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… but I wasn’t really going out on a limb, was I?

Anyway, I have this humongous backlog of photos to share. I think I named them in reverse-chronological order, meaning the “2” or “3” was taken before the “1” on most of them, for those who bother mousing over and looking at photo names. (I do try to make relatively helpful names, or at least ones that amuse me. I mean, a lot of my photos are of snowy mountains, sure, but if there’s some point to the photo, other than “Look at these huge freaking mountains,” I try to put it in the name.)

I took a couple of photos as I was driving through midtown on Thanksgiving; driving in snow that thick is kind of a freaky experience, but it went fine. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’ve been up toward Wasilla, now, though I haven’t driven through the town itself. My boss invited me along to Thanksgiving dinner, which was really nice of him. Everyone was super friendly, and the food was awesome. (And now back to roads — maybe I should have called this blog “Driving in Alaska.”) Driving back down the Glenn Highway that night was a little scary, because, while large parts of it are lit, not all of it is; visibility got low, at times. And given how many cars we’d seen flipped over on the way up, I was–I think understandably–cautious. But I made it home without even going all that miserably slow, except for a few minutes when I got stuck behind a car going 35-45mph. I’m chicken when it comes to changing lanes in weather, but I got over it to get past that guy. :)

I think 70 miles of highway driving was good for the car’s engine; my gas mileage has been up since then.

Anyway, as you can see, I have pictures from before and after Thanksgiving, and quite a few of them show not-too-miserable roads. The before pics show good roads due to heavy use; we wore the snow and ice down to pavement over a couple of weeks. The after pics have good roads due to plowing, because however much snow we got the night before Thanksgiving is clearly beyond the limit at which they plow. (You can get a rough idea from the photo I took of my car the next morning, keeping in mind I’d brushed it off 1/3 of the way through the storm. Also, yeah, I doctored the photo really poorly to hide where I park in the morning, because I’m paranoid. :D) Unfortunately, my picture of the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm didn’t come out all that well; you can’t really see the snow, but the windshield is obviously wet (what’s not obvious is that I took the picture right after the wiper swooshed–it was snowing that fast).

Other photos: I went out to look at the duck pond, now that it’s iced and snowed over. I only saw two ducks, and they didn’t stick around to be fed. (Note the “Thin Ice” sign, the clearly-still-flowing water-over-rocks photo, and the footprints out on the water/ice. People are amazing.) I took a picture of my office, now that I have lights up; don’t bother clicking it, since it’s all blurry–it’s probably a better-looking photo in thumbnail size. :) And I got pictures of those ice lines I was talking about, forming on the inside of the windshield. I don’t know if you’ll be able to parse the picture, not having seen them, but it was the best I could do.

Anyone following the drama of the windshield crack will notice from some of the photos that it’s gotten bigger. But it’s not growing all that quickly; I’m not too worried about it. I think I’ve seen a crack all the way across someone’s windshield nearly every day, up here, which makes my windshield crack look really piddly by comparison.

Oh, and, finally, I took pictures on my way into work this morning. Those photos are from right around 9:15am. It’s now 4pm, and it’s almost as dark as it was when I took those photos. Apparently the four days we took off for Thanksgiving made quite a difference in the amount of daylight we get. Or, you know, it could have been overcast all day. :P

Before we get to the point of the post: Dale’s and my phones are both 907- numbers, now. If you don’t have them, let us know. Our 412- numbers are off, or will be by tomorrow.

I bought the tickets for my flight to and Dale’s, Ella’s, and my flight back from Boston. I’m getting there in the afternoon on Thursday, January 14, and there will be conferency goodness on the 15th-18th. I know Saturday afternoon, evening, and night are full of librarian shenanigans, but much of the rest remains semi-unscheduled. (I don’t think Event Planner has opened up yet. When it does, I’ll know better what’s what.)

After the conference, Dale and I will head back to his parents’ place from Boston, hang out for 3 days, and fly back to Anchorage on Friday the 22nd, with Ella. Sadly, no airline seems to allow chinchillas in the passenger cabin, after all, so we’ll have to trust the cargo people. It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, but I’m fairly hopeful that everything will go smoothly.

