Friday, January 30, 2009

Traveling in AK: Volcanic Eruptions

-- cue Indiana Jones theme music--

Travels continues to be my biggest Alaskan adventure. I am about to set off on three weeks of travel around the last frontier, and a volcano is planning to toy with my travel plans.

Redoubt is rumbling like she did in 89, so an eruption is imminent. Perched 50 miles west of Anchorage, the ash plume will impact air travel around Anchorage, our state's transportation hub. The last time she blew from Dec '89 to April '90. Ash settled far and wide along the Aleutian chain and on up into interior around Fairbanks.

My travels have me leaving the Emerald Isle for -40 degree weather in Fairbanks. The last time I was in Fairbanks was in late summer 2004, and it was 80 degrees. heh. My most anticipated highlight of the trip is the possibility of seeing Northern Lights. My camera is packed.

I return to Anchorage to spend a week thawing in single digit (but above 0) degree weather while working at Elmendorf AFB. Throughout my travels, my company has equipped me with an air mask and plastic bags for my electronics.

For the homefront, we have water, matches, batteries, flashlights, new air filters for the cars, plenty of dog food and that of the human variety. Like any storm, we'll hunker down and limit our outdoor activities for a while. Tok will be agitated, but I am sure he will cope.
To watch Redoubt:

Redoubt Volcano Latest Observations:

Intense seismicity continues at Redoubt this afternoon. Clear webcam views, satellite, and radar data from earlier today indicate that the volcano has not yet erupted.
Clouds have moved in to obscure the webcam view over the last hour.
An AVO observation flight returned in the last hour and reports no sign of ash emission, but observed significant steaming from a new melt depression at the mouth of the summit crater near the vent area of the 1989-90 eruption.

The Aviation Color Code remains at ORANGE and the Volcano Alert Level remains at WATCH.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

On Thursday, 29 Jan, Sustainable Kodiak hosted a panel discussion on the new changes coming to Kodiak's waste management program. Kodiak Island Borough adopted a new Solid Waste Management Plan, and it contains recommendations to increase the amount of recycling and decrease the amount of waste headed to our landfill.

At the current rate, our landfill will be FULL in 2014. To combat this, panel members and Sustainable Kodiak members encourage us to:

REDUCE: Be thoughtful consumers: purchase items with less packaging
REUSE: Reuse items: be creative, be artistic, pay it forward.
RECYCLE: Check out Threhold Recycling's list of Acceptable Items (below)

The Solid Waste Advisory Board is looking for volunteers to help with public outreach to educate our fellow residents on the three Rs and make a cultural shift in how we handle waste in this pristine environment in which we live. To understand how this committee will conduct outreach, click the hyperlink above to read the plan and view the recommendations. To volunteer, contact Sustainable Kodiak.

Accepted Items
Corrugated Cardboard (OCC)
Boxes and sheet cardboard
Mixed Paperboard
any non corrugated cardboard, or OCC with shiny finish
Office Paper
White printer paper, unused or with ink
Daily newspaper or similar type of paper
Shiny finished pages
Hard or paperbacked
Any file folders
Stationary paper
Mixed colored paper
Shipping, mailing, interoffice With or without windows
Junk mail/Voting pamphlets
Any mail that doesn’t interest you, please don’t throw away
Carbonless forms
Fill-in forms without a carbon form
Bond paper
Ink-jet printer paper
Manila folders
File folders
Store receipts
Usually falls under stationary paper
Blueprint paper
Architectural layout of building
Styrofoam packing peanuts
These are available to the public from us at no cost for reuse
HDPE#2 Natural
White/clear in color, usually milk jugs
HDPE#2 Colored
Variety of color’s, primarily soap and detergent bottles
PET#1 Clear
Transparent or semi-transparent, water, soda, juice bottles
OTHER plastics-Various Number codes
Plastics without specific codes, we take all plastics!!!
Plastic Film
Bags, Shrink wrap, Bubble wrap, etc.
Soda, beer, juice cans aluminum siding, gutters
Tin cans
Soup cans, coffee cans
Cell phones
Old cell phones-collected for school funding
Ink-jet cartridges
Used ink-jet cartridges-collected for school funding

Tires: $.30 per pound charge, drop off at plant during business hours
Electronics: $.50 per pound charge, drop off at plant during business hours
Appliances: $25.00 refrigerant removal fee, all others are free of charge
Light bulbs: $1.50 per pound charge, drop off at plant during business hours
Batteries: All household and car batteries, free of charge
Document destruction: $.15 per pound charge, we have a commercial shredder at the plant

Eagles and Canneries

It's crab season, and the eagles are permanently stationed at the canneries. On my way to the base, I crested the hill into downtown, and I was shocked at the amount of eagles in the sky. I looked along the rooftops and counted nearly 150 eagles perched, looking for a meal. Along Rezanof, eagles sit in trees, on house rooftops, and further up on the hillside. Juveniles intermix with the adults, making for a very noisy harbor. The eagles calls echoed off the metal rooftops. Although it was overcast, the pictures turned out better than I had hoped. Enjoy.

