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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.)

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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.

Phones:

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.

Winter:

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.

I’ll keep this pretty short, since I’m at work. (Lot of good that does anybody, anyway. I’m fighting a cold, and I can feel that it’s a losing battle. So I’m kind of useless. My ears are actively painful, they’re so stuffy. And I took Mucinex this morning, to help make/keep my bronchi clear–great idea, except now I can’t safely take my cold medincine–it has guaifenesin [did I seriously get that spelling right on the first try? I was typing random vowels by the end of the word] in it, too, so I’d be all overdosed if I took it. I may cut today a little shorter than is really proper and go to a drug store for pseudophedrinesque medication.)

I do have a real bed, on which I got decent sleep, which is great. It didn’t come until after 9pm last night–and then bringing it up and putting it together took over an hour–because I had yet another emergency vet visit. This one was arguably unnecessary–I pulled out the offending feather, which was unspeakably traumatic for me (far more than for the bird, who just let out one high-pitched sound and was ready to go on with life), and if I’d waited 5 minutes or so, or managed to hold her still enough that I could apply styptic powder, the bleeding would have stopped on its own. But because she did still seem to be bleeding, and other vets had led me to believe that feather out == instantaneous end to bleeding, I panicked. So the vet was able to confirm that there was a clot of some sort, urged me to come back if Phoebe started bleeding again, and started to send me away, only I had left my wallet at work. So I had to go back by work, with the birds in the car, to get my wallet, to call the vet and give them my credit card number. Good times. (I offered to leave the birds, go get the wallet, and come back, so the birds wouldn’t have to sit in a cold car, but the receptionist seemed afraid I’d abandon them. She made me fill out a promissory note. As though I’d abandon my pets of more than 10 and more than 3 years, respectively, over $60. Who really does that? Really?)

“How,” you might ask, “did Phoebe break a blood feather during daylight hours? I thought that was a night fright thing.” Yeah, I dunno; she has super powers, I guess. I came in; dropped my stuff; opened the birds’ cages; went to the bathroom; puttered around for a minute or two, lighting candles in a couple of rooms (so, a total of less than 5 minutes of unwatched bird time); and then came in and saw that there was a big drop of blood on the floor. I thought it was Grace, at first, because she had a feather that was super out of whack, but that was a full-grown feather, as far as I can tell. (It nearly matches Francis’s similar wacky feather.) No, it was Phoebe. I have no idea what she did, but later examination of the cage shows that she definitely, for-sure didn’t do it until after I let her out. All the blood is outside. But it’s everywhere–on 3 walls, on the ceiling, and, like I said, on the floor. I have no idea what happened, though it looks like maybe she slipped off the outside of the cage and just caught a wing feather the wrong way, on the way down. Totally unpreventable, except by keeping her in all the time, which is cruel. :/

So I guess I should buy some hydrogen peroxide while I’m buying cold medicine, today. Nothing better for removing human blood (look, I’m accident prone, OK? Phoebe takes after her person-mom… and takes it a lot further)–and I’d guess it’ll work fine for bird blood, too.

I set up “Emergency Vet” in the GPS, so I won’t have to look it up again next time.

I’m feeling all tired and spazzy, though. I think this is going to be a short work day, and I’ll make up the hours next week, when I can think straight.

Thanks to the wonders of Craigslist and my so-far amazing luck at finding awesome people in Anchorage, I’m going to have a bed tomorrow night. Yes, an actual honest-to-goodness mattress, boxspring, and frame. It was a guest bed, so not heavily used. And the frame’s pretty freaking cool, I think: it was handmade from small logs. It’s super sturdy and very Alaskan looking. (Not that “Alaskan looking” was a requirement, but it’s a nice bonus.)

Not only that, but the couple selling it are bringing it to me. Plus, they’re throwing in sheets and a comforter. They’re moving from a house to a triplex–and expecting a baby (yes, I’m guessing/hoping only one of them is doing any heavy lifting)–so they’re selling a whole bunch of furniture. I may end up picking up a sofa and loveseat (or one of the two) from them, as well as a plant table. They have good taste in furniture, a big vehicle, and no cats, so this seems like a potentially fantastic match. (They do have a dog, but she’s super cute [yes, irrelevant, I know] and didn’t bring on any heavy allergies or anything.) Plus, I don’t know, I feel good about buying furniture from a couple that’s going to have a baby–it helps me, in that I get furniture, and it helps them, in that they have less stuff to worry about moving and more cash to use for setting up the new place and baby stuff.

