Friday, March 28, 2008

Hey, I don't want my apartment to be underwater... can you guys sign this for me?

Al Gore is doing his thing on global warming and is shooting for a million people signing this petition dealio. It only needs another 75K at this point, and my apartment is really close to the water, so if the ice melts much more, you won't be able to come visit me and stay in the guest room. So sign up! It took me forever to find this place- I'd hate to have to find another place on higher ground. :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wrap up to Buck's birthday weekend

Buck turned a year old on Saturday, so we went to the Alaska Mill and Feed and he got to pick out a few new toys and some treats. After he made his selections, we went to a park by a lake (still frozen, of course) and hiked around a bit. It was an off leash area and there weren't any roads too close, so he got to run around. He did a good job coming when called the first time and he didn't get too far ahead of me too often. When I stopped, he knew that meant he needed to come to me without me calling. We've been working on that on our walks.

While we were out there, he cut one of his back feet open. I think he'd been having trouble with that foot before. Since it was bleeding pretty badly, we cut the hike short and came back home. He wasn't a fan of the bandage I put on and made short work of tearing his bootie and the bandage off when I wasn't looking. I gave up and just put his bootie on when we went outside so he wouldn't get the cut infected. It hasn't bled again since, so hopefully it's healing fast.

He had a good time eating his tasty dried sweet potato treats and his bully sticks. He's already managed to break the noise maker in one of his new toys, but I'm not minding that at all. I wonder if they made it poorly on purpose? He chose a fox that looks like it's just nothing but 'skin' and he loves to shake it to death. It's very funny. I named it Mulder and if you are geeky enough, you'll get that reference.

I've been working on making a video of a bunch of clips I've taken of him being goofy in the last ten months or so. It's not the best since most of the video was taken using my digital camera before I got a camcorder. I set it to The Underdog by Spoon- currently one of my favorite songs that I think fits Buck's energy level. Plus, he's a bit small, so folks tend to underestimate him. Heh! Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Busy weekend

Well, I finally got some things accomplished around the apartment. I had to force myself to suck it up and stop procrastinating. It was pretty much a weekend of nothing but lots of work and not much fun, but I got nearly everything done I wanted to, so now I can veg out with less guilt. Heh! 

Here are some pictures of what my nearly completed living/dining room looks like. Still have to figure out what to do with the huge mirrors, but at least they're behind me when I sit on the couch so they don't bug me too much.

Buck and I went for about a six mile walk on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which runs in front of our place. It was pretty grey that day as it has been about half the time I've been here, but here are some pictures of that.

I got to see McKinley the other day when Buck and I walked down to the water. That's about 200 miles away as the crow (well, raven up here) flies, so that gives you some idea of how huge it is. I didn't get a picture of it- even the days it's been sunny, it always seems to cloud up on the horizon around sunset when I'm thinking about taking pictures. Those same clouds tend to stick around at night, so I haven't been able to see the Northern Lights from here yet (Hi, Ro! Click this to see the pic of me in front of the Aurora two years ago when I went up to Fairbanks). They haven't been super active which I think is going to be necessary for me to see them with all the city light pollution. Maybe we'll be able to see them when we drive an hour north and out of the city for Buck's herding classes. I'll be taking my camera for that, so maybe there'll be a night when the lights are active early in the night.

And just for fun here's a couple cute pics of Buck and one of Buck and Pandora watching the birds from the bedroom windows. We've seen ravens, bohemian waxwings, magpies and black-capped chickadees so far. I think we'll get more as the weather warms up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Herding moose?

So, I lucked into some info about a lady who raises Cattle Dogs (and breeds them, but not very often) and trains them up for herding competitions. I sent her an e-mail and Buck will be starting classes the second week of April! Yay! Maybe if he gets good, he can herd any moose we run into. I mean, cows kick, too and Cattle Dogs know how to duck under their hooves! Heh!

He'll be starting out in a group class on sheep, the big benefit being that it's super cheap. It's on a farm about an hour outside Anchorage, but Buck and I are used to having to drive that far for our classes. He loves to take a ride, especially when we stop at McDonald's and get him some fries on the way. Heh!

