Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Well at least THAT'S over with

Just more or less finished our move to our new house. For those of you playing along at home, following our year in an apartment, we found a great house here in Anchorage, bought it with a minimum of travail and are settled for good.
These, of course, are famous last words. A good percentage of the time when we buy a house I think "This is the house they're going to carry me out of in a pine box." But then the taxes are get outrageous or the neighborhood goes to heck or something, and we're off again. However, at risk of feeling pretty silly in a few years, I think this is the house we're going to settle in.
I hope so anyway. As my last post may have indicated, I am pretty sick of moving. I don't know what I resented more, my own book-owning habit, or the need to get several thousand cardboard boxes to haul them across town. As it turns out, you don't really need to box everything up. You can simply haul it out in armloads and pack loose items in the back of your car. You will look like a rube, or an Oaky fleeing the approaching dustbowl, but if you don't care about that, you are free to proceed as you see fit. And we don't care, so we largely took the box-free approach.
Anyway, the house. It is a good size for two people who like to have a little room and a lot of books. It has a tiki room-compatible space, which is important. It has a washer and drier, which matters more than I would ever have thought it would - I just spent the last year fighting like a savage for the use of my apartment complex's 2 washers and driers. Best of all, here is the view out of our living/tiki/dining room windows...

and that's one of the reasons we moved to Alaska!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

One more time

Boxes...surrounding me...cardboard...tape...
no escape
The Horror!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What goes around comes around

Especially when that thing is called "moving day".
Well, here we are, around a year from when this crazy adventure started. And, as at that point, we are in the process of moving. And, as at that point, I am hating to move. Fortunately, this move will be of a much smaller magnitude - across town rather than across the continent.
But still, there's the finding boxes and the putting things in boxes and the change of address cards...
Ok. I'm better now.
So this is an opportune time to look back and evaluate the year. What have we learned, how do we feel about our decision to move here, what would we say to others contemplating the same move?
Well, we've learned not to step into a really dangerous looking "stream" of glacier runoff water. We have learned that polar bears are not as cute and cuddly as people think they are. We have learned that shipping to Alaska is ungodly expensive. We have learned that in this past year we have only really scratched the surface of Alaska, and there is a lifetime's worth of new things to see and do here. We have learned a lot more about geology now that it is so much more in action in the world immediately around us.
How do we feel about our decision? Pretty darn good. About halfway through the year we began to lament that we had signed a year lease on our apartment - we were ready to make the move permanent. The one thing that is hanging over our heads is that the PA house has still not sold. It is a considerable burden, but we are managing it. We'll be a lot happier if ( no, WHEN) it sells.
What advice would we give others planning to make this same move? Well, other people should probably do a bit more research than we did. Possibly come up here to visit and actually see the place before packing up all their stuff and moving here. If you are a real sunshine fan, the winters might get to you. Residents of the south might have a harder time with it than we did. We are happy with being here, but we have seen a lot of people going after just a year or so. Some of those are military families, who move wherever they are posted, but some come up here for other reasons, then just don't like it. Although we didn't heed this advice, look before you leap.
But Alaska really is a wonderful place - come here, you won't be sorry!
Now I guess I really should go pack some boxes.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Tide is, Wait, it's low

Every once in a while, something happens to remind me that that big bunch of water surrounding my new home city is, in fact, the ocean. Now, I am aware of this fact on an intellectual level. But really, it's just one of those things I am kind of getting used to. Since we're on an inlet, and I can see the other side of that inlet, it kind of fits in my mental landscape like just a big river or something.
However, the gulls have returned to Anchorage with a vengeance. We didn't see them at all this fall or winter (at least I didn't), and now they are all over the place, as ubiquitous as ravens and magpies. It was news to me that they-the seagulls-are migratory, but I guess they are. They are kind of neat to see, although I am told they fight my beloved ravens for territory. I guess there aren't enough discarded french fries in this town for the both of them. Or something. (I say that because I usually see these majestic creatures either in dumpsters or in fast food parking lots going after discarded food.) Every time I see one or hear them, I think "Now what in the heck is seagull doing this far from...Oh, yeah. That's the ocean right over there!" I have thought it enough in the past couple of weeks, though, that it's starting to sink in.
The other thing that recently happened is that I acquired a tide chart book. I did not intentionally acquire this item, it just sort of happened. As I was checking out at the liquor store in Fred Meyer's, right there at the cash register was a big stack of tide chart booklets! They were free, and since I am a sucker for free things to read, I absent mindedly picked one up. They kid working the register, sensing my nautical soul, then tried to sell me a bottle of Sailor Jerry's, which I declined. Anyway, the tide charts. Although I was aware of the existence of such things, I had never seen one before. It took a little while until I figured out what the little fish symbols were and why some figures were in blue and so forth. However, with a little study and a few hints from more seasoned Anchorites (Anchorigians?) I am pretty confident that I have it figured out now. Now that I have one, I am seeing the darn things all over the place. Were they always around and I just didn't see them, or are the new ones out for this year? Well, now I know, so I guess there you have it. The most exciting aspect of this new discovery is that now we have a reasonable chance of catching a bore tide, which is a much-talked-about event up here. A bore tide, as near as I can figure it, is a tide with such a big difference between the high tide and the low tide that there is a big picturesque wave when it happens. How big and how pictureque, I don't yet know. As soon as I catch one, I'll report back - stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Nickname for Jane