And they’re so super nice. I kind of want to be best friends with them. Seriously.

I don’t think I can really impress upon you what a difference a real sleeping surface is going to make to my quality of life; it will be every bit as big as the air filter–which drowns out my upstairs neighbor so nicely–possibly more. I admit, I’ve been kind of edgy, these past few days–I didn’t get into my character well on Saturday (though I still had fun), I didn’t accomplish what I’d hoped to on Sunday, and I’ve felt groggy and socially inept all work week. I’m just exhausted, and it’s catching up with me. I hope to be on track by Friday.

Tired or not, I made lunch for my department (that sounds like a big job, but there are only four of us) on Monday, and that seemed to go over well–either they’re very polite, or they like my cooking. :) I’m still learning how to do all the pieces of my job; I’ve gotten to the point where I feel a little overwhelmed, but it’s probably just surprising that it’s taken this long. I feel like I’ve learned a whole ton of stuff, and I know there’s at least another ton more. It’s sort of like going up one of those hills that look like they’re about to crest in just a few more feet, only they keep failing to do so; I felt like I was doing really well, until I realized I had so much further to go, I guess? Like the hill, it’s not really a bad thing; one climbs a hill for the challenge/view, and I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t want to learn all of this stuff. Once I know all of it, I’m just going to go off and learn other, possibly-relevant-but-possibly-not stuff–there’s no need to rush, really.

I found out that the Alaska Bird Club meets kind of close to where I work, on the first Tuesday of the month. I think I may stop in. For some reason, they have a blurb on their website about amateur radio operators, which I think is cool, but I’m really hoping they want volunteers to work with the birds. I don’t need to adopt more of them, but I would enjoy helping to socialize the ones that are waiting for homes, you know? So that’s a potential activity.

One of the librarians I like hanging out with after work (not that I’ve hung out with any and not enjoyed it!) is getting her tonsils taken out. So she’s out of commission for a little while. But I’m hoping she’ll be feeling way better and up to carving pumpkins next week–if anyone else wants in, let me know, and bring a chair. :)

As far as other holiday goodness, I have my Halloween costume all picked out, and I’m thinking of putting a sign up on my balcony, with some sort of bell-pull or something that trick-or-treaters can use to ask for candy without coming into the building–I already have Halloween decorations on my inside door, for in-building kids. I’m really hoping some kind of fun Halloween night party/activity will pop up, so I can go show off my costume!

The birds are doing great. (My coworkers are so sweet. They ask about them and listen while I go on and on like a crazy bird lady!) I’ve got a smaller-than-ideal cage set up for Phoebe, during the day, so she and Grace can’t fight, but I let them sleep in the same cage together at night; I am going to look into a big, two-sided flight cage or something for them, longer term, but this works OK for the time being. And they’re all up on tables, off the floor, to avoid drafts, though they have a ladder for floor access when I’m around. Their wing feathers and Phoebe’s tail are starting to grow in, so I remain nervous about night frights and blood feather problems. Then again, given how much light I’m leaving on, how much calmer they’re getting, and the fact that I never turn off their radio, I’m really hopeful that we’re past the bi-weekly vet visits, now. I’ve got vitamins in their water, to help them grow in the healthiest feathers they can. So, fingers crossed, things should be good on the bird front. I may get one more lamp, to make sure they’re super well lit through the winter. But, yeah, happy explorer-birds.

