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If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, there are probably some repeats. But there are some new ones, too. Sorry for the delay between posts; we just get wrapped up in whatever we’re doing and forget to write about it.

It’s January. In Alaska.

Dale’s Alaskaversary passed by without incident–we’re both one-year-plus veterans of living in the state, now; I’m even in the process of applying for my first Permanent Fund Dividend check. Our “paper anniversary” (one year since we were legally married, negative ten months until we have our wedding :)) passed, again, without much fanfare. We got some well-wishes from family, which was super nice, but we didn’t really even do anything, ourselves, that day.

We did go see “Avenue Q” the following day. (Yes, Anchorage gets Broadway shows. :P We’re even getting the Blue Man Group in the spring!) That was enjoyable. Since we were Downtown already, we also walked around the ice rink (a little park beside the Performing Arts Center where they let the ice do its thing–and maybe help it along a little bit–so that people can skate on it) to look at the ice sculptures. It’s only been above freezing twice, so far, that I know of, so even though they’ve been up for a while they’re still in fine shape. We didn’t think to take pictures. :/

I did take a few pictures from my office window, to share how pretty and white the trees sometimes get. In two of the pictures they’re covered in hoarfrost, which seems to come (exclusively?) from ice fog. Or freezing fog. I can never keep straight which one we get, here. Anyway, a couple of the pictures are that. One is of today’s heavy, but short-lived snowfall. There’s also a picture of the ice fountain outside the public library–in the summer it’s a normal water fountain. And then there’s a picture of a neat snow formation against one of the windows of my library. Random stuff from my iPhone. Maybe Dale will post with pictures from Christmas. :)

There’s not a ton else going on. It’s been a little warmer in January than it had been in December–temperatures below about 15 F make me cranky. I can deal with temps in the 20s, though, and it’s even hopped up into the low 30s a couple of times, lately. That’s been good.

We signed up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge–or, well, I signed up. Dale hates signing up for stuff, so he’s doing it, but he’s not logging it on the website. It keeps us moving, which makes winter a lot more bearable. Granted, most of the movement is indoors: I go to the gym, and Dale does Dance Dance Revolution, most of the time. But it’s enough to help beat the winter funk.

Actually, something relevant to that: we have both signed up to ride 25k in the Tour de Cure, in June, to raise money toward finding a cure for diabetes. If you were willing to donate toward the cause on his page (his goal is $150) or my page (my goal is $500), we would both be very grateful!

Also coming up over the next few months, I get to go to Juneau in February for the Alaska Library Association conference–I booked a few extra days, so I can look around town, go see the University of Alaska Southeast (their library has a banana tree in it!), maybe visit one of the glaciers, and just generally get an idea of what our state capital is like. Then we’re thinking of going to Seattle over Memorial Day. I’ve never been before, and Dale’s only been once. It’s a cheaper flight than most places. It’s a fun city. So I’m excited. :) If my poster proposal is accepted, I will definitely go to the American Library Association conference in New Orleans, in June–if it isn’t, I’ll wait and see if I won my election (which doesn’t *require* me to go this year, but it would probably be appreciated) and decide then.

So, despite the cold and the dark, there’s more brewing than you might think! More than I thought, when I sat down to write this post–which is sort of nice. :)

