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Professional stuff

I went to Kentucky for a library conference, last week. I had a great time, because this particular conference, the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) Forum, is a smallish (~200 people?) event full of techy librarians. Chatting in the hallways and at meals, I … honestly, I spent a lot of time answering questions about life in Alaska, but I also had the chance to talk with people going through the same things I do, in my work—people with the same goals and the same frustrations as I have. It was a good reminder that I do belong in this field, and that I am not alone in the fight to modernize the library profession.

I haven’t been to a small library technology conference since I was in library school, and the last one, Electronic Resources & Libraries, was where I decided to go into tech librarianship instead of engineering librarianship. So, in retrospect, I suppose it’s unsurprising how much I enjoyed and was reinvigorated by LITA Forum.

It was also a big deal to me because part of the reason I attended was to present my first national-level talk. I’ve been on a national-level panel before; I’ve given a piece of a short group presentation nationally; and I guess my solo presentation at our regional library association was technically international—Canadians are an easy audience, though. :) So I had a good foundation to start with. But this is the first national talk that, all by myself, I proposed, got accepted, put the slides together, and stood in front of a room to present. (OK, a committee accepted it. That part required help. :)) It was a talk primarily about organizational change, at a tech conference, so I was concerned about how it would fit in with the rest of the programs—but during the Q&As for a couple of related talks, earlier in the weekend, people asked questions relevant to my talk—so I think I covered some necessary ground. I’m not sure how much of what I said was new to the session’s attendees, honestly—quite a few people wanted copies of the Web Plan I wrote for work, and there was lots of discussion during the 20 minutes I had set aside for it, so I feel like I contributed useful knowledge to the field. But I also got the sense that a couple of audience members didn’t learn anything from it, and I feel bad about that.

Family stuff

After conference ended, I hung out with my mom. (Apparently, when your daughter lives in Alaska, 7 hours is NOT too much to drive to visit with her. :)) I called it “Momference,” which still doesn’t cease to amuse me. If I don’t think I’m funny, who will, right?

We had a nice time, though we’re terrible tourists: on Monday, for instance, we had a very long brunch at Panera (we don’t have those up here), then went to Hobby Lobby (we don’t have those up here), then went to a couple of clothing stores (we have those up here, generally speaking, but not these specific ones), then went to dinner, then sat in the hotel room, where I taught her to crochet with the help of YouTube. She’d crocheted before, though she didn’t remember it fully and didn’t know the names of stitches, so the lesson wasn’t too hard. I’d never taught anyone before, so thank goodness for YouTube. Her first granny square looked a lot better than my first. :)

She also brought me some apples from home (a few of which TSA repacked wrong, after searching my bag! grr! bruises, after I was so careful!) and three pints of apple butter. That’ll last me a long while, I expect, unless I end up using some of it in baking projects; I don’t eat a whole lot of toast. (Though I am kind of thinking of pulling out the toaster oven and some of my frozen gluten-free bread, so I can try it!)

It’s a little wearing on family relationships, I think, living so far away. Mom was really sad to see me go. I feel guilty for not figuring out a way to see my dad, too, though the logistics would have been really hard. Last time Dale talked to his parents on the phone, they asked when we would be back on the east coast—a valid question. I fly a lot for conferences, but they aren’t always in convenient places. Or, I spend so much on plane tickets (ahem, Philadelphia* and Las Vegas for ALA Midwinter and Annual, respectively) that I don’t feel like I can spend the extra time in the city, exploring, because the hotels also cost money. (I can get up to $1300 in reimbursement for conference attendance, hotel, and plane tickets. That doesn’t even always cover a full conference, unless my plane ticket comes out of air miles, so much of what I spend is out-of-pocket.) Dale doesn’t really like going along to library conferences, because I’m busy the whole time, and he gets his fill of librarian social events up here. And traveling to the east coast to visit family is expensive and exhausting—especially if we try to visit both families on the same trip. (VA to CT is a long drive.) So we have to balance time and energy budgets, and … it just doesn’t happen as often as we thought it would, when we first moved up here. So there’s guilt on top of everything, right?