Just kidding with the title. It’s 1:40 in the morning, and I’m supposed to be asleep, getting all rested and ready to go for my first day of work, which I know is going to be busy and full of things to learn. But I just can’t sleep. My “bed” is even less comfortable tonight than usual, if you’ll believe that–or I’m just more antsy, what with all the thoughts jumbling around in my head and worry about the birds (I swear I’m not really a crazy bird lady–Phoebe is a special needs bird, I think, and we never got three of them with the idea of one of us living alone with them; somehow, three birds and a chinchilla between two people seems so much easier than three birds with one person, for whatever reason, maybe because we’ve never had neighbors who stomp around at odd hours, or maybe just because Dale’s a better pet-parent than I am, I don’t know). I’ve been trying to sleep for hours, with no luck; my heart’s racing, and, even though I’m desperately tired, sleep just isn’t coming.

So I figured I’d blog. Though I didn’t mean to spend quite that much space complaining about lack of sleep–sorry.

Before I get to today’s drama, I think I’ll go ahead and write about a couple of nice things that happened. On Friday I visited work to start decorating my office and find out what time to show up tomorrow; I have a key and a code, and I exist in some of the University systems, so that’s very cool. Soon I’ll have my faculty ID and email address and such. (Side note, which might make its own post in my library blog: it’s weird and cool and humbling and did I mention weird to be faculty–even junior faculty. Given how much time I’ve spent in higher education, but never going for a PhD, it’s maybe weirder for me than you’d think.)

After visiting my library, I visited the public library, to return an audiobook and feed ducks. How clever of Anchorage to put two of my favorite things in one place! Saves on fuel. After sharing the last of my three day old buckwheat pancakes–which ducks do like, very much, by the way–I walked around the pond, with a ducky escort. I met some nice people with cute dogs. I watched the remote controlled airplane and sailboats, and when I got to the folks controlling the boats, they offered to let me try. It was pretty fun; there was so little wind that catching any felt like a major accomplishment. And after a while, I felt like I understood the basics. They meet at 5:30 every Friday; I may stop by again before the pond freezes over.

I got some pictures of the boats, the pond, and the building with the public library in it. Also, the mountains–this was a few hours after I was raving about how pretty they were to Dale, so the light had changed. But they’re still quite pretty, I think.

Yesterday I met up with my gaming group to play our first session of Call of Cthulhu. It was pretty excellent; I feel like I’m playing the Scully to everyone else’s Mulder, at times, but I am having lots of fun and hopefully adding to others’ fun, as well. It seems like it’s going to be a great game!

While we were playing, a small moose walked through the yard. I saw his legs, but that’s all, because it was dark and he was a bit uphill and poorly lit. I was a little disappointed that my first wild moose sighting wasn’t a full and proper view, but not to worry: on my drive home, I saw another moose. Driving toward it, I thought it was a male moose with a rack, but no, she just had really big ears. I slowed down almost to a stop, to look at her–she was in the median–and she looked at me. It was good. I’ve seen a wild moose, now!

And today… I had meant to spend my last day before work really finishing up the apartment, as well as spending time with the birds, since I was out for more hours than they’re even supposed to be awake, yesterday. And I did make a fair bit of progress on the apartment, so that it looks OK. Pretty much everything’s unpacked, anyway, until I pick up a shelf for the [copious number of] boardgames. But I didn’t have quite as much time for that as I’d expected, because, when I uncovered them this morning, I found that one of the birds (Phoebe) had serious broken blood feathers (again, this time wing and tail). The emergency vet (there’s only one in town that even takes birds, and they don’t have a bird vet all the time–their non bird vet does deal OK with blood feathers, though) wasn’t picking up the phone, so I decided to try taking care of her myself, mistakenly thinking it was just the wing. I will spare you the details, except to say that, despite steeling myself and putting some good effort and styptic powder into fixing her, the tail was beyond my skill, and we ended up driving to the emergency vet, anyway. A couple hours later, we were back home–Phoebe sans any tail feathers (the vet thinks if they all grow in at once, they stand a chance)–and she’s spent most of the day being really quiet and sleepy. I saw her drink, but she barely ate, even apple, which she loves–probably, with the blood loss and anesthetic, she feels extra awful. I don’t think she can take another night fright/broken feather, and I just don’t know what else to do to prevent it; I’ve already got the kitchen light on for them all night, in addition to their more standard night light. I guess I’ll leave the radio on quietly, to make my neighbors’ noises less of a shock. I can turn off the air filter in my room, so I can keep an ear open and catch frights early, but then I won’t sleep so well, either (not that I am, as it is). I’m just kind of at a loss.