This is a list of all of the things Alaska has that we didn’t have, in previous places I’ve lived. It’s a sister post to things I miss from places I’ve lived before. I’m leaving off obvious things like “my job,” for which I moved here, or “my friends,” who are awesome. And Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Beautiful mountains in 3 directions (though the mountains I grew up with were beautiful, and I love them, they didn’t demand attention in the same way)
  • Affordable housing within walking distance of work
  • Nearly 24 hours of light during the summer
  • Arguably the world’s best mead
  • A whole city of beer and coffee lovers–and enough microbreweries and coffee shops to suit them. The little coffee stands continue to make me happy.
  • No state taxes, no sales tax, and, starting in 2011, getting a PFD (flip side of that: things do cost more … for example, the value menu at fast food places is $1.50 instead of $1, and it’s a $6 footlong, not $5, at Subway–but state taxes were always more painful than federal, for some reason, especially with all the moving we did)
  • Moose (which are ridiculous!), magpies, ravens, and bald eagles
  • The Bird Treatment and Learning Center
  • Anchorage Market & Festival, Alaska Mill & Feed, Summit Spice & Tea
  • Tap Root Cafe (it’s a MySpace page with auto-playing music :/), Middle Way Cafe, Lucky Wishbone (not a website kinda place)
  • (it’s hardly fair, since VA had the same thing, with a similarly awful website, but we never once went there) Bear Tooth Theater Pub
  • (it’s not universal, but is a bit more common here) Space for gardening in my yard
  • Exciting enough fish that I actually want to learn to catch them!
  • A whole network of trails through the city (sort of a down side: you have to watch for wildlife, because they’re kind of dangerous)

I haven’t been to the Seward, Fairbanks, Homer, or any of the other drivable parts of the state (unless you count Tok … but what’s in Tok?), so more things will end up on this list. The Sealife Center seems like an obvious one. Possibly the AK Railroad. As soon as I see it, I’m sure the Aurora Borealis will be on the list. Along with puffins and otters! The zoo, reindeer farm, musk ox farm, and other touristy places I haven’t yet visited are also real possibilities. Maybe I’ll revisit this list after summer. :)

I guess my point, in making these dual lists, is to point out that I definitely do miss some things, but there are a lot of things I’d miss if I left here, too. And I want to give readers from the Lower 48 some idea of some of the stuff here (and vice versa, if I have any readers from AK). Different places are, you know, different.

This is a list of things I miss about places I’ve lived in the past, now that I’m in Alaska. (Seems appropriate to post it on this snowy day in April.) It’s a sister post to things AK has that those places didn’t. I’m leaving out obvious things like friends and family that I knew I’d miss. Also, Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Cherry blossoms; crocuses; general spring flowers, or even grass, in April (it flurries, sometimes, during graduation here, for real)
  • Being able to use free night-time calling on my mobile (everyone lives east of me, now)
  • Being able to drive to the next state over (in less than a day!)
  • Being able to order online without worrying that 1) they won’t ship to me (I’m looking at you, Amazon’s Home & Garden section) or 2) it’ll cost $50 for them to ship it to me.
  • Lizards, possibly robins (I’m still hoping we get robins, but somehow I don’t think we do)
  • (Pittsburgh) The National Aviary
  • Gas under $3
  • Red Lobster (specifically, their cheddar biscuits and crab alfredo – my dad once sent me a recipe book that had the cheese biscuit recipe in it, and it’s not a bad approximation; no luck on the crab alfredo, though I might look for clones online)
  • (Pittsburgh) Alexander’s gorgonzola basil sauce (again, I have a recipe to work with, though it’s basil-free), The Square Cafe, Quiet Storm Coffee, Rita’s water ice, Mad Mex … Even Kiva Han, despite their poor climate control.
  • Chipotle (we have Qdoba, and I’ve more or less forgotten that I like Chipotle better, but still)
  • (Pittsburgh) Phantom of the Attic (comic and game shop–felt friendlier than Bosco’s)
  • (VA) Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s (Pittsburgh had 2/3, but we never really went to them–always too busy or too broke) … oh, and (DC) Eastern Market!
  • (VA) The Skyline Drive – weird thing to miss, given how little time I spent on it in my adulthood, but it was nice that it was there, you know? … not that we lack for beautiful drives, here, but the speed limits are higher, on crappier road surface (not necessarily AK’s fault–frost heaves are hard to fix)
  • (DC) The National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Baltimore Aquarium

This list is going to seem longer than the other, and, to be fair, it is. There’s a lot to miss. I spent [well] over 20 years on the east coast, and despite its climate [miserable winters AND summers] and air quality, I especially loved Pittsburgh. And, yeah, I missed some of the VA things while I lived in PA and vice versa. It’s different, being a full day’s flight away from it rather than a 4.5-hour drive, though, hence my listing it all together.