I’m thinking of taking classes toward another degree (yes, I know, but this one is relevant to what I’m already doing), and I’m honestly kind of hoping Dale will do that degree with me — which means I’ll/we’ll be loathe to travel during the semester. (Another reason I cut the Philly trip shorter than I usually would.)

But we’ll figure out a time to visit, because that’s important.

Travel (and weather) stuff, getting home

Before I left for KY, we were in an extended autumn, here. It rained for a month, I think, but it was unseasonably warm. (We no longer live in Anchorage. We live in New Seattle.) It got pretty cold the two nights before I left, but now there’s a thick layer of snow all over everything and a layer of ice under that. Apparently we’re getting freezing rain tonight. So… winter came.

It’s good to get out during November, maybe? I think? I got some 50 degree sun in KY, which was great. There were roses still blooming and trees with pretty-colored leaves on them. I got by with a light jacket. But it confuses the system, to come back up here to snow.

I mean, my system’s already confused, so it’s no big thing. Getting to Kentucky from Alaska, counting layovers, took 16 hours. Getting back took 15. (Usually it’s only 12 hours, but I had to make an extra hop, this time; there were no direct flights to Louisville from Seattle or Portland.) I didn’t sleep on the flights back, which put my total awake time for the day right around 23 hours. It means I don’t really have jet lag, probably, just sleep debt; that’s pretty much how I always deal with time zone changes, in part because red-eye flights are the easiest way to get into or out of the state and in part because I’m stubborn enough to stay awake, and that works for me. I got home around 2am and to bed a bit before 3, so it’s probably unsurprising that I slept past noon. :) (I also don’t work the day after I get back. That’s just asking for trouble.)

I might be fighting conference or plane plague, or I might just be tired and mildly allergic to … life. And Dale’s got a cold. So there’s a possibility of a really tough weekend coming up, if we don’t take all of our vitamins. Actually, it’s highly probable, because I’m supposed to start a 12-day round of Prednisone (I refused to take it while traveling), which has immune suppressive side effects. I’ll wait until tomorrow to start, to hopefully give all the germs time to settle.

It was nice to go to sleep in my own comfy bed with flannel sheets covered in stupid penguin pictures and no gross institutional laundry smell, and then to wake up and drink my favorite coffee out of my favorite mug and hang out with Dale (even though he’s sick) and the birds, and to eat an apple from where I grew up, and to not have to go anywhere for the day or get on a plane for the next two months. It’s less good that it’s not quite 5pm, and it’s already getting rather dark, but that’s how it goes. I should probably stop writing and go unpack, since I have work tomorrow, and I’m tired enough, still, that I’m probably going to bed early tonight.

 

*Seriously, I apologize ahead of time for Philly. I’m flying in on Thursday, attending conference stuff until Tuesday noonish, and then flying out Tuesday afternoon. If I let them, the librarians will keep me busy the whole time. (This year, the last meeting got out at 12:30pm; next year should be about the same. And I ought to be at the airport by 4:30. So… that’s how much time I have on Tuesday.) I have some good friends who live in Media, so if they’re up for a trip into Philly proper (I won’t have a rental car), I hope to do dinner with them one evening. But I’m not even taking my customary day to explore the city, this trip.
 

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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.

I (this is Coral writing) sometimes look on Zillow for fun, now that Google Real Estate is defunct. It’s a hobby I share with my father-in-law, I believe. I fall in and out of love with houses all the time. But it was never all that serious, because I knew we didn’t have the savings for it, in a market like Anchorage’s. I mean, I very much want to be a homeowner–you know how girls supposedly dream of their wedding days? Not me (although I’m excited about our wedding, too); I have dreamed of owning a house, since at least as far back as my early twenties.

Still, this Zillow thing was just for fun.