Anyway, I feel distinctly more sleepy now than I did when I sat down, so I think it’s time to try again.

With moving and not having non-borrowed wireless access (which not only do I feel guilty using, especially now that I know there are usage caps on GCI Internet accounts, but I also don’t like because it’s really sporadic), I’ve been somewhat lax about updating. But the bulk of my stuff’s put away, and the cable guy came today; so, I’m back.

Moving backwards in time… I bought a folding table and chair, which has improved my quality of life significantly, just in these few short hours. I also bought a couple of lamps, because the bedroom and living room are without fixtures. The birds also have a night light now, since Phoebe had a night-time freakout the other night and damaged 5 blood feathers. (That’s gotta be a world record. I didn’t think she’d make it, honestly.) This means I know where the emergency vet is, anyway.

My first Costco, Target, Lowes, and Fred Meyer trips are out of the way. I have a modular couch that folds down into a bed; it’s pretty terrible, as far as comfort factor goes, but it beats the floor. It was also on sale, so that it cost less than an air mattress. Moving has been expensive, but other than the shipments Dale’s sending, it’s pretty much done for now. There’s some unpacking left to do, and I’d really like to get a few more pieces of furniture, such as an actual bed, bookshelves, and a TV stand (with a TV!), but I have a more or less functioning household, here. Bed aside, I can live without those other things for as long as I need to. And it’s nice to have the really big grocery trips out of the way! Once my garbage disposal is fixed (my own fault; I figured it would work like the ones I’ve always had, even though the community manager specifically said not to put carrot peels–or much of anything else–in), I will be able to make a really fantastic pot of chili. Until then, my kitchen’s kind of terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying, the zombie walk was excellent. There were zombies (and one vampire) of all ages, including a few adorable kids in princess costumes, pink bunny slippers, and cute sweaters, all with zombie makeup. There was even a zombie dog! And a zombie Palin! I was surprised at the number of people who had memorized the moves to Thriller. (Watch out, CL folks! I’m dragging you along, next year! Dale’s already agreed to learn part of Thriller with me–maybe we can do a zombie book cart thing…) It was fun to watch the zombies mob certain [volunteer] non-zombies. And the dad teaching his daughter how to shamble was just too cute. I’ll post pictures of it all after I finish blathering on with news. ;)

The zombie movie, Død Snø (“Dead Snow,” in English), was kind of terrible, but in the fun and entertaining way. I think they must have spent a lot of prop money on a rubber intestine; it got used a whole lot. My table was lively, and one of my tablemates talked with me at length (before the movie) about chinchillas, pikas, and related animals, which is always good. ;) Really, I enjoyed the whole theatre pub experience and will definitely be going back to Bear Tooth, possibly very often, in the future.

I bought my first pumpkin today! (I say “first” because I’m going to carve it sometime in the next few days, because, obviously, I have no patience. Clearly, it won’t last until Halloween, so I’ll have to carve another one. Two, if work has use for a carved pumpkin somewhere. [Anyone want to carve pumpkins with me in October?] I’d been cooking with my pocket knife up until now, but I did purchase an actual knife for pumpkin carving. Priorities!) It’s definitely fall; on the day of the equinox there was snow on the mountains (around here, it’s sometimes referred to as “termination dust,” though it was awfully thick to be called “dust”), and I saw a raven. Knowing it’ll soon be too cold for such shenanigans, I took the luggage carrier off the top of the car, today. I’m rather pleased with myself for managing it, not because it’s so very heavy, but because it was up pretty high, and it’s a big, bulky thing. For lack of a better place, I’m storing it on the balcony.

I still haven’t been to UU church. Last week, I was out late with the zombie thing, and given that I’d tried to sleep on the floor, after moving several carfulls (cars full?) of belongings, I was super exhausted, even pre-zombie walk. I was practically among the living dead when I got home. It’s hard to say if I’ll make it this week, either, since I’m going to go make characters, paint Warhammer figurines, and play Rock Band with the game group this Saturday. (I’m excited! Gamers! And I’m nervous! New people! What if they don’t like me? … But I got along with the person who’ll be running the upcoming game. He reminded me a lot of one of my friends from Pittsburgh, actually, so I’m pretty hopeful.)