And that day of flying really is more frustrating than I had anticipated. Just the flights to and from the east coast eat up two full vacation days, each trip. Even a flight to or from California is a large portion of a day. And I just didn’t have any concept of that, really, before I got up here. I mean, my interview flights took for freaking ever, but it didn’t occur to me that we’re still pretty far from much of the west coast, too. It’s hard to get across just how remote it is, despite being a city and shipping hub. (It seems like every Mac purchased in America comes through here.) One rock slide could make ground transportation from the Lower 48 impossible, at least temporarily, and that’s sort of freaky.

On the bright side, nearly every dollar Dale and I spend counts toward air miles, so, although it’s still expensive to get anywhere out of state, we do get some breaks.

It seems like Mr. Dale is pulling together pictures to write up his own blog post, so I guess we have a case of “feast or famine,” as far as blogging goes. Hopefully, besides showing you beautiful mountains and cute puppies, he’ll talk about what he thinks about Alaska so far. People keep asking me, and I just kind of shrug and say “Better, now that it’s lighter out.” But I bet he puts it more clearly, himself.

It really is nicer, now that the sun’s coming back. It was weird the first time I realized it was bright out after 5pm. Now it’s light past 7, which is excellent. Soon, we’ll overtake you folks in VA, PA, and CT. As far as the weather goes, February was strange and melty, with temperatures in the 40s–Dale and I really liked it–but we’re back to hardcore winter, at this point. I think it’s 19 degrees out (I’m writing this around 6pm on Friday the 12th, but it’ll get posted later, when it’s a different temperature, I’m sure). And there were many inches of snow over the course of this week, starting just after the AkLA Conference/Iditarod start and going… well, there were 24 hours of steady snow on Monday and Tuesday, and a little more has fallen since. It was enough that UAA closed campus on Tuesday. I won’t lie, the snow day was appreciated! I was “Technical Coordinator” for the Alaska Library Association (AkLA) conference, last weekend, and it was a bit bigger job than I’d anticipated. But I got to see librarians from all over Alaska and, as I mentioned above, the sled dogs at the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, on Saturday.

I’m a little sorry I don’t have more to say about winter festivities, actually. Next year, we’re going to attend the Fur Rondy (I was too busy with conference preparations) and more of the Iditarod start (conference was going on, and neither of us had a second layer of pants or thick enough shoes or, for that matter, hats on)–maybe even drive up to Willow for the real start. That’ll be pretty fun! But even the little bit we saw was pretty exciting.

I guess our big news is that we found an apartment. It’s cute, walkable to work (at least when the weather’s OK), has a washer/dryer, and will have room for a garden out back when the weather improves! A good find! We’ll post pictures of that, as it pulls together, too. The birds seem to more or less like it, and the chinchilla loves it. So, a happy (if residually stressed out) family!

In other news, Dale’s name change worked fine. He still has to go to DMV, but since his Social Security card and lease both say Sheldon-Hess, there’s really no concern that DMV will give him trouble. (There is some concern that he’s now past the 60 day limit for getting a license after getting to the state, though. Hmm.)

Anyway, here’s hoping this post means we’re back to blogging! Feel free to comment and let me know how you’re doing! If you didn’t get our mass email with info about our new address, phone numbers, and email, that means I had the wrong (or no) email address for you, and you should let me know, so I send that along. :) If you did get it and wrote back, I am still way behind on replying to those replies, but don’t feel like I don’t love you…

And by “this blog should be pretty quiet for a couple of weeks,” I clearly meant “neither Dale nor Coral will be posting for a whole freaking month. And when Coral does manage to pull together a post, it will be through the haze of cold medicine and late-stage-plague dizziness.” Luckily, it seems from my Facebook and Twitter streams as though you’ve all managed to carry on with your lives, even without constant updates on our Alaskan adventures. :) It also seems like moving to Alaska was a good way to avoid multiple feet of snow. Wow.