Whoo! More snow!

I know it's practically Spring down where most of you folks are, but we just got a few inches of fresh snow last night and today. It's very pretty and a nice change after all the melting that's been going on the last couple of weeks. The snow banks on the sides of the road have been all dirty and all the places where folks let their dogs do their business and didn't clean up are showing up all over the place. So, a few more inches is like a new coat of paint. Heh! It'll only last a while, I'm sure, but it makes for a brief respite from the mess.

It was snowing last night when Buck and I went out, and wet snow for a massive change, so we got big clumpy flakes. So big that they were super loud hitting my coat and the ground and such. If you haven't done this in a while (or ever), I highly recommend standing very near a street light when the snow is coming down in big flakes. When you look up at the light, it's like 'Snow 3D!' or like standing in a snow globe or something. Very cool. The street light also made the flakes cast shadows and Buck was pouncing on the shadows trying to catch them. So funny! Then, he started snapping at and catching the flakes as they came down. I really wish I would have taken my camera out with me. I need to just start leaving it in my coat pocket.

Friday, March 7, 2008

We have it all in Alaska...

...including Moby Dick!

Check out our Great White Whale, sighted near the Aleutian Islands by a research biologist from Seattle, who, if her friends have any sense of humor at all, will soon have the nickname Ahab.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Signs that you are an Alaskan

I think I already mentioned that I'm pretty acclimated to the cold now. Looks like Buck is too, since he was panting at the end of our walk this morning. I mean it was like 30 degrees (wow, I can't believe that two months ago that was considered cold.-well, it still is in VA- heh!), but we weren't running or anything.

I think it helped that I finally bought some 'grippers'. They are these things you strap to the bottom of your shoes so that you don't fall down on the ice all the time. Like studded tires for your feet. I hadn't gotten any, but since everything has become a solid sheet of ice already (here comes break-up), I went to REI Sunday and picked some up. They are really great. You still slip a bit sometimes on the really smooth ice, but hardly ever. Made for a much quicker, more enjoyable walk, that's for sure.

It really warmed up today- 40 degrees when I went out earlier! Man, I'm glad I wore a short-sleeved shirt today.

Got my plane tickets for my Virginia/Hawaii trip. I even managed to get the flight from here to VA and from Hawaii back here on Alaska Airlines, so that'll be about 5K more miles for me. Another couple trips and I'll have enough for a free upgrade at least. I also managed to get a direct flight from Honolulu to Anchorage. There aren't many of them and it's an overnight flight, but it's only 6 hours in the air and no changing planes. With a little luck, I'll actually be able to sleep on the flight. I'd better be able to because I get in at like 6 am and I have to be at work at around 8 am. That's going to hurt.

While I'm in Hawaii I'm going to get meet up with one of my old Captains from Auburn AFROTC days. Well, he was a Captain then, now he's a Lt. Col. Very excited to get to meet back up with he and his wife and their son, Brandon. The last time I saw Brandon he was a toddler, and I think he's like 11, maybe 12 now. Makes we feel so old. No clue what I'm going to do on my weekend in Hawaii yet. I think I'm too pale for laying on the beach, so I'll have to see if there are any tours I can take or something. I'd love to learn how to surf, but I'm so out of shape I think I'd end up hurting myself. LOL! I'm looking forward to Hawaii, but not as much as I think some folks would. I'm going to be sure to get up early enough to catch the sunrises, but I'm just not much of a beach bum, so I need to see what else there is to do there. I'm sure there's plenty- you just don't hear much about it.