You know, I have more to say, I’m sure, but let’s just go ahead and move on to pictures. This post is already too long! :) Bonus picture: the mountains being pretty, pre-snowfall. Next time: the mountains being pretty, post-snowfall.

(The first part of this was written in the morning. I’ll denote where the second part, written after a rather full day, begins.)

I spent yesterday slowly unpacking the car–slowly enough that it’s on the agenda for today, too–and shopping for various things I needed, like a shower curtain and laundry detergent. (Showering in the morning was an adventure.) I also got a couple of things I wanted, like candles and a pottery mug–my giant one is too much commitment for some beverages, and it’s still somewhere in the car, anyway. :) Target has these candles with wooden wicks. I love them so much. They crackle as they burn.

Anyway, I think the birds are starting to settle in, too. Phoebe’s broken blood feather finally fell the whole way off. She looks a mess and seems a little woozy, but I think she’s healing. I’ve got some vitamin-fortified treats in there for her. Grace is continuing to heal. And Francis is experimenting with his new squawk. He used to be such a nice, quiet bird. They all spent the day being really needy and really screamy, with little breaks for walking around the apartment and finding things to try to chew on.

Part of my shopping was, as I mentioned, at Target. Very standard move-in stuff. But the better part was at the Anchorage Market & Festival. This is the last weekend for it, and I wanted to see it before it ends for the season. That’s where my mug came from. Also, some vegetables that are now in my fridge (including a very large zucchini), some birch syrup, and a salmon quesadilla for breakfast. (I’d been up for hours, playing with the birds and by turns carrying boxes and putting things away. Mostly playing with the birds. And I hadn’t eaten, before I left for the market. Which, by the way, I found from memory!) It was pretty fantastic; I’ll go back when they reopen, next year. I posted this pic to Twitter, and people were amused:texas
I still don’t have much furniture–a Murphy bed comes with the place, and I bought a barstool, so I can sit at my counter–but I’m making do. One of my Rubbermaid-type boxes is serving as a plant table. (The plants may pull through. It’s hard to tell. I should buy dirt and a pot today, for the Christmas cactus.) And I have a couple of pretty things on there, along with the plants, as well. The spices I brought with me–an odd assortment based on their ages more than on what I’d do with each one–are all set up by the stove. It’s nice.

My landlord–or, well, my agent for the property company, who won’t be for long, because she quit (it’s all very confusing)–was super nice. She let me borrow some sheets and a coffee maker and a towel, when I moved in. That saved me buying sheets for a different-sized bed than I’ll be buying in 4 months. And her friend lives on the same floor I do, and we’ve chatted a few times. I think we’re going to breakfast this morning! (Which reminds me. I should wrap this post up and get a shower. My clothes will be out of the dryer soon.)

Looking at my last post, I meant to tell you some other things. One is that the gas station right after you turn off of the Tok Cutoff onto the Richardson Highway (it looks like it used to be a Texaco, and the owner just put together some of the letters to spell “ECO”) is pretty nice. Their gas is the standard high price for gas along the Alaskan Highway System, and they have an outhouse (with electricity!) instead of a running-water restroom (also fairly normal), but the owner is a super sweet guy. We got to talking–in part because I asked him if I could get to Anchorage by dark–and he welcomed me to Alaska and gave me a print of some sled dogs (two of them, twins), drawn by a friend of his who is the Iditarod artist. So I’ll get a frame for that, because it’ll make me happy each time I look at it.

The Glenn Highway isn’t at all like the Alaskan Highway. I had gotten really used to the former–and the Tok Cutoff is enough like it that I sort of lump them in my mind–so I was feeling pretty confident, and then all of a sudden, there were these really tight curves, 30-40mph dealies. It was a little hair-raising, because of course nobody in the opposite direction was going that slow. And just as I was beginning to adjust to that, I got dumped onto the freeway into town. I was totally unprepared for driving in civilization, which was more or less what I needed to do (although there’s some argument about whether anyone else on that freeway was exactly prepared for civilized driving, either, that night). It was all very strange and disconcerting.