I got mooned.

A juvenile got ousted from his seat.

Eagles fly over the homes along Rezanof, a main road that overlooks the harbor and canneries.

It looks as if they are having a conversation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mushing 101

So Big Mama can brag about her grandson, I am providing a couple of resources to inform you about mushing/dog sledding.

Usually done with teams of huskies/malamutes/or mutts in between, mushing is a popular winter sport than extends into the summer. Using sleds in the winter and either bikes or ATVs in the summer, Alaskans can train their teams along trails year round. Many boroughs have specific mushing trails within our park system. Like cross country trails, these trails have a special-use designation and if close to a land parcel/personal property, actually add value to that land's worth.

Brad and I have no desire to own a dog sled team, but we want to train Tok to mush. He is half malamute and half Siberian husky, which are two common breeds in Alaskan dog sledding (mushing). This innate behavior is evident in our puppy: he likes to lead our hikes, literally pulls Brad up hills, and has become very agile as he grows into his feet.

Some basic informational sites:

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I found a dog musher! A fellow Rotarian in Wasilla is a former musher. She offered to help me train Tok. In two weeks, I will meet with her and her husband (and their exchange student) for an afternoon chat about mushing, commands, life, and key tricks of the trade. To find a female, one from the east coast, who knows dogs, and is not judgemental is exactly what I need to train Tok.

As we talked about Tok, I showed her my album of his past 6 months with us: the 3 month old furball, the adolscent who I brought home to Kodiak, and our latest picstures of the 70 pound large-pawed ball fetcher.
The best part: her first mush dog was named, Tok. ::insert big cheesy grin::

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Deep Freezer

Ah, the joys of home ownership. We now own a deep freezer. In true Alaskan fashion, it holds a turkey, alaskan king crab legs, and king salmon. Gosh willing, it will soon hold caribou. Our neighbor, Jason, is hunting while in St. Paul. Last year, he scored a nice bou, and this year he aims (heh, sorry could not resist the pun) to bring home two: one of which shall be our's.

As I moved the king crab, I got stuck again. Like cacti, the crab can pinch you, cut skins, and draw blood if not handled correctly. But man, are they good when you crack those shells. mmmmmm.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rotary Youth Exchange

I accompanied two students to Wasilla: Bruna, our Brazilian exchange student and Angie, our local Kodiakian bound for another world. I have been here since Wed, and tonight was the highlight of my trip. Angie found out that she is bound for Denmark.
Luckily, attending our event is our current Danish exchange student, Cris, and our Alaskan, Riley, who went to Denmark last year. After our dinner, the four of us sat down and went brain dumped on Angie, who giddily kicked her heels as we described the Danish culture, the public transit, the difference in schooling, and, of course, Legoland.

Bruna, our Brazilian exchange student, is the center of attention. She has loved our soccer playing between our events at the Wasilla Sports Complex. She reminds me of Paula: loud, late, loving, and extremely compassionate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Elmer Fudd

Elmer, er, um, I mean, Brad caught a raaaabbit. Yum........

5000 miles away and it is still palpable

The energy in DC is palpable from my pc. As I gaze at inauguration photos and watch snipets on, I yearn to be there. You have read my many posts about how much Kodiak has grown on me, but there are times (esp. when it rains) when I miss DC with a passion: the energy, my friends, the convenience, the public transit, the ability to travel and not drop a small fortune on an hour long plane ride just to get off the island.

I am so excited for our nation, for the inauguration, for the friends who get to experience it first hand (wicked jealous, mind you). Due to the amount of "stalkers" I have on the blog, I will stay away from political statements, but know that I am looking forward to change.

Brad told me that his new career goal is to avoid DC at all costs; therefore, I will be soaking it up during my annual visits to the east coast. In the meantime, I'll tune into the inauguration coverage and trying to work on deadline simultaneously.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rotary Youth Exchange

Kodiak boasts two Rotary clubs: one that meets in the morning (mine) and the other meets at noon. The noon club invited us to designate a Youth Exchange Officer to support, prepare, and be a point of contact for the Kodiak students who study abroad and the international students who are selected to live here in Kodiak.

Next week, I set off to Wasilla, AK, to attend our Winter Orientation. Traveling with me are two students: Bruna, our Brazilian exchange student who arrived this fall, and Angie, our local Kodiakian who is interviewing for her spot among the ranks leaving Alaska in summer 2009. I met Bruna this fall when she arrived, and this morning I met Angie. Both are remarkable young women who seek to open their horizons and experience life, attributes to which I can really relate...

