Thursday, December 24, 2009


Harken back a few years. I was THE expert on luminarias in the old land. Tonight we decorated the Alaska house. Looking at the finished display, I had to laugh. The spacing was shoddy, some bag seams had been placed out (sinful!), and the little tea candles were barely bright enough to light the bags. We put out a third of the number I'd deem adequate, and our steeply pitched roof and lot don't make much of a palette for the maestro of Christmas candle light.
But our little display drew a minor parade of light watchers. Our neighbor's house blazes and both of our homes are visible from the main road, so quite a few folks drove by, many of whom I am sure, living in Alaska, had never seen luminarias.
Lame as it was in comparison to past efforts, I couldn't help but be as enchanted as ever. The soft flicker reached into my heart and pulled some favorite memories with friends and family. The thought of a village street in Penitente New Mexico on Christmas eve, a chosen young couple and baby leading the townsfolk along the farolito lined path to midnight mass, celebrating the birth of God's promise of peace and forgiveness; it charms and awes me still.
Merry Christmas Alaska. And Merry Christmas too to those who live in places with more Christmas tradition. May it never fail to stir us.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Company

Out takes from the best weekly report yet -
Facility One: Routine ops - Preparation for solstice party.
Facility Three: Whiteout conditions. Stayed inside for training covering new paperwork.
Facility Four: Completed an exercise on prevention and response to workplace violence.
Facility Seven: Almost finished knocking out our punch list...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flaky Weather

- At first they were thumbnail sized feathers. You could count ten-miss'ippi from the time you saw them 'til they lighted. The trees were already laced with hoar-frost, so the flakes clung as if they were magnetized. So lacey and light the shovel wouldn't hold them. Should'a used the leaf blower. Overnight things got a bit more weighty. The shovel works now. The operator, however, is not so ambitious because the sky is still falling. I'm waiting for the right moment.
- The Christmas bear on the lawn has no legs and wears a white gnome hat. He's like one of those ads with a splotch of color in a black and white background, all the life in the picture blanketed or dulled by winter dim. "Another week and things will start lightening," we glibly tell ourselves, knowing full well that winter is just begun.
- Next week they predict we'll settle into negative numbers on the thermometer. "They" predict. I want that job. An Alaskan meteorologist is not held to any standard of accuracy. No expectations. Smile at the poor suffering populace from your warm studio and share your best wild ass guess. Don't keep records. Don't look back.
- The weather is unpredictable, so Alaskans wager. The Nenana ice classic puts a tripod on the river ice, and folks wager on the spring breakup. I know someone who missed the gist, and bought five tickets, then recorded the same time and date on all five. I told her she'd better hope not to win, for she'd be famous as a lucky idiot. She corrected me. She'd be a RICH famous lucky idiot, and would happily claim her five shares of the prize.
- The fluffy snow is taller than the rat terrier now. It's grand comedy to watch her poof her way to the shelter of the spruce tree for her morning business. Some day soon she'll brush a branch and get dumped on. Hope I see it.
No. Vik is sure to clear a path off the other side of the deck so the poor hairless mutt will have a place to go; when it stops snowing; IF it stops snowing. Meanwhile the dog sleeps all day in front of the wood stove... and tries to hold her water.
- The cat is well prepared for the outdoors. He's longhaired and white, with an excellent insulating layer of chubbiness. But his idea of winter adventure is demanding to be let out, then wandering to the edge of the deck to watch the occasional vole dart about under the bird feeder. After a minute or so of "hunting", he lazes back to the door and complains to be let back in. If I can't be a weatherman, I want the cat's job.
- Late in arriving this year; this is sure to be the storm that makes the pavement disappear. We'll drive on ice until April. One would think folks here would be expert winter drivers. One would think. Last year in January, there was a fluke rain over the ice. Eighteen cars were off the road in the sixteen miles between my house and the city. Over a hundred accidents in the metro area. Seems lots of folks have to learn every year to slow down, and that fancy SUVs still don't stop on glare ice.
- If you let it, the cold and gloom can overwhelm. If you let it, the serene beauty of Alaska in winter can overwhelm you, too. Right now the snow is fresh, and soft, and pure. The forest is frosted, the field is a quiet, untracked blanket. Snow has it's own smell, and faint wood smoke also hangs lightly in the air. You can hear the little sounds, like the chittering tiny birds, or the skier on the trail in the distance. Ravens return calls across the valley, and somewhere a steep roof whumps off its load. At night the city lights will bounce off the undersides of the clouds, creating a "snow-glow" in the distance. The mountains will reveal themselves after the storm, and the light will play off contours that only show themselves in winter. Ansel would be scrambling to capture the patterns of dark and light on film. I am content to sit here and describe them to you.
- My good neighbor ruins the silence with the little snowblower he loves to use. His dogs are supervising from the window. His wife will light the night with her holiday decorations, which she won't remove until March, when she'll start lighting the neighborhood in a different way with brilliant floral displays in her container garden.
- Now, though, the snow is getting heavier. The afternoon is waning. The fire needs stoking and dinner needs considering. The driveway will still be there, somewhere under there, in the morning.
UPDATE! - I used my own snowblower last night. Then we got another foot. The Christmas bear is gone. (buried) Valdez has blizzard warnings and six feet on the ground, so I won't complain. (much) Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Global Warming "Scientist"