The final trip mileage was 4202.6. The last day of that was between 600 and 610; it looks like it never made it to my Twitter stream, and the phone is in my room. I’ll look it up.

(This part is new.)

Today, I went to breakfast at Middle Way Cafe with my neighbor (the friend of my landlady’s I mentioned above). Great brunch location, with tasty (and mostly pretty healthy) food, as well as fresh juices. Then we decided to try picking berries, though that sort of failed–there were a few left, but only after a pretty long walk up a pretty large hill, which we might have tried to do, only we had no cell coverage, and she was on call. Earlier in the season, next time! But we went to get dinner at Moose’s Tooth, where I got a 4-beer sampler. Everything was good, though I got distracted and forgot to pick up a growler. Tomorrow, perhaps!

Around the end of dinner, a local gamer I’d been in touch with over the Internet called, and we agreed to meet and talk about the game he’s starting, which I’ll be playing in. Call of Cthulhu. It’ll be on Saturday afternoons for the next few months (unless that’s when my reference shift falls)! It sounds like a good group of people. And he gave me a whole bunch of advice and tips about living in Alaska, everything from “go ahead and buy that bear bell” to what kind of reel is easiest for newbie fisherpeople to what kinds of people to expect to run into around Anchorage. It was pretty great. I feel like I owe him cookies. :)

The birds are a little less whiny, despite my not giving them as much attention today–because I was out. I think Phoebe’s recovering, and Grace definitely is. They both seem alert (well, as much as Phoebe ever is) and curious and generally more like themselves, though maybe a tad needier than normal. I may ask the vet if I can come in on Wednesday or Thursday, so they have more time to really get situated and de-stressed. As much as I want Phoebe’s wing looked at, I just don’t have the heart to put them in the car. It’s going to kill me to do that to them. And it’s going to make them trust me less.

Other errands: getting George’s mechanic appointment set up, since the 3000 mile mark is pretty far gone. Signing a lease and getting a parking spot officially assigned and calling the utility companies. Getting an Alaskan license and registration (though I may put that off for another week or two), as well as dealing with Geico. Getting a pot and dirt for the cactus. Grocery shopping–and man is it going to be a big trip. Finishing with the car unload, including getting the stuff down from the luggage rack. I’m not relishing that thought, short and uncoordinated as I am.

But I still have two full weeks before I start work. I should be able to get all of this stuff and a fair bit of exploring out of the way before then. (Also, I’d like to look at some Web development books. And maybe tune back in to what’s going on in the library world. The mental break has been great–and will continue to be great for at least another few days–but I’d like to be sharp when I start.) I’m pondering driving down to Seward and/or Homer, after the car’s had its checkup. I’d like to collect some glacier water, which I can do on the way, though I don’t have enough vessels to get enough of it for brewing. (I also don’t have enough bottles. Or other ingredients. But the water’s pretty time-dependent, I would guess, what with freezing and all.) Also, I plan to go to the zoo and maybe the Imaginarium. And the Ulu Factory. And I’ll have to pick up a tourism guide to see what else I need to check out. Dale said he wanted me to “have seen everything, so [I] just share the good stuff,” by the time he gets here.

I’m in Anchorage. In my apartment building, actually. (We have free wifi, but it doesn’t extend up to my floor, it seems. Since I didn’t bring down my power cord–and, honestly, it’s super late and I’m exhausted–this is going to be a short post. I’ve got so much to tell you about! But it can all be told in a later post.)

The American border was no problem. I had to sign some forms, including one promising to take the birds to the vet–which I was planning to do anyway. Grace looks … about the same. Maybe a tad better, because she can’t keep irritating her face. I stopped by Petco this evening and got them a big cage, probably the first of two, since I think the cockatiels need to be separated. The drive back was an adventure, because the road my GPS wanted me to go down to get home (home!) was blocked by police, for some reason. I didn’t put the birds into their cage, because I don’t want to wake them. They’re so very tired. As am I. It’ll be a while before this knee is entirely working.

