Friday, September 29, 2006

Mental exercise

Ready? Close your eyes. (Okay, so you can't really do that and read, so just pretend.) First, picture a livingroom coffee table. Nothing special, and a little messy with a coffee cup, newspapers, and a book or two scattered upon it. Then picture on that coffee table, a bunch of plastic containers of beads, maybe half a dozen or more, each with, oh, a couple hundred tiny colored beads. For craft projects, that sort of thing.

Then picture a dog. A nice dog. A happy dog. A dog that's rarely shown any indication of being the canine embodiment of the mischievous being from whom he derives his name. If you have trouble picturing such a dog, just scroll down. There are pictures.

Anyway, then picture coming home after a couple hours away to find said dog happily asleep on the couch, but all the plastic containers from the coffee table chewed up and on the floor, with the thousands of colored beads they contained liberally scattered about the living room carpet. The two in-process projects chewed to shreds, with beads and traces of thread spread about on both couches.

Yes, it would have been a good idea not to leave such things within easy reach of a Lab less than one year of age. The thing is, he's never really showed an interest in chewing such things, or anything really, since we've moved up here. We thought we were safe, that he was sufficiently occupied by his own toys, and that the days of ever needing to put him in his crate while we weren't at home were past. At least I did.

Alas, Loki has earned his name. And through carelessness I earned a few hours last night, and again this morning, plucking beads from a thick pile carpet to save as many as possible before resorting to the vacuum cleaner.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More random pictures

Well, as long as I'm posting today, I might as well post a few more of the pictures I've been sitting on, dontcha think?

Last week we took a ride over to Akiuk to pick up Sara from an ELD training day and to visit for a while. This is a view from Sara R.'s front steps. The pic didn't really turn out too well, but it was a pretty nice sunset nonetheless.

There's a group of puppies that have been hanging around near the school dock the last week or so, and Jenny and I were trying get them to play with us before we went to Akiuk. Unfortunately, they were pretty leary, but I got a picture of one poking it's head out from under the boardwalk.

I was lucky enough to be invited along fishing for a few hours with a couple of the teachers this weekend. We were able to get a couple of decent pike (notice I say "we"...I caught exactly zero, though I did get a good follow). Trust me, once I bring home my first good pike (or goose or duck or whatever), more pics will follow. But for now, just a story of a good few hours out on the water.

Fear and Loathing in a Classroom

Wow, I certainly let this slide for the past week or so, haven't I? Oops. My bad.

So, like I was planning on telling you about a week or so ago, I had my first experiences in the substitute teaching realm, and really, it wasn't so bad. You see, for a long, long time, I've known that at some point I wanted to become a teacher. The key words of that sentence being "at some point". I'm not sure if it was more of a fear of simply being on the other side of a classroom, fear of not being taken seriously, or something else akin to plain old scaredy-cat-ism, but I'd always been able to justify putting it off in my head. "Oh, I'll wait 'til I have more separation in age between myself and high school students" was my primary mental delay tactic for the last 5 years or so, combined with the lack of desire to go back to school to get my education training, etc. You see, in my last year of college, I developed a severe allergy to the daily transportation of a backpack full of books, brought on by an acute case of doing so for the vast majority of my, at that point, 22 years of existence.

But anyway, none of that mattered a week and a half ago, as apparently the only formal requirement to become a substitute teacher here is a high school diploma. And a willingness to not, you know, set the classroom on fire if the kids start to misbehave. Which, as you all probably remember from your own school days, would be a distinct possibility on a day when the regular teacher is out and a sub is there in their place. Lucky me.

So my first three days of subbing were for a high school English teacher, doing mostly reading and writing classes, with a "Living Skills" hour and a study hall (called Phase Catchup here, if I'm remembering correctly...long story). The first day was a bit of a challenge, meeting with quite a bit of limit-testing behavior by the kids. Now, I have no idea what they thought of me, but I feel like after I established that I was pretty much in the "don't mess with me, I won't make things tough on you" camp, things went pretty smoothly the next couple days. I was learning probably just as much as they were on a daily basis, with my primary lesson being as simple as: School laptops are to Students as Crack is to....well, people who like crack, I guess. All in all, I had a pretty good time on the high school side of the building, and at the end of the day Friday when they asked me if I could come back last Monday, I was happy to say yes.

When I got to school Monday morning, however, I was mildly terrified to find I would be shifting over to the other side of the building...the elementary side. I was to be a wrangler of 5th graders for the day, and looking at the sub plans laid out for me, I am not ashamed to say I was far more frightened than I was with the high school kids. You see, there are some I've talked to, Sara included, that prefer to work with younger kids, the logic being they are more respectful and more likely to listen to an adult when the adult wants them to do something, having not yet developed that well-documented teenage rebelliousness. I, in my very, VERY short experience, feel exactly the opposite. Older kids know already (for the most part) how they're supposed to behave and what kinds of behaviors are acceptable or not in a classroom. If they're misbehaving, it's by choice, and it seems to be more a matter of convincing them (either logically or by threat-esque methods) to knock it the hell off.

But again, I repeat, I likely have no idea what I'm talking about, having all of, what, 30 hours now in a classroom? And by the way, let me just say I've got a whole new respect for all teachers as of this fall. Long story short, even the day in the elementary class went well, and despite one nasty fall involving tears and an ice pack in gym (remind me to write a little about the game "Bat" later...really quite interesting), and some mild frustrations with a particularly, um, special student, it was a fun experience and a good way for me to get over my initial fear/nerves/whatever.