We get back late enough on Friday night–and the jet lag will be bad enough–that we’ll probably have to spend most of the weekend recuperating (though I kind of hope to show up to whatever shindig the gamer friends might be having, so they can meet Dale right off :)). I’ll take off Monday–or possibly Monday and Tuesday–to show Dale around town a bit. And then I’ll start back to work and, hopefully, he’ll start interviewing for work.

I had a fairly eventful weekend. Friday night was spent baking up a storm (and washing my cheese grater after several incidents–this, by the way, is why I claim to need a Cuisinart), Saturday was spent celebrating a friend’s birthday (the carrot cake and macaroni & cheese were both well liked [and Coral-free]), and Sunday was spent alternately cleaning the kitchen and nursing a headache. (I wasn’t irresponsible on Saturday night, beyond staying out way too late. But I’m too old to stay out way too late and not pay for it the following day[s].)

In a very Alaskan turn of events, I pulled up in front of my friends’ house on Saturday and was about to get out of the car when I saw a moose! I called them, and they said to pull down into the driveway and come in the back door, which I did. I was not really that far from her, in the driveway, but she didn’t seem particularly upset at me. She kept an eye out, sure, but neither of us felt like we were in any great danger, I guess.

Anyway, Ms. Moose proceeded to stand right in front of the picture window, eating leftover Halloween pumpkins, for the next 20 minutes or so. Pictures were taken; I’ll post them when I have them. :) It was pretty excellent. And my friends felt validated, since they’d told me moose eat leftover pumpkins, and here I was witnessing it.

She wandered down the street, later, nibbling on the neighbors’ trees.

Alaskan wildlife facts: Moose mating season is in the fall–that’s a bad time to run into a male moose. The calves are born in the spring–anywhere from 1 to 4, though more than 2 is apparently (understandably) uncommon–so the spring is a bad time to run into female moose. One of the local hospitals has problems with moose calves wandering in through their automatic doors, and staff have to kind of herd them back out. Moose bulls drop their horns every year. Besides pumpkins (:)), moose also eat bark in the winter. You can tell how tough a winter it’s been by which kinds of trees are missing bark; some don’t really have any nutrients for a moose, but they’re filling. Moose have long legs so they can stand in muck–marshy areas, high snow, whatever.

In less immediately exciting (to you) news, the PA registration for the Subaru finally came. It’s on its way to me, now, and then I will be able to get Alaskan plates. Maybe I’m imagining that people are giving me space when following in winter: the PA plates have a really similar color scheme to one of the popular AK plates. I keep doing double takes at other cars, thinking “why is anyone else from PA up here?” :)

I like my iPhone OK–email everywhere is a wondrous thing–though I still hate the lack of keyboard. I’ve been assured that I’ll get over it. Dale’s phone is in Pittsburgh, albeit not with him yet. If you have numbers for either of us that start in 412, they’re only good until the end of the week. And since I haven’t turned my Verizon phone on in almost a week, I guess mine’s really not all that good now. If you call it, my new number is in the message.

Lessons learned: I found out that campus police are wonderful, and Subarus are hard to break into. I started the car and got out to scrape the windows–ironically, it was this weird, unscrapable ice that would have been better removed with the windshield sprayer–and shut the driver’s side door behind me. You see where this is going, but, you might recall, I’d tried to lock myself out (with the spare key in hand), in order to keep the car on and temperate for the birds, during the trip. I’d learned that you can’t lock the door, except with another key. Hitting the door button doesn’t lock it, nor does hitting the “lock” button on the remote. So imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get back into the car, that night. In my panic, I blamed myself, figuring I must have managed to lock myself out, despite knowing that’s impossible. I called campus police (figuring they’d be faster than Subaru roadside assistance), but the officer had a lot of trouble getting the door open. He finally had to use the unlocking tool to force the passenger side window down, so I could unlock and open the passenger side door. Even then, when I’d confirmed the driver’s side door was unlocked, he couldn’t open it from outside. I had to open it with the inside handle. Sadly, there are some scratches on the paint around the frame of the door, and I swear the door edge doesn’t sit quite as flush as it used to. (In the meantime, while all that was happening, I was wearing thin, unsuitable-for-winter shoes, so I had to come home and take a bath, to warm my feet. Dale’s sending me the brown boots I forgot, in this shipment. They’ll look stupid with skirts, but I don’t actually care.)