My plan was to stop in Tok, but I got there around 1pm, Alaska time. Maybe a tad after. It was too early to check in to a hotel, and I really wanted to get the birds situated in–or at least near–our new home. I figured, well, I could drive down to Glenallen and have a much shorter trip to do tomorrow. Or maybe I’d push on toward Anchorage, which, obviously, is the solution I went with. And I called my landlord. And, bam, things all worked out.

People have been so nice. I’m wandering into territory I wasn’t going to cover tonight, but, seriously, people are nice. Beyond talking more about that, I will also have to tell you about my apartment move-in experience (not that I’ve come even 1/4 of the way close to emptying the car, mind you) and my gas station experience and all about the Glenn Highway, which is not really anything at all like the Alaskan Highway. I’ll have to show you pictures–though I got a lot fewer per mile, despite such pretty sights, today, because I was a woman on a mission. I’ll have to give you mileages–all messed up on the car, now, but immortalized (for the week) in Twitter. I’ll tell you about my probable book club and table-top RPG–yeah, fer real, already!

I seriously can’t believe I made it here in one piece. The only damage to the car is that crack in the windshield–which did continue to grow, as it got warmer out, today, but only a centimeter or two–and probably some dinged up paint from all the gravel. I didn’t hit any wildlife (though I think I did see some moose, at the edge of the woods, today). I didn’t get mugged or lost in Montana or whatever other terrible things could have happened. The birds are probably OK–it’s hard to tell if Grace is just stressed or if she’s really messed up, somehow. Phoebe broke a wing feather right before the border, because she’s a genius bird with amazing timing. But she seems OK now, sans really-stressful-but-probably-necessary close examination. Francis is a little blue trooper. He held up the best out of all of us. Totally unfazed.

But, yeah, here I am. I’m going to go out and start exploring and making friends tomorrow. :)

This is going to be a short, photo-free post. I don’t want to overburden the tiny little stream of Internet this place is currently getting. (It was down when I got here.)

Lost my iPod, possibly during my window-related preoccupation. Am upset about that. Window crack has not grown any more from driving; temperatures dropping may do it. We’ll see.

Am much more upset about Grace. She is injured, with really raw patches above both eyes–I can’t tell if she and Phoebe were fighting or if she did it all with her pinata toy. (I know the pinata toy made it worse. She was sticking her face in it, and she came out worse than she went in.) But I spent the last 50 miles or so wracked with guilt and crying and apologizing to her for … well, I’m not really sure what. I kept them covered most of the day, because it was cold, and she got hurt, and I guess I figure I should have let them get a little chilly, so I could keep an eye on them.

Anyway, she looks awful. She’s acting like herself (now that that toy is gone) and seems alert and friendly, if thirstier than normal. Obviously, I’m taking her to the vet in Anchorage, but I’m much more immediately concerned about the border crossing. She doesn’t look like a healthy bird. I’m really, really worried they won’t let her across.

I’m calling my Pittsburgh vet and letting her know NOT to suggest people take birds on the Alaskan Highway.

Sorry to be all complainy. The first and last 50 miles were pretty terrible, yes, but the middle 200-some were gorgeous. I passed a bay (well, they call it that) with mountains over it and got pictures of some pretty things. Including two of local trees so you can see them. Photo post coming when there’s Internet. And my motel room looks out onto these gorgeous snow-covered mountains. I think there might be glaciers at the top. Photos of that, too.

Met some fun locals at the “lounge.” (I thought that was a place to get food, but it was a place to get drinks. I ended up with a free soup, though, which was super tasty.) We told logic puzzles and jokes. They liked my muffin joke. :D

Anyway, I’m safe. The windshield is just as intact as it was this morning–like you all said. If I make it across the border, I’ll text to Twitter/Facebook, and if I don’t, I’ll call Dale (I got a Canadian phone card) and have him post here. Maybe I’ll have him post here, regardless.