Until a few weeks ago, when we saw one of those cute little Alaskan houses that we like so much–and that tend to be well over $300,000, for 2-3 bedrooms and a bath. (This one is not!) We’ve been “practicing” visiting houses–OK, this was the second one ever–and weren’t too serious about it, but figured it was a life skill, for when we do get serious. This house had a lot going for it, aside from a reasonable price: it was within biking distance of my work, a pretty quick drive to both Dale’s current work location and his future one (poor Dale, cursed never to have an office he can settle into), and walking distance (we’re talking about a mile, but still–doable!) to our two favorite bars and one of our favorite restaurants. It was also on the bus line (two, actually) to my work and a bus line that goes directly downtown. Dale didn’t think he’d be impressed–the first place we had visited had definitely let us down–but even I was surprised by how much we liked it when we got inside. Aside from decor dating somewhere between the 1950s and the 1970s (lime green shag carpeting, for one thing–I actually kind of want to keep that, because it’s cool :)), it’s pretty much exactly what we want: it has a nice setup for inviting friends over AND a basement (craft room! DDR space! homebrew space!). And aqua counter tops in the kitchen, which I LOVE! And a mud room big enough to store our bikes! And a cute garden shed!

The house has some down sides–hence, I guess, its being in our price range (OK, *mostly* in our price range–not going to lie, our wedding savings will have to serve as the “reserve” the bank requires us to have [in our own accounts] at closing, and we’ll have to go a few months without a washer/dryer; things will be very tight, this summer). For one, there’s no garage. For two, the seller is trying to sell it “as is,” which may cost us the deal, depending whether the bank’s assessor/inspector approves it; if there’s anything seriously wrong, that the seller is unwilling to fix, that’s going to be that. And heartbreaking. To make the two downstairs bedrooms suitable for use as guest rooms, we’d have to pay to get the windows replaced–and that is definitely in our plans, at some point. We’ll probably have to take out a cabinet to get a dishwasher put in; neither of us recalls seeing one, nor is one evident in the photos. The downstairs bathroom is yellow. There’s a main street fairly close to it (though it’s surprisingly non-noisy, even when there’s traffic). Nothing world-ending. We’ll put up one of those tent/pavilion things to park under next winter, we’ll save for appliances and the minor upgrades the house requires, and we’ll be very happy.

We even got semi-approved for the loan! (It’ll take a few more phone calls, but it looks good.)

So now we’re going to start that crazy dance that is trying to buy a house. Keep your fingers crossed for us?

This part is actually relevant to the title of the post

I know I titled this post “Settling in?” And then I wrote like it had some other title. But I guess my point with that was, yeah, it looks like we’re planning to stay for a while. There’s a master’s degree in CS that should be free for Dale (except for taxes) and will take him 3ish years to complete. By which point, I will probably have applied for tenure. I’m on track to succeeding, when tenure time comes, and, honestly, I’m having a lot of trouble imagining a better academic library job than the one I have; it’s not perfect, but no job is. Overall, it’s pretty great: I get to play with code, I can be productive and successful, I get along well with my boss and the rest of my department (and MOST of the other folks here :)), I’m getting integrated into the organizational culture, and [look, I’m a little bit shallow] I have a kickass office. Dale likes his job, though he could stand to be challenged a bit more by it–hence the degree. Summer pretty much makes up for winter–except for the length of it (March & April are hard) and the fact that nobody cleans ice off of parking lots or sidewalks, it’s actually less miserable than winter on the east coast, in a lot of ways. (It’s prettier. People don’t look at you like you’re crazy if you ski to work, or buy studded tires for your bike. It’s cold, but it’s a dry cold.) It never reaches 90 degrees. We have some excellent friends here. I’m healthier, living here, than I have been anywhere else–except for the two weeks the birch pollen is out, when I can barely function. This state has SO MUCH that’s awesome in it, and I feel like we have years’ worth of exploring to do. Dale has made a little bit of traction in selling people on approval voting and stands a chance of getting the law changed, if he’s persistent enough. He runs Drinking Liberally. I run the local library chapter. We’re pretty integrated into the community, though we could become a lot more so, when we’re really invested in it.

