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I admit, I thought the holidays would be really tough; I’ve spent Thanksgivings away from family, but never Christmases. However, to my surprise (and happiness), they really haven’t been that difficult. I got to spend Thanksgiving with a really nice family, and I’ve spent at least part of every day of the Christmas 4-day weekend with friends. I also Skyped with Connecticut family for almost 3 hours on Christmas morning, which made me really feel like a part of their holiday celebrations. (Then I took a nap. Then I went to my friends’ place for, though I don’t think anyone called it that, an “orphans’ Christmas dinner.” That is, those of us not going anywhere for Christmas got together.)

Actually, the problem I’m running into is that I need to spend more time at home, to clean and organize for Dale’s arrival. (I’ll see him in 19 days! And we’ll fly back here in 28. But there’s no apartment-cleaning time in between those dates, obviously, so I should get on that cleaning thing.) I was a good bird-mom and cleaned the bottoms of both the cockatiel and parakeet cages, today (then turned the air filter on high and took a long shower). A more thorough cleaning will be in order, eventually, but they seem happy to have at least that done. Or maybe they don’t care, but I feel better about it. I’m hoping to get a good deal more of the housework before me done, next weekend.

In winter news, I’m still sleepy all the time, and I’ve noticed I’m unusually quick to get grumpy. It’s not depression, but it’s not normal, either. I’ll up the vitamin D and use a full-spectrum light (instead of a blue light), to see if I can improve that at all. I’m actually sitting in front of one, now, while I write this, in hopes of staying awake through the movie I’m going to see tonight. Also, some coworkers talked me into renting cross-country skis, so hopefully I’ll try that out this week. I know my body wants exercise, because I feel much better just from an outdoor walk across [part of] campus. It’ll be nice to have Dale up here to go geocaching on a whim and walk some of the trails with me; it’s not going to help that much with the wildlife, honestly, but it still feels safer to have another person with me when I go out.

It’s still really pretty up here–why, yes, we did have a white Christmas, why do you ask? :)–despite some above 32 degree temperatures. Some of the roads are pretty much clear, while others have thick enough snow/slush to cause trouble. The plows have been through, at least on most streets and parking lots, making some impressive mountains of snow; I’ll try to get pictures that show the scale of it.

Anyway, I’d been stressing about the holidays, and, like so much of what I stress about, there was no need. I missed people, definitely–still do–but I wasn’t left to feel lonely. It was all OK. Good, even.

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Today we get something like 10 seconds more light than we did yesterday (so says a coworker on Facebook, anyway :)). Civil twilight, start to end, both yesterday and today, was/is 9:12-4:44. Tomorrow it’s 9:13-4:45 (not much extra time, but, oddly, it’s later). Christmas Eve and Christmas, 9:13-4:46. New Year’s Day, 9:13-4:54. Dale’s first day in Anchorage, 8:48-5:36. So, yeah, we’re getting there. Though I’m told the “real cold” kicks in between now and February? At least, my complaints that I can’t see if the Aurora Borealis is occurring, due to cloud cover, are met with laughter and “wait until it’s too cold for clouds.”

Here’s the view from my office–blurry, sorry–at 4:10pm, yesterday.

And I’d promised some snow pictures, which I now realize have been on my camera, not posted. Sorry about that. These are all tree pictures, except for one that takes in the whole parking lot. Before it snowed, the trees were covered in hoarfrost and … more hoarfrost? I don’t know if there’s a term for the frost layer left behind by freezing fog (which, I’ve been informed, is different than ice fog), but there was a lot of that on all of the trees, already, before the snow started. I think it helped the snow stick better.

I also took a couple of pictures of the trees today, for reference, so you can see how pretty they stay even after the bulk of the snow blows off. (And I will try to remember to get pictures of the mountains, now that a lot of the snow has blown off of them, as well. They were all white, but no longer!)