On the plane, I will help Angie prep for her interviews, and I will learn more about Bruna's winter holiday, American style. While I am not crazy about sharing a hotel room with two or more teenage girls for four nights, I am looking forward to the international exchange among those foreign exchange students attending. Perhaps I'll dust off my French texts and start studying.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jennifer & Suketu are engaged!

It is with unabashed pleasure that I publicly announce my baby sister’s engagement. Suketu proposed on New Year’s Day, and they decided on an August wedding in Vegas. Brad and I are super proud to welcome Suketu as a brother-in-law. We adore how he takes care of Jennifer, strives for excellence, and can teach us both a thing or two around the golf course…

We opted to book our arrangements immediately. We cashed in one of our lucrative Alaska Airlines companion fares and booked a spot at Mandalay Bay. One more call to the concierge, and our dining and entertainment options will be secured. Look out Vegas, the flamingos are comin’ back!

Now, unlike her big sister and brother-in-law, I am not sure if they will have flamingos in their wedding photos; but, we may have to get creative for their token. Perhaps buddhas, garden gnomes, or fake deer?

Taking ideas: post, email, or call. We only have seven months to plan, folks!

The love of planning

I love planning. I adore how my calendar already has bookings until November. With the exception of April, I can tell you what I am doing almost every week and weekend until the 2009 holiday season. Sick, right? Nah, I love it.

And even more so, I love complex planning. For work, I have been culling together a team in pursuit of a large contract I was alerted to back in August. This past fall, I gathered multiple team members from my federal practice segment and hosted a strategy meeting. Since the new fiscal year, I followup with potential teaming partners on a monthly basis, and I am glued to all federal programming intel coming from the beltway—esp. in light of the new administration’s economic stimulus plans and evaluation of DoD and DHS components’ budgets. I have lived, breathed, and dreamt about this pursuit. And today, a final piece of the puzzle was delivered to me, wrapped in a bow. I finished my three day stint in Anchorage on a high note. I hosted a meeting with a big wig at another firm. My boss and my new office manager decided to tag along (no pressure, pshaaawww). The big wig and his marketing coordinator, whom I had met before but for a different pursuit, greeted me warmly, and I felt comfortable immediately. I was there to sell a partnership and slip tidbits to persuade them that URS (me) had the intel and know-how to approach and win this valuable and crucial work.

Hook, line, sink ‘er. I got ‘em. I got them so well that my new office manager high-fived me as soon as the elevator doors closed. . Yes, I did the happy dance in response. I was ecstatic and charged with closing the deal asap. Even on the flight home to Kodiak, I opened the laptop and drafted the follow-up email with the information they requested.

A shout out to Flo: forget project management. Focus on honing your subject matter expertise and continue charming the socks off of anyone in your path.

My Morning in Anchorage

So, remember that fluffy snow I JUST wrote about? It is now a sheet of ice. Last night, I could literally BLOW the snow off my car. This morning, all parking lots and roads were slippery-- as in Kodiak, OMG I forgot my yaktrax slippery. My usual ten minute drive from my hotel took almost thirty.

Locals were polite and careful. We took our time, kept our distance, and stopped to help others. At one busy intersection, I witnessed a truck spin so quickly that the chains on his back tires flew off and hit another car in oncoming traffic. Both stopped, precariously picked their way over the ice, greeted each other with handshakes and shook their heads. Other cars stopped as the man made his way to the intersection to collect his chains and return to his car. No honking, no screaming, no drama.

I listened to the radio weather report: continued ice/sleet and 105 mph winds this evening. Oh joy. My flight is scheduled to take off at 1815. Any bets on if and when I get home to Kodiak?

In December, I was stranded in Anchorage for 14 hours. Some fellow passengers had been there for two days or more, so one took it upon himself to book a flight to Homer. There, he took a taxi to the ferry terminal and took the 13 hour ferry ride to Kodiak. We all laughed at him, "Oh, he'll never beat us home." Well, the son-a-gun docked at the ferry terminal 45 minutes before my flight landed that evening. He had rough seas on the way over, but he was warm, comfortable, had movies and a bar to entertain him during the day.

Perhaps I should check the ferry schedule...nevermind, the next sailing from Homer to Kodiak is Saturday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snowy Anchorage

After a couple of weeks below 0 degrees F, Anchorage warmed up. And as a result, we received two inches of snow. The quiet snowfall prompted me to check our weather in Kodiak. Tomorrow evening, I will return to a very wet, soggy island. The snow was beautiful, while it lasted. The dog will likely be depressed as he can no longer bound into the snow banks like the malamute that he is.

He loves snow and hates rain. The rain keeps his daily walks to a minimum. The slate like gravel roads adhere to his fur, and our beautiful black and white dog looks like an old grey Buick as the soggy walks end. And then he goes for a bath, which is defined as torture in Tok-terms. So, I will make do with some in house play while working from home on Thurs and Fri.