So there’s a lot going for it. As far as down sides, well, holidays are hard, because it’s not realistic to try to get to the east coast during peak flying times, and all of our friends seem to have family up here, or other plans–so Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are lonely. (Christmas is also expensive. I keep saying “I’m going to cut back on sending presents to family,” but I keep doing it anyway.) We miss our friends in DC and Pittsburgh, though we’re not willing or able to move back to either place. (DC sucked out our souls. Pittsburgh is too full of librarians, already.) Most people up here have cats and dogs, so we can’t go over to friends’ houses as much as we would like to be able to. But we had that problem elsewhere, too.

To be honest, though, I don’t even think we’re weighing pros and cons in any kind of organized way, when we talk about staying in Alaska long-term. I can list them, sure, but when you really come down to it, I just don’t think I have it in me to pull up roots again. I’m not sure Dale has it in him. For that matter, I don’t think we have it in us to continue keeping our roots as shallow as we have been, for all this time. I want to settle in, to build a life, to have a home that we don’t ever have to move out of if we don’t want to, or share a ceiling or floor with someone, or ask permission to raise chickens in the yard (when that ordinance passes). I don’t want to hold $5000 in reserve just in case we decide to move out of Alaska. (It costs easily that much.) (And I’d rather have that money for home improvements.) I don’t want to think of my friends in terms of how much I’ll miss them if I move away. I don’t want to think of every single purchase or gift as something we will have to get rid of prematurely, or pack up and fit into a U-Haul. I want to plant rhubarb and fruit trees, to put together a little rock garden, to build a small green house. I want to learn to make jelly; to can fruits and vegetables; and to catch, clean, and freeze (or can) salmon–all of which require a certain amount of stability, unless you’re willing to give it all away later.

In short, I want a home.

I’m hoping this one works out! If not, though, we’re probably going to keep looking. We really like our apartment and aren’t in a huge rush to get out of it, but we’re interested in having our own space. Keep your fingers crossed for us?

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!

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.

I’ve been working for a week and a half, now, and that’s going very well (though, since it’s library-related, I put most of my commentary on that–all of one post, so far–into the other blog). I like my job and am getting more and more confident that I’ll be qualified to do it within a reasonable timeframe. ;) I like my coworkers, my office, and my 3.6 mile commute. OK, I don’t really like the commute, except that it’s fairly short and low-traffic. And it can be arranged so that there are three coffee stands between home and work, if needed, plus the Starbucks on the first floor of the library.

I still haven’t decided what kind of tires to get for the winter. Normal winter tread? Studded? Dunno. There’s a tiny hill right by my apartment building; other than that, my drive to work and the grocery store and downtown and my gamer buddies’ houses: all flat. I could theoretically turn right and go down the hill, instead of trying to fight my way up it, when it’s icy. Not safe, but not risking back-sliding when, inevitably, the light turns red as I start to crest the hill. On the other hand, I think I have to go up a little hill if I go in the other direction, too, so … I dunno. What are the chances of ice storms two winters in a row, right? … Right?