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 know I wrote, a little while ago, about realizing I didn’t want to go out and meet new people anymore; I knew it was temporary and ascribed it mostly to winter, I think correctly. And I should point out, I never got fully anti-social, as I still enjoyed my gamer friends and coworker friends, but I wasn’t exactly living up to my own advice to get out of the house and meet a lot of social groups and make as many friends as possible, either. I mean, I walk that line between introversion and extroversion, even on a good day, so it’s always an effort. But it was an effort I wanted to put in when I got here and suddenly realized I no longer wanted to put in, at some point this winter. And this was not, I feel, entirely healthy.

Anyway, I bring it up mostly to point out that it’s starting to fade. I went to an Anchorage Tweetup–that is, a pre-arranged meetup of a bunch of people from Twitter–last night. MC ended up going with me, which was nice, because I had that extra impetus not to wimp out and someone to talk to when I got shy. But people were super fun–I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. And I’m also going to a geocaching event on Monday night–with bonfires! I’m pretty psyched about it, actually, even though I have yet to find a geocache in Alaska. But this success is a good reminder–my existing friends are all awesome, but it’s good to have friends for all of your hobbies. While these folks will game and brew beer and talk crafts and computers with me, they may not dig the geocaching, for instance, or having book talks. So I’m kind of glad to be getting out of that funk. (And I’m also glad that’s as far as that funk extended. “I don’t want to go meet brand new people” is hardly a stretch from normal-me.)

The whole weekend’s been good, so far! After sleeping in a bit to recover from the tweetup (and the constant exhaustion I’m feeling, probably due to so little daylight?), I met up with the gamer friends today, as per usual. We kvetched for a while, then headed out to the Celestial Meads open house. I feel like I should point out, everything at Celestial is good; some Raizon d’ Etre may even have made its way home with me. ;) Next stop was Taproot, the hippie cafe, where a local singer and her fiddler and guitar player were performing. That was fun, until the place got too crowded–I note the storefront beside them is empty and sincerely hope they’ll acquire it and expand! It really might have stayed fun, but I took the opportunity to head out with the bulk of the friends I came with, who were off to kvetch some more. And, bonus, I found out most of them are around on Christmas Day, which means we can hang out together. So I’m doing a geocaching solstice thing Monday, a pagan solstice thing on Wednesday or Thursday, “cyber Christmas” with Connecticut family and a Christmas get-together with friends on Friday, and then gaming or partying or something on Saturday. Awesome sauce!

Now it’s almost 3am. I should go to bed, but I’m having a hot herbal tea, both for hydration (mead and cold air will get you) and for sleeping help. So, while I finish, I’ll upload those moose pictures I promised. :)

As far as the last of the moving process, Dale should blog it (and maybe he will), but there’s happenings there. He’s now formally unemployed. (So, the search for computer programmer jobs in Anchorage begins in earnest.) He’ll head up to his parents’ place later this week–hopefully after some of that snow clears, on the east coast–and hang out there. I’m so super psyched about seeing him again and showing him around up here and introducing him to everybody! The birds will be happy to see him, too. :)

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.

It’s not even twenty days until the solstice, and at 3pm, it’s still fairly light out.

It’ll be getting dark within the next hour, hour and a half–and 5pm will seem like night. It’ll get light again a little after 9am.

I thought I was adjusting well, until I realized that, yeah, I’ve been tired all the time for the past couple of weeks. It might be the amount of light. I don’t know.

It’s also not that cold. It’s gotten above freezing, several days this week.

Anyway, the solstice is coming up. December 21, Anchorage – Civil twilight: 9:12am. Sunrise: 10:14am. Sunset: 3:41pm. End civil twilight: 4:44pm. (And on the 22nd, it’s all the same, except that sunrise and sunset *both* happen one minute later. For comparison, Pittsburgh – Civil twilight: 7:09am. Sunrise: 7:40am. Sunset: 4:57pm. End civil twilight: 5:27pm.) I think I may arrange to go home early that day, so that I can leave a candle lit through the entire night–I’ve always liked that tradition (or religious observation, depending), and it seems more important, up here, somehow.

It’ll be brighter out, again, by the time Dale gets here, than it is now. It may still seem a little weird for him, but not nearly as weird as it might if he were coming for Christmas.

… 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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