash from 20 years ago, otherwise OK.

Simon and Gareth: I don’t think they have any medical issues. Simon’s probably hung over today. Gareth’s probably finished the cake by now.

Simon’s truck: It actually RUNS! I haven’t actually seen it running but he swears it is.

Blob: sore paw got better. All the other dogs are OK, except Buddha who had bad gas.

Wishing you all the best. Looking forward to 50 more. Well I’d settle for 8 more good years and some brandy.
And oh yes I’m VERY VERY BUSY and my life is GREAT!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Before and After

Tough day on the ski trails?

Thank Goodness for Eric and his thoughtful 50-lb shipment of moisturizers!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Turns out it was Joe all along.

No need to thank me. Just send me my Nobel Prize in the mail.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wisconsin Man Shoots TV over Bristol Palin Tango

Woman: Doctor! there's something wrong with my TV!

TV repairman: What seems to be the problem?

Woman: I turn it on and all I see is the Palins! Palins everywhere! In red power suits, on salmon boats, tangoing in sequins, help!

TV repairman: Ma'am, your TV is suffering from Stage Three Palin's Syndrome

Woman: Wh...WHAT?!

TV repairman: I'm afraid so.

Woman: But there's a CURE...isn't there?

TV repairman: I'm afraid...there's nothing we can do.

Woman [Sobbing]: First my computer, now my TV! It just keeps spreading and spreading. Why ME???

TV repairman: I'm so very sorry.


[Later, at home]

Man: Maw, be brave now.

Woman: Paw, don't do it.

Man: Stand back, woman, it's either this or one of the cows.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Just a reminder...

This person wants to be our next President.

Yeah, yeah, it's a forgery, it's photoshopped, I think everyone knows that by now.

So are the multitude of lipstick-smeared pitbulls clothed in Sarah specs and red power suits.

More than the pitbull images, I think this one captures the spirit of this narcissistic, intellectually incurious social climber from Wasilla who, without an idea in her head much less a plan for the country, is just another ignorant self-promoting windbag trying to be Most Popular Girl in America.

To the far right, this image has become an ikon, a madonna, an Our Lady of the Gas Station Next to the Cash Register if you will.

To the rest of the country it perfectly illustrates what many of us are already thinking in our hearts and screaming in our blogs:


Friday, November 12, 2010


Joe Miller says this write-in vote doesn't count:

as well as this one:

and this one:

And now wouldn't you know the Alaskan Attorney General's Office says Miller filed his lawsuit in the wrong court! He should have filed it in state court not federal court, to which I have to say:

Monday, November 1, 2010

While we're waitin for the write-in votes to be tallied...

...I decided to have a look around the blogosphere, specifically in Alaska, to see what's out there. Wouldn't you know there's a whole spectrum of interesting blogs in our fair state devoted to not just Alaskan politics but family life, cooking, hiking, Native Alaskan culture, you name it. Many, like this one, are meant to be online diaries. One adventurous blogger said it was an experiment, he had absolutely no idea where it would lead, and would cover any and all topics as they come to him. I even found a blog for and about Alaskan cross-dressers who like to ride their bicycles in winter. In short, the Alaskan blog world is probably not much different from the World Wide Blogosphere.

Most of the blogs I visited look pretty serious. And not just because they have numerous posts chock full of information and pictures & stories. There are blogs that link to other blogs, many have sponsors, and several are formatted like online newsletters with several pieces all competing for your attention. Most importantly, most of these blogs have scores if not hundreds of followers. Isn't that the point of why we do it in the first place?

I realize that unlike my own humble effort here, there are many dedicated bloggers putting a lot of care and attention into their blogs, kind of like a prized houseplant /pet/baby. Though I know absolutely nothing about babies, I’ve had pets before and currently have half a dozen houseplants, nearly half of which might not make it past Christmas. Which is weird because I used to collect tropical plants back in Chicago and had many nice ones that bloomed faithfully for years. Up here, by November it gets dark really fast, and trying to keep an orchid or African violet alive through an Alaskan winter is frankly just too much work for me.