That car door thing was weird. And unsettling. So I unlock all the doors before I get out to clean the windows, now. Not that I’ve had to, the last couple of days! It’s been a balmy 30+ degrees out! It got above freezing today! Though I keep hearing rumors of rain/snow mix tonight; we’ll see.

I’ve got some pictures on the camera; I’ll do another post soon with those–and hopefully Ms. Moose’s picture, as well! I’ve got some Thanksgiving plans, which is nice. And it’s a short work week, which is also nice. (I like my job, yes, but I also like not going to it, from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. :))

I’m halfway through my bottle of beer (Alaskan Oatmeal Stout–not a bad brew), so I’d best stop writing now, while I’m ahead. And start drinking faster–it’s almost 11!

“As I am an honest Puck… goodnight unto you all.”

I’m thinking of doing a whole series, translating things-Alaskans-tell-you-when-you-move-here to, well, non-Alaskan. :) Because, as I’ve learned, there’s a gap between the phrasing of some of the advice you’ll hear and what the phrasing probably should be. (Totally unintentional, by the way.)

The big one, so far, is winter driving. “Anchorage takes care of its roads” and “Winter driving isn’t so bad” mean, respectively, “They throw down gravel on top of the snow pack, sometimes–oh, by the way, that one 4-lane road becomes 3 lanes, but it’s cool: there are wheel ruts to follow, in lieu of road markings,” and “I’m used to driving in Anchorage in winter.” Subtext: “What is this ‘plowing’ you speak of?” and “The first snow is terrible, but, on the bright side, most of the idiots are stuck in ditches while the rest of us adjust.” (They plow when the snow gets really deep.)

“It doesn’t get much colder here than there” really means “We’re used to sub-zero temperatures between November and April(?), and since we only ever go Outside [that is, past the Alaskan border] for summer holidays or Christmas, we figure everyone else must be, too.” Subtext: “Unless you lived in the northern parts of the Midwest, it’s going to seem cold, OK? Cold.” Further subtext: “We don’t feel right complaining, given Fairbanks’ weather, let alone Nome or Barrow.”

“You don’t need studded tires to get around town,” means “Yes, you need studded tires, you silly cheechako.” Subtext: “Studded tires might make you overconfident, which is even worse than not having them.”

“People drive too slow,” probably means “I’m one of the crazies who drive like it’s not winter,” though the jury’s still out on that one. There sure are some crazies, though, wow. A 10-6 workday (give or take) is nice, because I avoid the worst of both rush hours.

I probably sound snarky or grumpy. I’m not, actually–“amused” is a better characterization, looking back over what I assumed about people’s frames of reference and what turned out to be the truth (I repeat, completely understandable!)–though I won’t lie about the first snowfall being a little harrowing. I’ve realized that this is a totally different environment than anywhere else I’ve ever been and that Alaskans sort of forget the differences, possibly very, very quickly. More to the point, Alaskans, well, like Alaska, so they tend to think positively about it. And, definitely, they want you to like it, too. So far, I do. (Yes, really.) Yeah, I still think it’s cold–I hear it got as low as -9 last night, it was -1 when I started the car this morning, and it was 5 (all Fahrenheit) when I went out for a walk this afternoon–but it’s also so pretty. Seriously, Alaska is where Christmas cards come from.