Anyway, as you can see, the trip to Boston and Connecticut and back was successful! Ella the chinchilla was a little fuzzy trooper about the plane trip. She seemed annoyed, more than anything, and since we were, too, we can hardly blame her. Alaska Airlines has little pieces of paper that they give you, to let you know your animal is on board, which is nice; that said, everyone we came into contact with, from gate agents to flight attendants to security people, thought the policy allowing rabbits, cats, dogs, and birds into the cabin (and explicitly excluding similar, quieter, less allergenic animals like chinchillas) was idiotic. We were encouraged, multiple times, to complain. And I think we will. At any rate, Ella’s cage came in checked luggage, which ended up being cheaper than any of the other options we’d considered–more obvious, perhaps, too–so we set it up before collapsing into bed, the night we got into town. She was totally calm until she realized that was her cage we were setting up, and then she started struggling to get out of the travel cage and into her home. Within a day or two she was 100% back to normal. Now, she plays every night in the hallway and bathroom, and she’s happy.

As for humans, Dale and I are legally married, though we haven’t filed any name-change paperwork. (I think maybe we’ll go by the DMV and Social Security Administration tomorrow. I’m hoping they don’t give him trouble about hyphenating. Alaska Health and Social Services makes no gender distinction in their name-change-after-marriage information, and I plan to hold DMV and Social Security to that.) We’ve posted pictures of the mini-ceremony, with our fantastic Justice of the Peace, here. There’s a video posted on Facebook. (I can’t email it, because it’s too big a file. 85MB, compressed. And iMovie won’t edit .MPG files. And I feel weird having the whole video out on the unsecured Internet, for some reason. So, um, if you don’t have Facebook and want to see the video… we’ll figure something out, OK? Probably snail mail.) Anyway, as you can see from the photos, we had a few witnesses from his family–though not everyone who would have wanted to be there, in part because the living room was already full, in part because we disallowed anyone traveling, and mostly because this wasn’t ever supposed to be a big thing (the ceremony was less than 5 minutes!). Although Dale’s mom got him a corsage and me a bouquet of daisies (which was incredibly sweet and kind of makes me tear up to think about), it really was a short, informal thing. We only have as many lovely photos as we do because we have a talented sister[-in-law] and brother-in-law who were willing to take them. We’re going to do a more formal/ceremonial/celebratory thing in October or November of 2011. (Not much more formal. Much bigger and more celebratory, though.) We’re working on choosing a date and location (east coast), so we can send out very early Save the Date messages. (We may do a second, smaller party for our Alaskan friends, unless they’d like to come to the east coast and meet our east coast friends and family, which would be awesome. But expensive.)

Back to the nominal point of the blog–the move to Alaska–we spent our first few days [back] in Anchorage exploring. I drove Dale down to Girdwood and to the Alyeska resort–the drive down the inlet was my first view of the area just outside Anchorage and seemed like a good place to start him off, too. Sadly, the clouds started coming in, so we decided to drive back into town, rather than heading down to Portage. I will see that glacier, though! Anyway, he’s going to post soon with all of the pictures he took during that trip. And I think a couple of pictures of the birds misbehaving. (Aww, so much screen time for Ella, and I didn’t mention the birds! They did fine. We had a fabulous bird-sitter, who took good care of them. They seemed to have a little bit of cabin fever–she wisely did not let them out of their cage–but they got over that soon enough and quickly adjusted to having a full flock in the apartment. They’ve been ever so poorly behaved since Dale’s been around. :))

We also got Dale a heavier coat, which seems to be doing its job admirably. And he met–and seems to get along well with–most of the friends I’ve made up here. (That sentence made it sound like he doesn’t get along with them all, but I think he does; he just hasn’t yet met them all. :)) So, that’s nice. We’ve been to Taproot twice, Middle Way not at all, Glacier not yet, Moose’s Tooth once, Bear Tooth not yet, and friends’ houses now and then. He doesn’t love Summit Spice & Tea or the Quilt Tree like I do, but I can’t fault him for that. His impression of Bosco’s seems to be similar to my own.