There's a bit of backstory involved in this one. My(Jane's) brother has a podcast radio show called Bunch of Dorks. In the past, he and his fellow dorks have struggled to come up with a radio nickname for me, so as to not reveal my secret identity. They have come up with a few I didn't like, and a few that were too awkward for them to say when they were drunk (which is sometimes the case when they are doing their show). So, in an effort to come up with a name that will work for both me and them, they have posted a quiz on their show blog and are asking for votes. Mow is my brother, for those of you playing along at home.
I should point out that the option to say you are just looking for Internet Porn is not one I support, but you should vote your conscience!
While you are there, if you enjoy offbeat humor, stick around and listen to a show or two! Be aware that the Bunch of Dorks podcasts contain some adult content and language. It's not Tarantino level, but I wouldn't listen with any little kids or nuns or other sensitive persons within earshot.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anchorage Cleans Up

I saw something today that I had never seen before in my life. Anchorage actually washes their sidewalks (via heavy equipment, true, but still)!
As I wrote earlier, we are in the time of year known as "the breakup". The snow melts and all the ick it was hiding becomes visible, and all the grit that got spread on the roads is all just laying there, looking grim. The general citizenry does a lot to clean this up on their own, and businesses clean up their parking lots and sidewalks and so. We have seen a LOT of this tidy-up activity going on. Our apartment complex had guys in to rake all the leaves and sticks and stuff from the yards, my work had guys cleaning up the sidewalks and drives, and Art's company does a clean-up day where the whole company spends half a day picking up along a road somewhere in town. So there seems to be a fair amount of civic pride involved in the clean up effort.
However, the sidewalk cleanup was on an entirely different level than this. First a big truck drove down the street spraying water on the sidewalks. Then came the sweepers. I don't really know what these things are called, but I suspect they are the same things that are used in winter to clear snow off the sidewalks. They look kind of like a forklift or a mini-steamroller. However, in this instance, instead of a solid roller out in front, it had a wire brush in the same roller shape. The brush was sweeping off the dirt, but it also seemed to be sweeping up debris as it went! A couple of us walked up the street for coffee a little later, and it looked much nicer.
It is really interesting to see this sort of civic effort to keep the city looking nice. None of the cities we lived in in PA would have expended city funds for this kind of effort, although they surely could have. It takes streets that look kind of grimy and grim to looking much brighter and spring-ier. Looking good, Anchorage!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moose Encounters

Well, we have been seeing a LOT of moose around lately. I understand from long-timers that this is the baby-having time in the moose year. The little newborns are supposed to be something to see, so we're keeping a lookout!

The first sighting was from my work - incidentally the same location where I had my first moose sighting, so that's one full circle made as my first year here comes to a close!

This is the youngster of the Momma and Kid duo that we see relatively often hanging around where I work. He meandered around and snacked on some foliage for awhile. Then he came to rest at the spot on the road where the smokers at work have to go stand to smoke. He stood there for quite awhile, peacefully hanging out and the smokers were starting to worry because they needed to go smoke. No one wanted to approach the little guy because Momma was somewhere around. Finally our biggest, loudest smoker went outside and yelled at him to "Git on back to Momma!" and he (the moose) ran away. Which is nothing to be ashamed of - we all run away when this particular person yells. :)

The next sighting came a couple of days later. Art and I were out with a coworker and her husband to hear a lecture on the Expanded Mind at UAA (!), and when we came out of the library...

This one was hanging around outside, again snacking on foliage. We kept a respectful distance, but didn't hang around too long - she was standing between us and and some post-lecture pie! We waited a few minutes, and she wandered across the sidewalk to get a drink, after which we judged it safe to cross. She kept an eye on us as we went past, but we didn't make any sudden moves or do anything that we thought might upset a large ruminant. And everything turned out fine.

You really do want to pet them and give them names and leave food out in your yard so they keep coming around. Oh, I don't do any of those thing, and I won't, because it would be wildly irresponsible. Also, I'm not trying to anthropomorphize them or pretend they are anything other than large, wild animals that are not to be trifled with. But the neat thing about moose is that they really don't seem to want naything other than lots of plant matter to eat and to be left alone. I suppose the best thing we can do for them is not harsh their mellow.