The other big moving-related concern, besides my ever-increasing worry that maybe Dale will get up here and not find work, is … going to sound kind of stupid, I suppose. But I’m fed up with my stupid modular couch thing; it is not a proper sleeping surface for weeks on end. I’d put a random couch-surfer on it with very little guilt, and I’d … uh, I’d probably have to find more padding, to give it to a friend who’d come to visit, honestly. It’s pretty terrible. So I need a bed. Now, do I assume Dale’s going to get here and we’re going to move out of this one-bedroom apartment in short order (a not-unwise plan, given three birds, a chinchilla, and two people, though I think it hinges on how quickly he’s employed)–and therefore get a somewhat smaller, not-uncomfortable bed, ideally from Craigslist, expecting it to become a guest bed? (In which case, how on earth do I move it? Sure, sure, some rope and a tarp and the luggage carriers, for transport, but how to get it into the building? The modular couch thing was a laugh and a half to get in here, let me tell you. And, while I know more people now, I don’t feel like I’ve earned “help me move heavy stuff” karma with any of them, wonderful though they all are.) Or do I assume we’re going to stick out this lease and therefore get a bed that’s suitable for the long term? That’ll be expensive, because I really want a king- or queen-size foam mattress–both because they feel awesome and also because they’re less allergenic–but at least big burly people will bring it to my apartment, that way. And I won’t have to scramble to get a better one when Dale gets here.

The only other furniture I’m looking to acquire, in the near future, is a comfortable chair or loveseat for reading. (Believe it or not, the modular couch thing also fails at being comfortable seating, at least for long periods. I guess I know now why it was cheaper than an air mattress.) That’s also no fun, as far as moving it, so it’s very much on hold right now.

That’s probably enough obsessing over details/complaining about my sleeping situation for one post.

People who follow this blog from outside Anchorage might be interested to know that the “termination dust” (snow on the mountains) pretty much all melted. It’s been in the 40s and 50s, mostly, in town, though it dipped down below freezing a couple of nights. This is the longest and best autumn I can remember, no kidding. There are some really beautiful red and orange bushes, and there are still a few yellow leaves left on the trees. The shortening of the days is starting to get noticeable. It’s dark well before 7:30, when it was light past 8 a couple of weeks ago; and it was pretty dark, driving in between 8:30 and 9:30am, for the past few days, I thought. Then again, there’s been some gloomy weather, with thick fog in the morning and clouds all day, so maybe it’s secretly lighter than it looks?

Other-other news: Those of you who are Facebook and Twitter friends will already know this, but Dale and I announced that we’re engaged! The wedding (that term is used loosely, given how low-key we’re planning to go; it’ll be a doily-free event, possibly even shoes-optional) will happen in October 2010, 2011, or 2012, on the east coast. It’s conceivable we’ll do something smallish in Alaska, too–an excuse to throw a party? Why, yes.

There were other things I might have added–mostly about hanging out with people, as well as coming home and crashing after work, both of which I’ve done a fair bit of–but that’s a good place to stop. I really believe blog posts shouldn’t exceed 1000 words, anyway. ;) (This one does not, by 116 or so.)

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.

I go to work next Monday! I’m excited! And nervous–the first few months at any new job are stressful, and I feel like I have extra to learn, this time, somehow. But I have a crate of decorations (won’t the other Systems folks be surprised when I decorate for Halloween after work on my first day ;)) and mugs and tea and such, so I’ll be more moved in, my first week, than I was for probably the first six months at BAH.

Other things on my mind: I’m still not unpacked. It’s hard to get up the motivation to do it, after getting so close at the last apartment and having to pack it all back up again. Also, I need more hangers, so a Target trip is in order. I may go after I finish this post, actually; I haven’t left the apartment, yet, today.

I met the group I’ll be gaming with, over the next couple of months. It’s hard to know whether a new group is particularly pleased to meet you, but I was definitely super excited to meet them, anyway. A number of them remind me of people I know and like in Pittsburgh and DC, which is simultaneously really neat and really strange. Dale was impressed that I so quickly stumbled into a group that includes SCAers and [some of] the remnants of the now-defunct [at least, as far as I can tell from Internet research] Anchorage Camarilla. I’m pondering SCA as an activity, though I haven’t decided, by any stretch. (Comment and sway me one way or the other, if you’re so inclined. :)) So I am getting Dale to email me Queen of Spades–a parlor larp [think “host a murder mystery”] by Shifting Forest Storyworks–and I’ll read it over a bunch of times and offer to run it, both because I think they’ll get a kick out of it, and because I feel like my gaming karma’s kind of weak, not being willing/able to run a real campaign of anything (at least not soon). Also, because Mirror Room is much too much for a first parlor larp–I know, because it was mine. :D