Actually, I assume Dale will talk about what he thinks about Anchorage in his post. “Holy crap, mountains!” gets said a lot. :) I don’t know if he’ll talk about the job search or not, other than to acknowledge there is one.

Oh, hey, there’s an apartment search, too. It’s been disappointing, so far–our current place won’t do, between the stompy upstairs neighbor and the smallness of a 1-bedroom, but 2-bedrooms are slow to open up in our building, especially third floor ones. Outside of our building, we saw one awesome and one mediocre apartment–actually, the mediocre one was awesome inside, but it was in a really inconvenient part of town. And the awesome one got snapped up by someone else. There’s one really perfect one opening up soon–they are apparently having an open house on Saturday–and we’re hopeful about that, despite the apparently huge amount of interest people are showing in it. But we may just have to keep toughing it out until something better opens up in our building or the semester ends (ah, college towns). Part of me hopes we can finish out our current lease in a better apartment within our building–uncovered parking, creaky building, loud heaters, and awful coin-op washers and dryers aside–because it’s hella expensive to buy your way out of a Weidner lease. Keep that in mind if you’re ever moving into Anchorage, for sure. Also, our landlady is pretty nice, and the maintenance guy, despite being overworked, is also really nice and very effective. So, you know, that whole thing is up in the air.

Aside from the living situation and this plague, though, I have to say things are pretty excellent. Keep your fingers crossed–and ears open, if you live in Anchorage–about job stuff for Dale, but I’m pretty hopeful, there.

New Years Ball - falls at 8pm

Apparently, an entire decade ends tomorrow. Since I’ve spent 7 of the last 10 years in school, I’d rather not dwell too much on that. Since one of those years was this one, I’d rather not dwell too much on this year, either–besides, I did that a few posts ago. Finding a job I like in a cool place makes up for the time and money spent on my MLIS. … I think. :D

But, you know, 2010 looks promising, from here. I’m getting [legally] married to a wonderful person–and possibly also ceremonially married, though signs point to that not happening until 2011. We’ll spend our first year in Anchorage, Dale and my new friends will meet and become friends (I assume); and we’ll all keep making new friends, as well. He’ll hopefully find a job he loves, or else get a job he likes OK and go back to school, or–well, there are a lot of options right now. A few good friends are getting married, and we’ll get to visit them and also our families in the spring. We’ll do some traveling around Alaska–at least the drive down to Homer (hopefully with friends) and the train down to Seward, but I’d also like to see Mt. McKinley up close, visit Fairbanks, and finish the last of the Alaskan Highway. I’ll also get to meet a bunch of Alaskan librarians at the AkLA conference, which I’m pretty psyched about, and, that same weekend, Dale and I will get to experience our first Iditarod. (No, we’re not driving a sled. But we’ll watch them run through town, anyway!) I’m hoping that 2010 will also see us get back into geocaching, homebrewing, and (for me) guitar. I’m also hoping I really like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, both of which I hope to try before long. And I’m hoping that, once fall comes, people take us berry-picking, or we find a place for it, ourselves, and I learn to make jam. Oh! And I’m hoping we learn to fish and therefore get to eat lots of fresh salmon. And I hope to become a reasonably accomplished gardener, hopefully with Dale’s help–though that’s a multi-year project.