That’s how many more miles I have to go. (I’m quoting the windshield repair guy. And I’m getting ahead of myself.) Today was, as expected, full of mountains and rivers and wildlife. I saw enough buffalo that I don’t even get excited about the baby ones anymore. Only one individual out of the 3-4 herds I passed was thinking of heading into the road, and it seemed to believe (rightly) that the Subaru was bigger than it was. I suspect it crossed pretty soon after I was gone, though. I also spotted some caribou–one crossing the road and a few along it, including one right on the edge of the road at a slow point, so I got a good look at him. I kept my word about not trying to photograph wildlife; the temptation to do something risky would be too high, and, frankly, you can go look at pictures of caribou and bison yourself. :D

On a sad note, the birds along the Alaskan Highway are either really stupid or really brave. I clocked a raven who wouldn’t get out of the road, even when all of the other ravens (eventually) did–I couldn’t stop in time, so I tried to position the wheels so they wouldn’t hit him, but he was still awfully tall and definitely clunked his head, at a minimum–though he walked away afterward. Something was definitely wrong with him before I came along, but I still feel really guilty. And there were all of these smaller birds that were always so slow to get out of the way; my own birds were getting pissed at me, for all the breaking I was doing. It’s possible that I hit at least one, though I’m really hoping I didn’t–I didn’t hear any hit, anyway. Even a stupid seagull took its time getting out of my way, though he did fly off in time. Is there really not enough traffic to keep these birds with it enough to fly away when they ought to?

On my way up the first mountain, a speeding truck kicked gravel up at me. This wasn’t the first speeding truck, and it may not have been the first gravel (well, it definitely wasn’t, since I heard two or three separate hits from that one truck), but it was a good hit, catching the windshield right near the edge, so that a really nice crack could form. It grew throughout the day, to the point where it was really freaking me out. And, by all [two] reports [from people at stops along the way], Watson Lake is singular among all my many stops in that it does not have a windshield repair place. (Let’s not even joke about a Subaru dealer, either.) It’s tiny. But I asked at the tire place–tire repairs are a big thing along the Alaskan Highway, of course–and the lady said there’d be someone at the hardware store who could point me in the right direction. Two stops later (one to get better directions to the hardware store), I pulled into a lumber yard, and an older gentleman–friendly, just like about everyone else up here–explained to me that he could drill a tiny hole right at the end of the crack, to relieve pressure, and that this procedure often lasts people a year or two. Apparently, there’s a layer of plastic between two layers of glass in a windshield. I had spent the whole day worried that another gravel–or, far more likely, a bird–would shatter the whole thing, and I was happy to find I’d been wrong.

While the gentleman with the drill and the lady at the tire place both agreed that it was better to do something than not, nobody seemed to believe there was any real danger from it. It turns out, people up here drive around with cracked windshields far worse than mine, and it goes OK for them. “Can you see OK?” the lady at Coal Creek asked, and when I answered in the affirmative, she said “Well, there you go, eh?” It seems very probable that I’d have made it to Anchorage OK even without doing anything–and that I’ll still do so, even if this drilling thing doesn’t stop the crack–but I feel a little better, having done something. Whitehorse has a Subaru dealer, so if it’s still growing tomorrow, I’ll stop in there for their opinion. And if it seems all good tomorrow, well, like I said, only 1000 miles more to go. Haines Junction tomorrow (a longish drive–planning to start early and take a long stop in Whitehorse), Tok the next day, and Anchorage the next! Anchorage definitely has a Subaru dealer.

I’m in the Yukon Territory now, but I think the official point where the Alaskan Highway really says “you’re there, for good, this time,” isn’t until sometime tomorrow–there is a lot of weaving back and forth between BC and YT, first.

There was a bit of rain today and a bit of fog. Even with that–and even with the worry about the windshield–I enjoyed the trip. The views were amazing. I only bothered getting pictures for you from roadside stopping places, rather than trying to take them through the bug-stained windows (stained, I tell you! even with 2+ days of rain and a washing every time I get gas, there are visible smears).

Er, one of those is sideways. Sorry.

Also, I’ll get you a picture of the window crack now, after a day of growing and a drill bit, … uh, later. The camera was full (because I didn’t buy the memory stick), and I’m sleepy. :)

The phone really is dead. I turned it off until I get past the American border.

Playlist: Chamber of Secrets–it’s much better, post-whomping willow. And the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack.

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