The response to the recently hacked email from research scientists charged with documenting global warming has me miffed. Here's why:

- They took my money (tax) to produce scientific data (truth) and conspired to hide the facts (fraud) from the public (freedom of info act) because the actual numbers didn't support their agenda. Like an arsonist firefighter, a crooked judge, a bought legislator, they violated me, you, their cause, mankind. Science is the search for truth. When the data doesn't support a theory, you try to learn why. To ignore or manipulate the data is anti-science. Jones and Mann should be in prison for misuse of funds or at least banished from the scientific community. (DISPLAY their names!)

- Folks want to know who did the hack, who funded it, and why. Nice redirect, but wrong focus. If the emails are real, they bring into question the entire premise of global warming, casting a shadow on all the untainted research that's taken place. If that sells oil in the short run, blame the guys who lied about the cold temps, not the guys who caught them doing it.
- I know a few things about global warming. When I was a kid, we didn't need sunscreen. Glaciers, in general, have thinned and receded. Big chunks of polar ice are breaking off; of a size and frequency we've never heard of. China and India have horned in on our party, using energy at logarithmically increasing rates. Oil is a finite resource. We'd better be looking at how we will ADAPT to less available energy, much higher prices, and the possibility of high temps, storms, and drought.

- Bad science publicly predicted we'd be out of oil by 2000. Sold plenty of books. Bad science predicted the millenium would crash the world's computers. Maybe measures taken saved a few. Bad science has created plenty of folks conditioned to ignore good information that suggests we should change our ways, or at least prepare for what we think will happen if we don't. You really can't blame people for thinking the whole thing is a hoax, however. Like politics and religion, most folks won't hear what they don't want to believe. And weve also been conditioned to understand that EVERYBODY who gives us information is serving their own purposes, even those scientists paid with our own dollars to just give us the facts.

Monday, December 7, 2009


There are no handicapped people (certified) in our building. So don't bother scolding when I confess that I occasionally do business in the larger, quieter handicapped bathroom. No women, in particular, should gripe. When the cleaning dude had the door propped open, I saw their large private space, with it's floral display, scent plug-ins, wallpaper borders and fainting couch. I'm not really complaining; most guys (including me) are perfectly happy with our mini-stalls and no art on the walls... usually. But sometimes it's nice to have a more private room with a larger volume of air.
Anyway. Hung temporarily on the backside of the wide door for the nonexistant handicapped people is a sign that says 'OUT OF ORDER'. Perhaps there is occasional trouble here, when the sign is moved to the door front to protect people from danger I don't want to think about. I'm sitting in this quiet, large, clean, functionally perfect place, looking at the sign on the door leading out to an increasingly chaotic world. Out of order. How appropriate.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The lady with the broken arm got her cast off, scheduled to start physical therapy this week. Now she can tell all the gals in line dancing class she's seeing a therapist, then wait for the rumor mill to start grinding out the stories.