Looking further down the line, this being a decade-ending New Years and all, by the time the ’10s are over, both Dale’s and my student loans will all be paid back–hopefully long since!–and we’ll most likely still be driving our 10 year old Subaru around Anchorage (or Seattle or, well, I’d imagine somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, anyway, but that’s hard to predict, just with the knowledge I have now) and, I hope, parking it at our very own house at the end of the workday. I also hope we have a goat, two chickens, and a hypo-allergenic cat, but that’s maybe moving outside the realm of the likely.

And, bringing in the timeframe, a bit, tomorrow night, unless this cold totally owns me, it looks like I’m having a laid back evening of beer brewing with friends. Should be a nice time.

I’ve been drinking some excellent mead, decorating my cute mini-tree, and listening to Christmas carols–and my parakeet, very adorably, singing with them. And while I was tooling around on the Internet, I read some blog post that got me thinking about year-in-review posts. I haven’t done one since I was a LiveJournaler–so maybe last year, but more likely, it’s been since the year before. Anyway, I thought I’d give it a try, since my year’s been pretty straightforward, in terms of things happening and personal growth.

I’m still hoping Dale will post something about his move and his thoughts and such, though I suspect it might not take this form. Maybe he’ll do it when he gets to CT and the holidays are behind him. :)

So, let’s look at January 1, 2009. I was about to start my second, of three, semesters of library school. I was worried about job prospects, I was tired, I was sick a lot (with no insurance), but I was hopeful that it would all work out, as far as librarianship went. On New Years Eve Dale and I hosted an “alternate” party, with Rock Band, board games, and only moderate drinking (well, for most attendees–a few were hilariously inebriated, but nobody was dysfunctional), but we still went to brunch on New Years Day with a huge group of people, including a few I cared (still care) dearly about and a few whose relationships with me would best be described as “mutual detestation.” (WordPress/Firefox seems to think that’s a word, so I’ll go with it.) The bulk of the people there were somewhere in between–vaguely positive, vaguely negative, and neutral. It was a poor choice for a January 1 activity, when my superstitious upbringing tells me “the way you spend the first day of the year is the way you spend the year as a whole.” I guess it sort of held true, in this case, but who doesn’t spend some time with people they love and some time with people they strongly dislike, in any given year?

I don’t think I burnt a good luck candle or ate cabbage or kept back a dime, that day. Things came out remarkably well, given that. Although the financial stability of the lucky dime would be welcome. :D

Anyway, the bulk of the year was eaten up by library school and the work I did to supplement library school. I was stressed out and sick a lot. Dale put up with a lot from me–the man’s a saint. I eventually found myself with a number of phone interviews for jobs–not nearly as many interviews as applications sent–and two in-person interviews, one of which, as you know, ended in a great job in a new place, hence this blog’s existence. So I guess the middle of the year can be described as “eaten up by finishing library school and preparing to move.” That brings us up to September.

Before I left, I proposed to Dale. We’d been talking about marriage for a while, mostly weighing its pros and cons, from a practical standpoint, as well as the moral/ethical side of going through a legal marriage when so many of our friends and family couldn’t. (Frankly, our finances and life decisions have been tied together for years. It’s not like marriage is going to be a big change in our relationship. He’s moving to freaking Alaska for me–what more commitment could one ask for?) But, by the end of September, we were pretty much agreed that a legal marriage could be ethical and would be wise, with us so far from family. So, actually, quick future note: we’re planning to get legally married in Connecticut in January. The ceremonial part will follow–most likely in October 2011, given the two weddings and a conference we’re already trying to attend in 2010. I guess it’ll be funny for folks up here, as, right now, I refer to Dale as “my boyfriend” or “my fiance” or “my significant other,” or, much more often, “Dale,” with no explanation, which is not very helpful–but by the time he gets here, I guess the word is “husband” (though I’ll still keep just calling him “Dale” most of the time and being unhelpful). Funny.