Kinda like this blog.

I started it mainly to keep the folks back home apprised of our activities up here, and initially friends and family called and emailed and complimented me on my postings all the time, but I know I've kinda let it slip, and now and then I have to remind myself to put some pictures up so our loved ones don’t think we froze/starved to death/fell through the ice/got trampled by a moose/eaten by a bear.

Funny, that last item is the #1 fear Midwesterners have about Alaska.

To be quite honest, I like writing these postings, but I don't necessarily like looking at lots of words onscreen. Actual printed pages are one thing, I just don't enjoy staring at a video monitor for pleasure, especially since I do it 8 hours a day to earn a living. So I (usually) prefer to keep postings brief, and tend to shy away from reading the wordier ones.

I do make exceptions. I came across one blog from Chicago that riveted me to my chair. It was written by a woman who started a triathlete blog until she was diagnosed with breast cancer, then she started writing about how her life changed after going through surgery and radiation treatment. I wanted to know the whole story, so I spent one entire weekend reading about the last two years of her life.

I came to realize, in my current state of affairs, that after moving to Fairbanks, Joe and I really don't have it so bad up here. We both have our health (knock on wood) we both have jobs, we're making enough money to rent our little cabin and buy our organic produce and mid-price wine from our local Fred Meyers*; on weekends we have dinners with friends or a beer at Silver Gulch Brewery and once in awhile see a movie at the cineplex downtown or live music at the Golden Eagle in Ester. During the week, while I crunch away at numbers in the lab, Joe divides his time between Toolik camp as a seasonal field operations assistant and wrenching bikes at Goldstream Sports. In the summer we picked berries and wild mushrooms, and in the fall if we’re lucky a friend or neighbor will give us some salmon or moose or caribou meat for the freezer. We just invested in 100 million BTUs of seasoned birch for the winter, and once we get it all chopped and stacked there’s nothing to do but ski and ice skate and compose haiku about the aurora borealis all winter long. We've carved a cozy little niche up here for ourselves, and sometimes as we hold hands and watch the sun melt behind Ester Dome we turn to one another and say (in unison): How blessed we are.

Folks in Chicago keep asking: so how long are you guys planning to stay? Until something better comes along or the job well runs dry would be my best estimate. So, maybe another year if all goes well.

Now does that make for an exciting blog or what??

My point is, the best stuff out there is either about strife--political or (most often) personal--or some other factor that makes it compelling. Some blogs are simply weird and beautiful. I came across one that is basically a collection of high-resolution images of 18th and 19th century erotica (lithographs & watercolors) and Chagall-esque depictions of creation myths. It was simply ravishing.

Beyond that, nobody really gives a rip about you and your wonderful life. Yawn.

A person like my friend in Chicago, just minding her own business blogging away about her upcoming Iron Man triathlon, and then getting diagnosed with cancer, now that's compelling reading. I don't wish things like that on anyone. My point is it’s the people who use their blogs as a canvas for their life, brushstroke by brushstroke, who will be remembered.


Besides my wordiness rule, I have listed other reservations about my blog which probably explains why it's not quite in the same category:

-I don't wish to offend people with language or content. I once posted something, however briefly, and was asked to remove it, and I deferred to their wishes. It was personal stuff and they didn’t want it out there. It was perfectly understandable.

-I don't wish to get too deep into my own personal problems in a public forum. Personal problems make for interesting reading, and I have some stories that I don't mind sharing with my family or close friends, but, well, I’m just not ready to tell you about my checkered past riddled with crime and drug abuse and brushes with death.

*Joe just reminded me, re the wine and groceries: “Don’t make us sound snobbish.”

-Checkered past aside, at this point in my life I’m not so much about drama and adventure as peace and contentment. I’m actually envious of the silver-haired couples who retire to Arizona to play bridge and sip daiquiris and see their grandchildren a couple times a year. Boring as hell, by Darwin’s definition they are the fittest of our species.

-I'm rather lazy.