Still, the adjustment period has been a little tough. The distance really hit me, last week, when I felt like Dale needed me but I couldn’t be there. I also got swamped at work and had minor bird drama (seemed less minor at the time), and, yeah, it’s starting to really get darker out now. The sky wasn’t fully light when I left my house at 9:15 this morning. It’s been fully dark for a while, now (say, maybe an hour), and it’s not even 6:30. (I realized this morning that I won’t find out whether or not the light sensor on my Christmas lights is any good until some weekend when I stay at home. Or February. Whichever comes first.) But some friends went out of their way to make me feel better, and I got to go a couple of fun places, and the trees got absurdly pretty, and Dale had his (our) family around him, and the birds seem OK, and I got a little cleaning done on my apartment, and I got a SAD light, and I’m taking vitamins… Things aren’t perfect, because that’s life. But they’re not nearly as dismal as they might have seemed, last week, either.

A couple of milestones today: I slipped on the ice–first time this winter–but other than a minor knee twinge, was fine. Didn’t even land on my laptop. I also went for a walk, even though it was pretty freaking cold out. At 5 degrees F my coat, scarf, Dr. Martens, wool socks, and glittens do fine (though I’d still prefer gloves for driving); I need another layer under my jeans (when I came in, I realized my legs were numb, though I hadn’t felt all that cold, outside :)) and a thicker hat. Pre-walk, I acquired a set of spikies, which the university provides to students, staff, and faculty for free. I loves them so much. So, so much.

I’ll try to get some pictures of the roads, as the winter progresses, so future newbies know what to expect. Right now, they’ve worn down almost to pavement–I even saw some yellow lines in a turn lane–so I expect snow soon. :) (Tip for future newbies: memorize where the turn lanes you’ll be using really are. People expect you to know that stuff, even though you can’t see markings.) I did get a few pictures of the path by the lake (which isn’t really by the lake at all; it’s near and sort of around the lake, but doesn’t go right down to shore, as far as I can tell–though I started thinking I was on the wrong path and turned back before I made it around) and of hoarfrost on some trees and of a path for skis only (how weird, huh?) and of my apartment window, with ice forming on the inside. That was weird for me; I’ve never had that happen before, and all of my windows and porch door are doing it. Soon, I won’t be able to open them without a hair dryer, which I do not have. Another phenomenon I’d never before experienced, which, sadly, I couldn’t photograph: when I get in the car, as my breath starts to fog the window, it freezes in these neat patterns of lines. It’s really cool-looking. Maybe Dale will be able to get a photo, when he gets here, but it eluded me.

I hear Goose Lake gets … I forget the term, now, but some kind of treatment to make it nice and flat for ice skating. That’s one bonus of a place that stays as reliably cold as Anchorage: the lakes are safe to skate on. I’ll have to relearn how to skate and (hopefully very quickly) learn how to stop. And if you are OK with non-flattened ice skating, there’s apparently a lagoon that freezes over, and then you can skate through the marsh! That sounds all kinds of awesome to me, though it may be a next winter thing. (At my best, I was still a little shaky on skates.)

It’s super snowy out right now. I took a couple of pictures for you, and the snowfall’s only gotten thicker since then.

Happily, half of the pictures in this post were taken on my trip in to the Subaru dealer, yesterday. (For your reference, it was between 8:45 and 9am. Kinda dark for that late, huh? :)) While there, I got an engine block heater (not so helpful at work, but a nice thing to have overnight at home) and studded tires. They’re fantastic, by the way. I won’t say there’s no danger of slipping–I’m a cheechako, not an idiot–but they sure do help. Roads that were tricky for me in the morning were no big deal by evening. Sheets of ice will still be a problem, as will other drivers. So, no, I won’t practice the incredibly common and frustrating behavior of speeding like it’s summer, when it clearly is not. But I’m no longer super stressed about making it up the hill from my apartment.

The other pictures are of and from the Spine, this long indoor bridge that connects many of the buildings on campus. I’ve been told it’s a quarter mile long. You can see it if you zoom in far enough on Google Maps. I like the study areas in it. And the pretty scenery outside. I don’t have a picture of them, but there were ducks a couple of weeks ago!