So, if you remember, there was what I thought was a broken garbage disposal; it was actually a very messed up set of kitchen pipes, which took the [very nice Cake fan of a] maintenance guy multiple days to fix. I celebrated having my kitchen back by making chili–and then I took a picture, to share with you; note Darth Vader’s head (that’s Dale’s) and my slowly regrowing spice collection. My Facebook friends will already have seen it, but I also carved a pumpkin. The pumpkin seeds came out awesome, and poor Mr. O’Lantern is already wilting pretty sadly; clearly, at least one more pumpkin will be needed. Maybe I can talk a few coworkers into having a pumpkin carving party, so I can make one for work and one for home? :)

I don’t think my solar-powered Christmas lights are quite going to cut it, in the winter. They’re already fading by 1am, now, when it’s light out until 8pm. I may have to supplement them with more conventionally-powered lights. (Anchorage recommends that everybody have white Christmas lights up during the winter, to help brighten things up a bit. It doesn’t look exactly universal, this early in the year, but I’m betting people leave them out after they put them up for Christmas, anyway.) Also, I hear the university rents out SAD lights and gives you those spiky things you strap to your shoes when you have to walk across ice–we’ll see whether that’s just a rumor, soon, though.

Summit Spice and Tea is going to bankrupt me. But I’ve started drinking echinacea tea (and eating vitamin C gummies) in preparation for going to work at the university. I’ve dealt with fewer people, over the last month, than I normally do, and I worry that it’s left me with less immune system than I’m used to, even as I live alone and would have to take care of myself. (Maybe I’ll buy some canned soup while I’m out, as a backup.) I haven’t taken the flu vaccine, but plan to do so this week, sometime. (I guess I should get on that.) And when the H1N1 vaccine comes out, I’m definitely doing that, if there’s no age limit. I don’t function well when I’m sick, and if it comes between going out for orange juice or staying home and doing without, I know which I’ll do.

It’s been getting cooler. I think I saw frost on the cars when I looked out last night, though it may just have been dew. If my weather widget is to be believed, it’ll stay above freezing for the next couple of days, but may dip down to 31 degrees on Thursday night. During the day it’s mostly been in the high 40s, though I swear it dipped down into the 30s when I was driving down to Portage.

My one really important and incomplete moving-related task is dealing with the car. I’m beginning to get a little concerned about it, honestly: I don’t have the Pennsylvania registration, because I left so soon after buying the car–and it never came to Dale, anyway. Sure, I have proof that I bought it, but the registration hasn’t come yet. So I can’t get an Alaska registration, bureaucracy being what it is. And, while I have 90 days, sort of, the PA tags expire tomorrow. The plan is for Dale to register it online and mail me the stickers when they come. I’ll print up the form they give you, to prove that the registration happened. And, as soon as the paper registration comes (Dale will overnight it), I’ll have to go to the DMV to get my AK driver’s license and tags. I could just wait until Dale gets up here, which is only a tad illegal, but I want an AK ID before the end of December, so I can apply for my Permanent Fund Dividend in 2010. Also, I need to call the insurance company, in case something happens, as it is wont to do in winter; I can’t go living in Alaska, when they think I’m in Pennsylvania.

So I’m a little stressed about that car thing. But I hope it’ll all work out.

Never did find my iPod. And I’ve unpacked enough that it’s pretty much a sure thing I lost it for real. :/ So I may go to the Mac Store (it’s not a proper Apple Store, as such, but it seems like nearly the same thing), sometime soon. After my first paycheck, if I can hold off that long.

I didn’t mean to include those photos in this gallery, but there’s no obvious delete tool, so you can see my army of knitted pumpkins, as well! And a not so good photo of my porch at night. :)