I'm out of coffee. Yes, it is TOO worth posting about. No holiday shipment. I TOLD them this was an emergency. They just whined about "time with family" and such. And here it is Tuesday. I'm out of coffee and all any of you can do is sit there laughing in slow motion...
Still out of coffee. Tracking says it shipped. Tracking says it left the city. Tracking STILL says it left the city. Tracking NEEDS TO GET A MOVE ON!!
Brown truck on the block. I'm humming Wells Fargo Wagon song. Doesn't stop. It's getting dark, and I'm out of coffee.
Stripping the cabinets. I've got tea. I've got chocolate. No coffee. Not even crappy coffee. Next time I hide a baggy from myself. Dab the grinder with a wet finger, then remember to unplug it. Catch myself holding the empty mug, rubbing it, like a genie will pop out and give me some DAMN COFFEE!
Ok. Get a grip. Breathe deep, imagine yourself in a better place, like a Kenyan plantation or a high ridge in Jamaica. Focus your thought on anything but coffee. Not coffee. Some men survive without ever having tasted coffee, poor coffeeless bastards.
They have coffee in town. It's a poor imitation, but it's coffee. Three bucks for fuel and global warming be damned. I'm driving into town for five dollar coffee.
Coffee. I want coffee. This is a coffee shop, right? I want coffee. Black. Leave the pot.
Just fine, thanks for checking. The box was on the porch when I returned, brewed up a pot right then. Life just percolates along...

Jessie's Wrong!

Two young men came to Alaska in May to work a bit, adventure a bit, pursue fame and fortune; the same things we all came for. Vikki put her arms around the younger one and asked if we could keep him. I didn't say yes. They're still hanging around. I've grown kinda fond of them. Don't tell them, though. I got a rep.
So the older kid left an "acquaintance" Outside. Jessie. She was raised in Alaska (Willow), and told the guys they wouldn't like it here. No pretty girls.
Now there is no documented evidence of my ever actually noticing any pretty girls in Alaska in all my time here, but when I heard this particular horse ploppage, I took issue. "Jessie's wrong," I suggested.
Once again, I want it understood that I was not involved in the mutual "noticing" that went on between the guys and a large contingent of gorgeous females in Anchorage. At a favorite bakery, one brother said to the other, "Jessie's wrong, Jessie's wrong, Jessie's wrong!", once for each of the smiling cashiers. He bought a loaf of bread at each register.
I overheard "Jessie's wrong! Ten o'clock!", when a lovely in snow boots popped out of a boutique. She may have overheard, but she definitely understood, and smiled at them. "How do they know?" he asked his brother. Perhaps it was the stopping in your tracks, googly eyed jaw drop that gave her a hint. Sheesh.
I don't know if Jessie has been made aware that her incorrect assertion is debunct, or that her name is now code. And I don't think the the sisterhood of the forty-ninth state has recognized her insult..., yet. That may change. The younger brother has a plan.
He intends to start a "Jessie's Wrong" Facebook site. He will start by meeting as many Alaskan girls as possible, taking his picture with them, and posting those pictures with a first name and where they live or visit in Alaska. He intends to create a craigslist ad asking for photos, explaining why he needs ladies' help (and their friends) in proving his point to miss Jess. To his credit, he says there will be no restrictions for age, race, body type, hair color, etc. He will just ask for a first name, a hometown, and a favorite pic; nothing racy and no contact info. All in the name of promoting the image of Alaskan women. Thousands will respond. A noble thing, he is convinced.
I told him Alaskan women are notoriously independent and strongly opinionated. He seems nonplussed. I told him some women will be offended, and many are very good shots. He says, not entirely correctly, that bullets do not travel along the cyber "inner tubes." He already has plans for Jessie's Wrong clone sites for other states. Hmmm. I told him I want a piece of the advertising action and if he needs a moderator...

Disclaimer: Vikki says she would be more concerned if I DIDN'T notice a beautiful woman. She says that.