Anyway, I wander. So, we’ve been living separate lives for about a third of this year, though, at the same time, we’ve agreed to join lives more legally. I won’t lie: living apart has been tough. I’ve stopped wanting to go to movies or out to places where people are dancing, because those things make me miss him more. But I guess it’s built character. I know it’s helped me fully realize that living the rest of my life without him is an awful, awful prospect. It’s definitely given me the freedom to make friends, without having Dale to rely on and be antisocial with. :) (I joke. But it’s always easier to talk to the person you know than to reach out to new people.) That last point will make his transition to life up here both easier and harder–I’m part of a social circle, and I have a few other friends scattered around, and that gives him some default people to hang out with. But it’s not like he knows them or shares my comfort level with them–or them with him–so I guess that may be harder for him (and them), in some ways. I continue to hope that it’ll all work out, though. He’s way more likable than I am, so if these people put up with me, they should have no problem with him.

I guess the last third of the year has been mostly social readjustment. I mean, there’s the whole learning-to-be-a-librarian thing, which I probably shouldn’t downplay, but that’s been going fairly well, if more slowly than I had expected/hoped. I’ve got a grasp on how to do the bulk of my job, and I’m getting more adjusted to the workplace “politics” (a strong word for what they really are). Nothing surprising there, really.

But I’ve made some really excellent friends, here, and I think that’s worth calling out. I mean, my gamer friends and coworker friends have, for lack of better terminology, adopted me. I’m just this kind of hapless geek from the east coast, and they took me in and invited me to their social gatherings and treated me like I’ve been here forever (at least until I try to talk local politics, in the case of the gamers :D). I’ve had promises to teach me to fish, to make jelly, to get to various places in Alaska–it’s been great. And I feel really grateful to have found such great people, who are so welcoming. If I’d moved from here to the east coast, I’d still be struggling, at least on average. (I’m thinking, especially, when I say “on average,” of my buddy Dean, who taught Dale and me to homebrew, when he barely knew us. He sort of took us in right away, despite living in Northern Virginia, a place that isn’t known for friendly people. He’d love the hell out of some of my gamer friends, for serious, and they him. And, to be fair, there are lots of people on the east coast who were really good to Dale and me. I’m not trying to diminish them at all; I think of them a lot, and I love them dearly. I always just figured we’d found the best, maybe 10 or so, people in the DC area, when I was there. And I lucked into a lot of good friends [and a few terrible ones] in Pittsburgh, when I got there the first time, thanks mostly to my officemate, Ben. So maybe it has nothing to do with where I am, but I’m just lucky about finding the right people. I didn’t expect to fit into life here so easily, honestly. I go through life just waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I’m what pessimists call “a realist.” I worried that this might be the place, finally, where I wouldn’t fit in, wouldn’t find good friends, and wouldn’t be happy. But it isn’t. I’m happy. I won’t say “I fit in,” in a general sense, because it’s too early to know, but I feel like I’ve found a good niche or two, and things are good.)

So, yeah, not an unlucky year, as they go! I got myself a job, made the drive safely, got settled in, and met great people. There was trouble with living spaces and with other logistics, which all seemed so important at the time. But it wasn’t. It’s been a good last third of a year, by all measures. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve gained perspective. And in early 2010, I’ll [more formally] gain some wonderful family, and Dale and I can start to make Alaska our home.

Good stuff, all around.

Now, I want you to have a happy solstice, happy Hanukkah, happy Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, happy Yule, happy day off work, and/or, of course, happy new year! I hope you all have as great a holiday season as I am, whatever you celebrate! If you’re traveling, do it safely. Give people hugs–you don’t know when they’ll move across a continent from you, or whether they moved across a continent to get to where you are. And everybody needs hugs. And get presents for your pets, or your friends’ pets. Pets need holidays too.

Be happy.

<3.