After Hawaii, I'll only have about twelve states left to visit. I'm going to get Washington State pretty soon I hope. I have an old college buddy down in Seattle that I need to hang out with before he moves to the east coast in a couple months. I'll have gotten to all 50 states by the time I'm 40, but at this rate, I might make them all by 35! Hmmm, that would mean voluntarily going to New Mexico though. Maybe not. Too bad I didn't manage to get up to Connecticut and Vermont and New Hampshire while I was living on the east coast. Could have had those all knocked out at once. Oh, well, I bet I'll have been to 40 out of 50 before I hit 35. That's still pretty impressive. It almost makes up for never having been outside the country except to Canada once. Heh! Well, hey, I'm pretty close to Russia and Japan, now- maybe I'll have to check them out. :) They are both closer than the east coast.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Iditarod 2008

Yesterday I got up bright and early to head down to the unofficial start (ie, the tourist and media start) of this year's Iditarod. A little background for those that don't know already. The Iditarod commemorates the trip taken by mushers in 1925 who drove a 674-mile diphtheria serum run from Nenana (up near Fairbanks and where I went dog sledding) to Nome to save hundreds of lives.

So, the snow that had been imported for Fur Rondy last week was added to a bit and the side streets were blocked off to leave room for all the teams and their kennels to have their own area to get set up. The media folks went around and did interviews and regular folks could talk to the mushers and get their autographs. The dogs were pretty quiet until they got hooked up to their sleds- then they wanted to go, go, go! And the other dogs that weren't racing were baying from their kennels, letting it be known that they wanted to go, too, dang it! That's what the guy in the picture above was saying.

After getting a few shots of the prep work, I headed down to the start and managed to score a pretty good view. They stagger the starts, though since it's the unofficial start, I'm pretty sure they don't actually use the times, but they were timing it for some reason. Maybe just to keep things moving. The dogs were loaded down with three people and two sleds, so I'd hope they wouldn't use that time for anything. Each musher takes a rider (no clue how they pick the riders-they seemed pretty random) and then there's a sled attached behind the regular sled with someone really laying on the brake to keep the dogs moving slow. Probably so all the media outlets and tourists and such can get good shots. Not really a bad idea to have a fake start if it keeps all the nonsense to a minimum at the official start. I mean, there were camera guys all up in the dog's faces and in the way as they were counting down from five seconds. Seemed a bit intrusive.

I uploaded the video of it to YouTube- here's part one and here's part two. It shows what the kennels look like (and sound like) and then the cutting of the ribbon and several of the first folks starting (I couldn't work the camera in gloves and it was too cold to have bare skin for all the first fifteen). There were nearly 100 mushers, so I didn't stick around for all of them (it was a bit chilly and windy yesterday- God had to make sure if felt like Alaska for the tourists- in the teens with a wind chill that easily made it feel like zero at best), but I was there for the first fifteen mushers, including last year's winner, Lance MacKey; four time winner, Jeff King; and Martin Buser, who has run the Iditarod *24 times* (I think this year is #25), holds the record for the fastest run at 8 days, 22 hours and change, and has also won four times. Frankly, I find it way more impressive that he's run it 24 times, once just days after he had a woodworking accident and lost part of a finger! Yeah, you have to control the sled and hang on *with your hands*. And in the cold? I can't even fathom how much that hurt. Man. I liked that he went to each of his dogs just before they started and loved on them and talked to them. He's won the award for best treatment of his team many times.

The last musher I saw start was from Evanston, IL. I thought that was rather cool. His name is Hugh Neff, and he went to the U of I. He moved up here in 1995, so I think they would consider him an Alaskan now since he's put in ten years. Heh!

After he started, I walked back home, braving the four inch sheet of ice that are our roads and sidewalks right now. I need to go get some 'grippers' today. These are like cleats that you strap to the bottom of your shoes so that you can get some traction on the ice. Sort of like studded tires for your feet. With break-up coming, I'm going to need them for sure. Walking Buck has become a bit of a production because of the hill we have to scale to get to the park. Hill + ice = no fun at all.

Ok, Buck and I are going to see if there's anyone at the park to play with. The weather seems to have improved- it's back in the twenties where we like it (it got warmer hence all the ice everywhere when it re-froze), and hopefully the wind went away, too. It sounds odd, but it's not windy very often here. Anchorage is in a bowl, and the Chugach Mountains to the east block a lot of the wind.