Hopefully, my return home will be a bit more peaceful than my commute on Monday. And special shout out to a certain graphic artist extraordinaire in Denver-- the Indiana Jones theme music has been stuck in my head since you commented via email.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Commute to Anchorage, Beechcraft Style

This morning, when I checked in for my flight from Kodiak to Anchorage, my counter agent, Judy (yes, I know all their names by now), let me know that our plane was a Beechcraft. This plane has no toilet and no attendant.

Pshaawww, I thought. I have flown in a box with wings from Mombasa to Nairobi. How bad can it be?

I approached the plane, and the ground crew advised me to wait, “Only one person on the stairs at a time.” Once seated, the co pilot walked the aisle to ensure we had on our seatbelts. She turned around, secured our packages using seatbelts that bolted into the sides of the cargo area (think C130 cargo storage), and grabbed a flashlight. In the darkness that is 0730 in Alaska, she used the flashlight to ensure that she had secured the door. Nonchalantly, she turned to the closest passenger and informed him how to open the door, should the pilots not be able to turn around and pivot the 1.5 feet from the open cockpit to the door. It was at this point that I really started to tighten up.

And yes, you read “open” cockpit. Never, in my life, have I been able to see the runway taxi just as the pilots do. Even in Kenya, our shoebox with wings had a door that closed off the cockpit. Apparently, that feature was not available on the Beechcraft assembly line. Either that or Era Aviation felt it hampered the pilots’ being able to get up, pivot, and open the door, all in 1.5 feet of space.

The runway in Kodiak was, um, slushy at best. We taxied to the end and attempted to fully turn. With the engines blowing full blast, we tried to turn our wheel so that we lined up with the runway. Evidently, the pilots did not think that taking off at an angle was an issue, so we took off sideways. Have you ever been in a rear wheel drive car in the snow/ice and have it fishtail? Yeah, well, imagine being in a plane and doing the same maneuver during takeoff. Tightening continues.

I find myself laughing to myself at the absurdity of it all. The roar of the engines drowns me out, but my fellow passengers decide to take a picture to commemorate what may have been our last flight.

70 minutes later, we approach Anchorage. Through the front window (heh), we see the lights of the Anchorage skyline and the runway. The wind picks up as we descend, and as we land, we pull another one of those fishtail maneuvers. Fun. I tell ya, if my sphincter had not been so tight, I may have laid a golden egg immediately upon landing. Ahem.

The copilot took off her headphones, hollered back to us, “Welcome to Anchorage!” She flipped some switches, unbuckled, and got up to open to the door (with flashlight). I de-boarded and made my way to the rental car garage. There, I used super human strength to pry open the doors that were iced shut, let the car warm up for about 10 minutes, and made my way through the snowy streets of Anchorage.

At to think, my normal commute is made in pjs, and my only two stops are letting out the dog and brewing coffee. Sheesh, what a commute.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tok's Seat

Most of you giggle at the mere thought of Brad sitting in the front seat of the bug. Luckily, the curved roof gives him much more headroom that my old Saturn coup.

Well, nowadays, Brad is not a frequent passenger, but Tok is. He has a seat cover to protect my leather seats and keep his fur at bay. He goes with me almost everywhere. There are a couple of places where he can enter with me, but many businesses cite health code violations and kick him out.

So he sits and waits. He looks around and observes everything in the parking lots. And his perked up ears and licks are such a warm welcoming after walking through snowy parking lots.

Happy New Year!

Brad and I rang in the New Year in ultra low key style. We joined our friends, Becca & Jason and Trudy & Jeff, down at the water to watch our firework display and then retreated to the Dorvals for party hats and a re-run of the NY Times Square ball drop (gotta love that four hour time difference). This was the same display scheduled for Fourth of July and then Labor Day weekend; both had been rained out.

On a clear, cold night, we bundled up and drank hot chocolate and waited on the dock. We focused on Near Island, where the display had been set up. As we watched our breath almost crystalize in front of us, we pointed out constellations (love having Coasties in my life) and remarked on the blue law enforcement light atop CGC Roanoke Island, who was patrolling our area while all three of our cutters enjoyed the holiday in port.

Big pops and bangs followed lots of sparkly explosions, and the show was a big hit with the locals. And truthfully, it was a good show. Forgive me, I, like some of my other east coast counterparts, have been privy to some pretty awesome fireworks shows (Boston, DC, etc), but it was all in good fun and sparkly.

The top hats and appetizers helped us ring in the new year with a delayed Carson Daly. Thanks to all those on the east coast who left messages at 8 PM AST. It was fun to listen to all the excitement from friends and loved ones.

Welcome 2009.