I knew the weather here would be different than the weather anywhere I’ve lived before, but I had no idea I’d actually find out about entirely new [to me] weather phenomena. Last night, we had ice fog, which I didn’t even know was a thing. I guess I suspected it, when they were calling for fog earlier in the day, and I said to somebody (wish I remembered who), “Isn’t it too cold for fog?” But, yeah, as the Wikipedia article I linked suggests, you get little sparkles in the air, like very fine snow that floats instead of falling. It’s pretty! And I think it’s making the trees really pretty, too–though that might just be plain old hoarfrost (“plain old” as in “I’ve seen it once or twice before”). But pretty though it was, it was also nasty to drive in. It looks like it’s sticking around, so the evening commute might be similar to last night’s.

Winter up here makes me wonder whether there really are cultures with multiple words for “snow.” The one word is just not sufficiently descriptive… Which isn’t to say it’s been insanely snowy–right now, it’s not even particularly deep, though we have some buildup in berms along the roads–but it just seems like this huge part of life, much more so than for anywhere I’ve lived. I was talking to Dale’s mom, and she was all hopeful that they might get snow, which surprised me for a second; it’s easy to forget that not everywhere is like where you are at any given time, I guess.

While there’s not really deep snow, and most of the roads are worn down mostly to pavement, the parking lots, at least at work and at home, are all ice. As dorky as I feel, I put on spikies to get from home to work and back–I take them off when I’m parking at commercial establishments, because many of those parking lots are better. Also, I’d rather that not everybody in town find out I’m clumsy enough to need spikies… This would be a terrible place to live for somebody with mobility problems (beyond simple clumsiness), I think.

Anyway, I put my camera in the “take this home!” pile. So hopefully I’ll get you some pictures of the pretty trees. I do have one of the fog, from my office, which I’ll share later in the post. And I may go driving around, trying to find the municipal snow dump sites–apparently these things get HUGE. So much so that, in late summer, there will still be snow at some of them.

The other thing that happened is that I left my defroster on “3” (out of 4) as I was driving in to work. I don’t usually do that–once the ice is gone, I flip it to blow on hands and feet, but I forgot today, to my detriment. The windshield crack is now going epic. Check it out:

In other news:

We’re getting close to solstice. More light will be nice, in a month and a half. :D I’ve been dreadfully sleepy, the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been using the light box for almost an hour, total, over the course of the day–once in the morning, once in the afternoon. I’ve also left it on for the birds while I’ve been getting ready to go, the last couple of mornings, which they seem to like.

I’m decorating for Christmas (with the help of Dale’s mom, dad, and sister, who are awesome and sent me a bunch of decorations)! I don’t have all of the presents picked out or purchased, yet, so that’s part of my plan for this weekend. I need to be up early enough on Saturday to get to Natural Pantry and some other places before heading out to game with friends.

And I’m now getting really antsy about Dale getting up here. If nothing else I’m ready to have someone to talk to in the evenings, without having to go places, which I’m too tired to do, by the time I get home–not that the birds don’t look forward to me getting home, but they aren’t the best conversationalists. I’m really looking forward to showing him around town and to having somebody (who won’t mind how slow and clumsy I am on icy paths) to explore the Campbell Creek Trail with me on weekends and to having a second bird-parent around. And I want to introduce him to my friends, who I think will then be our friends–I see no reason he won’t fit right in. And I know he wants to start his distance D&D game, which I still think of as “an experiment,” though he seems pretty certain it’ll work out well. And, yeah, it would be nice to know how the whole job thing’s going to go for him–I haven’t looked at Monster or Dice or anywhere else in a while, though I imagine he’ll start … well, hopefully immediately, but certainly as soon as Christmas is over.

As for the cockatiels, they went about a month with no problems, but had another night fright this weekend. I blame the noisy building. Both of them had feather-related injuries, which the vet took care of, and it seems like Phoebe bruised her tailbone (if birds even have those), or something–whenever anything touched her tail, whether it was Grace stepping on it or Phoebe herself brushing it against the side of the cage, she would cry. Both birds now seem to be on the mend. Francis just keeps on keeping on–no problems there, other than the seeds he’s thrown into my laptop keyboard.

I am so dreadfully sleepy.

… 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