Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sparkly stuff

On moist and cold-but-not-so-cold days, snow falls as dendritic flakes, the kind that people cut out of paper that is folded into sixths. It immediately begins metamorphosing into unpretty, but uniform, regular crystals that resemble sand. It happens quickly--within a few hours to a few days. This is the stuff I studied for four years.

Before it transforms, the dendritic flakes are positively magical, sparkling like pixie dust. They play with even the smallest glimmers of light, tossing them about and making them dance. They sit on top of the snow on the ground, and in the darkness, by my headlamp, they throw back light and sparkle like a second night sky, mirroring the real sky above.

In other news, here are photos I took of the moon while walking to our lab yesterday. It's not a bad "commute".

Also, also: An 83 mph wind gust was recorded during the wind storm that knocked out our power. When I reported average wind speeds of 55 mph to my colleagues in Tok, they gave me a blank look. 55 mph? Psh. That ain't nothing, for Tok.

Happy Thanksgiving to all nine of my loyal readers!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Niece Week

Now that I am more in control of my own schedule, I need to see my niece more often.

Cool new games I introduced to niece (though they didn't catch on so well):

1) The We Put Away Toys Before Taking Out More Toys Game (Catchy acronym: WPATBTOMT; Neither her mommy nor her daddy is particularly good at this, so I felt the need to stage an intervention.).

2) The StraightJacket Game--Aunty plays straightjacket while baby girl gets her teeth brushed, clothes changed, etc. Particularly unpopular. Response: "NNNOOOOOO! I don't LIIIIIIKE Straightjacket!!"

Here we are in a calmer moment. You don't get to see her face because under 18-year-olds get free privacy protection on this blog.

One day I informed her that she was a little beast. The following morning, she came capering into my room. "Good morning, Aunty Arvay! I'm a little beast!"


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hey guess what?

I now live in a certified disaster area. How about that?

So power was finally restored to Casa Fuzzies last night at 11:30. I was sound asleep, then woke to a chorus of beeps and whirs as my cook stove, Toyo, alarm clock, refrigerator, et cetera came stirring back to life. I had been without power since Wednesday, living by candlelight and the wood stove. On Friday, most of my neighborhood got power back, and knowing that only five homes (including mine) remained in the dark, I worried that I'd fall to lower on the priority list. But, oh heck, why complain? At least I had a wood stove to keep warm, and no water pipes to worry about busting. DL, with whom I had planned weekend work travel, had plumbing to worry about, so we weren't sure until the last minute that he could go. His power came on at the last hour, so we high-tailed it out of town and were rewarded with a pleasant community meeting, a data dump from one of our biomass boilers in a different community, and a stupendously beautiful drive:

Here is the full moon setting in Gulkana:

When we got back, my unheated house was ccccccooooollllldddd. I called the Bs to let them know I had returned safely but was still in the dark. The conversation proceeded thusly:

"I'm ho-ome!"

DB: Do you have power back?

"No. It's really cold in here! I just lit a big ol' fire!"

DB: Well, come over! It's warm here! And we have dinner, and you can shower!

"But I can't leave this big roaring fire! I need to stay here, keep it going, and make sure it stays under control."

JB: I'll go over and tend your fire. Come over here.

"Ohh... awww... but I... couldn't... You don't have to do that! It's freaking cold in here!"

JB: Well, we've always thought of you as one of our kids, and we didn't get you until you were an adult, so we never got to spoil you. Let us spoil you now!"


So, I went over for dinner and a shower and came home to a nice toasty house.

Later, a GVEA crew showed up on my street. It took four trucks and eight linemen. I called and reported back to DL:

"There are linemen in front of my house! I'll get power back soon! Yay!"

DL: Oh good. Go out there and offer them hot chocolate. Make sure they stay warm on the job.

I thought that was brilliant, and started to walk up to talk to them. Then I remembered something JB had told me the prior weekend. There had been some friends over helping me on a project, and I was offering to toast cheese on Pilot Bread for them, and they were all declining. JB said, "Just make it anyway. People will eat it then."