It was a slippery, slidey, cold morning. The car’s temperature gauge said 17 degrees. I only spun out once, and it was both expected and unimportant (that is, it was a turn onto a road I knew would be less well cared for, and I wasn’t going super fast–faster than I should have been, arguably, but it’s hard to slow down enough, in time, without getting rear ended). Still, studded tires have moved way up on the priority list.

These are unfiltered, and except for one that I saw was clearly super blurry, you get everything I took, good or bad. (And there’s a fair bit of bad. I was focusing a lot more on driving than on taking photos, honestly.) One’s not from the drive, but I bet you can identify that yourself. :)

I need to go take some pictures from the 3rd floor library sitting room, but I’m always kind of unwilling to stand around with a camera, where the students are studying.

I have to go to the post office one morning this week. Maybe I’ll head over there on Thursday (since I have morning meetings tomorrow and Wednesday), to mail Dale’s phone, and while I’m there I’ll get photos of the duck pond. (The public library and post office are in the same place. With the duck pond. What great urban planning!) Or maybe I’ll be waiting to get tires on, on Thursday. Who can say? Anyway, I will make an attempt to get pretty snowy duck pond pictures for you, sometime before winter’s over. I hear I have a while…

It’s snowing. Not, you know, this little dusting, but an honest to goodness snow. I guess winter’s started.

After being all melancholy, yesterday morning, I expected to drop off my part of the birthday dinner in the afternoon, then to leave–maybe to go walk around Potter’s Marsh, or to come home and read–but when I got there, they offered me coffee and homemade ice cream, to make me feel better, and I ended up staying. I’m glad I did. It was a lot of fun!

Dale’s Move:

First things first, I’ve gotten this question a lot, so I think maybe I didn’t mention it in the blog before: Dale’s moving in mid-January. He’s staying with his parents in Connecticut over Christmas and through the beginning of January. I’m flying out to Boston for the ALA Midwinter conference, which he’ll also be attending (he’s agreed to take charge of book signings, since I’m always too busy to wait in line; also, I’m hoping Exhibits Plus will get him into the NMRT Social :)). And I’ll take a few days of vacation, to hang out with his family, too, either before or after the conference. Then we’ll put Ella into a travel crate, sized to fit under a seat–which reminds me, I should probably poke Dale to get her that crate now and let her get used to it–and fly to Anchorage, hopefully on a non-stop flight.

After that, we’ll try not to spend any money until he’s employed.


I got a new phone, since Verizon up here is terrible, and that contract’s ending soon. If you don’t know my new number, email me for it. Or call my old phone; it’s hooked up until the day after Thanksgiving. Dale’s, too. (We are on the same area code AND the same exchange, this time, which is cool.) Or, I might call you. If you see a 907 number, pick up. If you have tips about iPhones, share them. Dale has a texting-friendly phone, with a keyboard (or he will, once I mail it), because he didn’t want the Internet Everywhere. I did. And, yeah, we have 3G in Alaska, though it’s new within the last year or two.

My growing pains:

I’ve sort of hit that wall that people moving to new places eventually hit, where I know some people and have some friends to hang out with, but I’m not really full integrated into any one group. The best stories all predate me and will for a long time, I know. [I had only just gotten to the point, in the Pittsburgh crowd, where that seemed less true.] And, as wonderful as people have been, I still feel a little bit like an outsider. Although these people are part of my life, now, it’s not clear that I’m part of theirs, yet, if that makes any sense–and, by all rights, there’s no reason I should be: I haven’t even hit the two month mark, yet. (I feel like I should point out, they’re putting in a real effort. A couple of them invited me along and showed me all these cool things in Anchorage, last Sunday, and it was super fun. They didn’t have to do that, and I am super grateful. They’ve been great. This complaining, it’s not about them; it’s about not having what I already know and where I already fit surrounding me, like I’m used to.) There’s nothing for it; that’s just how moving to new places is. It’s not just socially, though that’s arguably the bulk of it: I know a lot about how to do my job, at work, though I’m still not quite “expert” at it. I know most of the people there, though I’m still learning how all the little pieces fit together, between all the departments and individuals and what sits where and… you know, all those things you learn on a new job. I’m still new, which lets me ask naive questions, but gives me a bit of that outsider feeling, too.