-It is very, very hard to write well. At the rate it takes me to fix a single sentence, maybe I should have stuck to art after all.

-I’m terrified of saying something stupid. I have noticed that the best bloggers don’t seem to mind it at all.

-I’m just a big fraidy cat in general. I was watching Globe Trekker with Gareth the other night and he kept saying how cool was it that the crazy British host just bungee jumped off the 300-foot bridge spanning a yawning chasm somewhere in New Zealand. Gareth is 15. I am 50, and all I could say was, how cool is it if the rope breaks/you upchuck and choke on your own vomit/poop your pants/black out/die?

So there you have it. Some of us are bungee jumpers and some of us aren’t. Coming up here after nearly 50 years in Chicago was like bungeeing all the way to the moon, and I can’t tell you yet if the rope is still attached or not.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches?

or maybe just an embarrassment? At this rate Lisa Murkowski is looking pretty good...

Voting in Alaska is much tougher than I imagined!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October, so far...

10:44 AM

2:39 PM

October in the Midwest--one of my favorite times of year. People start using the word "crisp" to describe the air--even though it's a good 40 to 50 degrees warmer down there right now than it is up here...

Here in the Alaskan interior it is dead-on winter already. Snow fell a few days ago and already we have a base layer on the trails. The University has closed off some all-season trails to groom for the skiers (of which I hope to be one this year).

Joe and I put snow skirting around the cabin and have one of six cords of wood secured to keep us from freezing. Everyone says our first winter here was easy, and this year it's going to be a different story. Case in point, it was nine below when Joe got up at 8 AM this morning....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trip to Kenai Peninsula

Alpine Meadow on Harding Ice Field trail

This past Labor Day weekend I was lucky to be asked by my friend Lisa, a graduate student at UAF, to help her on a collecting trip to Seward, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula (about 500 miles south of Fairbanks). Lisa's destination was Kenai Fjords National Park where she's studying plant populations. To get to these populations we had to hike up the Harding Ice Field Trail, about 3.7 miles of mostly steep upward climbing, through rainforest (yes it's a rainforest!), lush alpine meadows still abloom with lupine and other lovely wildflowers, up further still over scree fields covered with patches of snow threaded with a few small fast flowing creeks, 1/4 mile before the trail's end, overlooking a spectacular view of Exit Glacier.

Lisa, brilliant future scientist that she is, received a research scholarship that covered the cost of our trip--meals, lodging, and gas for Kaneesha--so it was an all expenses paid holiday for me! I basically drove, kept her company, and took a few soil temperature measurements. Most research trips should be this easy!

On our way down she spotted the white round heads of belugas passing through Turnagain Arm, and we stopped to admire them in the wind and rain.

After collecting work was done Sunday afternoon we saw the Sea Life Center and had a nice early dinner at one of several nice restaurants. I highly recommend a trip to Seward--it's a small town with great seafood in a beautiful part of Alaska!

Me on the trail overlooking Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Ranger Brooke guided us to the plants and made sure we complied with NPS rules

Black bear mom and cub grazing peacefully at a distance--bears here are accustomed to seeing humans but NOT habituated to humans as bringers of food, an important distinction and an ongoing challenge for the rangers to educate the public

this marmot was really close to the trail

Portage Lake has a visitor center and they give boat tours of the calving glaciers

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Summer Vacation

Last summer at Toolik Lake was the best summer of my life...
...and this summer in Fairbanks was the best summer of my life. I just wish it wouldn't go by so fast.

Gareth is back from his summer down under just in time for school to start next week. He didn't waste any time to turn his mountain bike into a motorbike!

picked wild blueberries

and made some jam

shared many good times with some good people

picked and ate some of the tastiest mushrooms

that we hunted and gathered in the neighborhood birch forests

took a nice hike with Lisa to Smith Lake

made rhubarb jam

Chris showed me how to peel logs

for the new construction project

said goodbye to a friend

grew our own in Simon's greenhouse

saw the state fair

played a few rounds of frisbee golf at Birch Hill

and, well summer's not over yet--there's still more stuff to do!