It was an excellent point. Most people will decline out of politeness if they think they will make more work for you, but if it's already there, they'll take it.

So I took a cardboard box lid and set ten styrofoam cups on it, and filled half with tea and the other half with hot chocolate and carried it out to the linemen. Sure enough, it disappeared right quick.

I just turned 36, and I'm still learning how to be a good person. I'm fortunate that I always have good people around me to show me the way!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

And then the wind came...

On Wednesday night, a crazy windstorm tore through our little valley, downing trees, exploding transformers, and bringing down every substation from here to Nenana to Salcha. I've been without power since then. Now, most of my neighbors are back up, but not my immediate neighbors, nor me. The girls and I are enjoying romantic cuddles by candlelight. I called into a meeting of the Alaska Wind Working Group that was taking place in Anchorage and enjoyed the irony of joining a meeting on wind power by candlelight since wind had knocked out my power.

People who didn't have wood stoves were very cold.

I ate all of my ice cream.

Various neighbors called me inviting me over for food. I am perfectly capable of cooking on the wood stove, but I accepted out of boredom and lack of social interaction. Anyway, cooking on the wood stove is not as nice when it's not that cold outside (it was around 20F/-7C). Firing up the stove hot enough to cook overheats the cabin right quick!

Some thoughts I never thought I'd think:

"I'm lucky I don't have running water to worry about pipes freezing."

"Hmmm... I'm gonna go get that extra candle from the outhouse. That'd be right nice."

"I'd better bring my chain saw into the house to warm up, in case I need it!"

"I'd better put a bow saw in the car, in case I need it!"

I guess one of the biggest mental changes I've made since moving from silicon2tanana valley is that I try to be prepared for every eventuality. In California, being prepared means keeping your cell phone charged and having an auto club subscription. In Alaska, being prepared means keeping a saw on your person. In addition to all kinds of things in your car.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Weather whether we like it or not

So... to recap:

1) Winter of 2012-2013 decided to remain until May, making my mother's let's-watch-spring-greenup visit into a mud-and-slush visit.

2) Winter of 2013-2014 decided not to begin until Halloween, and then only with the barest dusting of snow.

3) Real snow came in earnest last weekend, enough to make me think I could ski. It was enough to ski on. However, not enough to fall down without feeling inappropriate amounts of pain. I had a lovely ski, but then I fell down on the way home, and realized in a flash that the falling-down part is why skiing on thin snow over bare frozen ground is generally not okay. Here is a photo of the results (although, fortunately, there is no audio recording of what came out of my mouth at that particular moment):

As I moaned on the ground in pain, with white flashes in my field of view, I decided that this was unacceptable, and that it had not been a worthwhile ski, despite the earlier beauty and exhilaration. However, by the time I got home, the pain had quit throbbing, and I decided, "Meh, pain." It had, indeed, been worth it.

That night, it snowed all night, and despite a forecast that threatened a rise above freezing temps and a consequent ice storm, it never came. I had friends come over for pancakes, and we had perhaps the happiest ski I can recall. Dogs were bouncy! Happy! I looked forward to winter proceeding as usual.

Then this morning I woke up to rain. Coating everything with ice. Sigh.

The town has shut down, similar to Icepocalypse.

And that (sigh) is where things stand now. I don't understand why this is happening. Temperatures are well below freezing. We should be safe. I don't understand why liquid water is coming from the sky. As it happens, though, sometimes Things Occur whether I understand them or not.

For example, I will never get proper compost, so I've given up on that little project:

Life is easier when I adjust my expectations to match reality, rather than expect the other way around.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A proper brrrrr at last!

A brilliant blue sky, a slanting golden sun, subzero temperatures at last, snow on the ground, and a waxing sliver of a moon!

My firewood is put up for the year, my road travel is wrapped up for the season, and the dogs have quit shedding and are growing in fluffoscrumptious coats!

This weekend I am going to --ssssshhhhhhhh-- attempt skiing. Be vewwy, vewwy quiet! We don't want to tempt the Weather Gods!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do not do this!

This is the best safety warning I have ever seen. Seriously.