In trying to do my job better, I went to a reception for engineers, with the hope of meeting some of the students and faculty, and the feeling of otherness was overwhelming. The students and alumni relations people all had name tags, but there was nothing to separate the professors from the industry people. And, while I have the guts–after a fashion–to walk up to somebody and say “I see you’re a professor of [whatever]. I’m one of your liaison librarians,” it was beyond my comfort level to walk up to somebody and not know whether they were a professor, someone from the Chancellor’s office, or someone from totally outside the school. So I ended up standing around, a lot, and talking to five or six students and someone from, I’m guessing, the Green Party, before I high-tailed it back to my office. It’s hard to describe how disconcerting that was, being the non-engineer–but not really!–in a room of engineers. (“Are you an alumni?” someone asked, not quite grammatically, and I responded “Not of this school.” Which is less than helpful.) It was just super awkward and has kind of thrown me into a funk, I think.

And I’ve had my nose rubbed in to the fact that my politics don’t fit in up here, which I knew, sure, but… In one week, I received three replies from three different representatives (well, one Representative and two Senators), all disheartening. Murkowski used the term “rationed health care” in her reply, at which point I fed her letter to the birds, because I hate being lied to. (They’re enjoying it.) Begich showed he hadn’t read my letter–he assured me most assiduously that nobody will ever be forced to have an abortion, which is definitely not what I wrote to him about. And, when I called Donald Young’s office, his punkass staffer told me he will be voting no on the health reform bill, opting to support the Republican bill, instead. (When I asked “You mean the one the Budget Office smacked down this morning?” he said “Well, I don’t know about that.”) Argh.

On the bright side, although there was more of the whole “I’m an outsider” feeling, I did have a nice time at Bird Club on Tuesday. And they suggested that I could prevent night frights by leaving the birds uncovered at night. I want to get them some sort of ceramic heat-maker, or something, because I worry they’ll catch a draft. But it’s been most of a week, with no night time freakouts. So that’s good.

I didn’t have the social energy to go meet with the campus feminists or attend the amateur radio club, yesterday. But I went to dinner with my friend from the first apartment building, and that was nice.

I’m going to drop off a thing at the gamer friends’ get together, today, because I’m not feeling up to socializing. I’m tired and in a funk (as if you can’t tell) and possibly not entirely well, on top of that. And then I’m going to come home and spend the day regrouping. And tomorrow, too, if I need it (though I need to go by CostCo for a SAD light and some other stuff).

Once I’ve regrouped, I’m planning to go to Drinking Liberally, as well as meeting up with another gaming group for some D&D fun. (If we all hit it off, I’ll have to come up with a way of distinguishing “gamer friends,” on the blog. :)) While meeting more people won’t help me get over the “otherness” thing, so much, it will help me have more to do. I’ve been at work a lot more than 40 hours a week, and I need to have more reasons to leave.


I picked a good time of year to get into the Song of Ice and Fire series, I guess. (It’s winter for years on end, in that world. And winter has been coming for the last book and a half; maybe it’ll get there, in-book, when it gets here, in reality.) We’ve had a longer, nicer autumn than we could have asked for. And all of the snow that’s been predicted for the past couple of weeks has failed to arrive. But it’s time. The radio is hinting at lots of snow. So I need to suck it up and get studded tires, I think. Will it ruin my normal tires to be stored on my porch, under a tarp? Because I have nowhere indoors for them; it’s there or inside the car itself.

Anyway, sorry to be a downer. I’ll come back with a happy post later this week. Things really are fine; it is, as I pointed out, just growing pains I’m going through. And it’s getting darker and colder, and I miss Dale and Ella and old friends and family. It’s not a knock on new friends, even, to be feeling that way. They’ve been nicer and more accommodating than I have any right to expect. I’m just, you know, still trying to adjust. This isn’t the first wall I’ve hit, and it won’t be the last, and I’ll get over them all. I’m adaptable.

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November 2009