So we'll see, I guess.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Technical note

Yes, I realize I still owe you guys a post on my first experience with subbing last week (plus Monday of this week, as it turns out...), but this is just a quick post regarding my triumphant return to the mystical, addicting land of MSN Messenger. Or rather, in reality, the short-livedness thereof.

As you may be aware if you've been online the last few days, I discovered over the weekend that dispite MSN messenger being blocked my the school's filter, the "web messenger" site still worked on my computer. So, after having given up on being able to easily keep in touch with a lot of you (email is a little harder for my brain to process, at least quickly...I know, I'm retarded), I thought I'd discovered a way around it and would be able to get on for a little while most days.

Well, it was working earlier today...ask Aaron, we talked a little about Trivia this afternoon. of 5 minutes ago when I opened my computer to sign on here at school, the site is blocked. Nice. Mind you, AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, and iChat work just fine. It's just MSN that happens to apparently arouse the rath of the internet peoples of the district. Figures. Oh well, I was doing fine without it, so I'll get back into that mindset. Just irks me that I thought now I'd be able to use it once in a while is all. So sorry guys, I tried. If you're looking for me, email, or log in to your old yahoo or aol accounts and try to find me...

UPDATE: Well, as of Thursday night, it's working again. Weird. Random...but I'll take it when I can get it :-P Well nevermind let me on for about 10 minutes, then crashed my browser and now it's blocked again. Sweet.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday picture roundup

Don't worry, there will be a post detailing my first 3 days in the world of education *cough*snicker*cough*, but I'll write that this weekend. For now, how about a few pictures from the folder I've been keeping seperate from the rest as "stuff I should probably post at some point". Everybody likes pictures, right?

Here's one of Loki being generally retarded (or cute, if you're into that sort of thing)

Here's one Sara took while out picking berries on the tundra. I like it because it's good composition, and 'cuz it's a pretty good picture of the landscape and how flat it is, etc.

Finally, the two of us on the boat. And apparently showing our loyalty to the ol' alma mater.

lu-na-tic (n.)

Well, despite the risk of identifying myself as the astronomy all-around geek I really am, here's a link to a story I just saw about something cool happening with the moon up here in the northern latitudes. Makes sense, of course, and it's not as terribly exciting as a comet or an eclipse or whatever, but I thought it was neat. Not that I'm able to see it here lately...clouds, rain, and fog have been the status quo all week. Oh well. There's time.

I'm looking forward to getting away from the village lights some clear, cold night this winter. That's gonna be sweet.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Well, A couple hours into day number two of this whole substitute teacher thing and I gotta tell ya, I was mildly shocked. In a good way. I didn't self-destruct, nobody caught fire, and I didn't end the day yesterday huddled in a corner sobbing quietly. All in all, I'd say that's a good sign.

In fact, I was almost giddy over how well it went/is going. Just ask Sara...she may have found me a bit annoying. And of course, knocking on wood. I can see how it could get tiresome and frustrating at times if I were to have to do it on a daily basis. There are some students that are definately a challenge to keep, how shall I say, on task. Or even in their seats. But I think this sub thing is just fine for me at the moment, honestly. I shouldn't be in any one place long enough to get too burnt out and jaded. I think. I hope. Right? :-/

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


If you think of it, send a calm vibe or two my way today. It's my first day subbing. Like, in a classroom. With students and everything.

Scary, huh?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Not to be dramatic or anything... (or, The Fantastic Voyage)

Well, Friday night was interesting to say the least. Sometimes it seems like I have to brainstorm things to post about here if I'm going to be updating more than once a week or so. Not today. You know the scene in "Swingers" when Rob tells Mikey that the previous night's drama didn't upset him too much, because "it's like now I've got my L.A. gun story"? Yeah, it's kinda like that. Except with a boat. Or more accurately, a 75hp outboard I'll be hereafter referring to as "Ol' Smokey".

The story goes like this. Christina, Carey, Sara and I headed out on the boat around 7, over to Akiuk to surprise Sara R. for her birthday. It was to be a good time, with some food, a 6-way game of Settlers (which I got rocked in by the way after previously winning in my second game ever), and a few episodes of Sex and the City on DVD, a show of which I'm not really an active fan, but I've seen a few times and find fairly amusing, if a little annoying. So we hung out with Sara R. and Eric, and decided at around 11 that it was just about time to go. Now, when we got here a month ago, it would have been light at 11pm. Now, it's about twilight, and a mostly overcast sky made for the prospect of a dark boat ride home. Despite my slight worry about traversing the tight channels and cuts of the meandering river in the near-darkness, I knew I was with a party of bush-teacher-superstars, two of which have been in Nunap and driving this river for at least a year. We'd make it home, it would just take a little longer that the trip there, being careful and navigating by memory and flashlight.

Wait, let me back up a second, I just have to drop in a story from the trip over. We had a bit of a run-in with the shoreline, having been moving quite quickly through the lake so as not to get the motor bogged down in the weeds that cover the majority of the shallow water. Christina was headed for some equipment on the shore that had previously marked the opening to the next cut, but apparently...someone had moved the equipment. So there we were, bow in the weeds, unable to use the motor to reverse for fear of wrapping up the prop in said weeds, trying to push ourselves out from shore with a length of 2x4 that someone had luckily left in the boat. We didn't have too much luck using it, but enough to eventually back us out to the point at which we could put the motor in reverse and head out and over to the actual cut through to the next lake that got us to Akiuk and Sara R.'s place. At the time it seemed like a touch of adventure, enough that I took a picture with the intent of posting on it, but little did I know at the time that the trip to Akiuk would be the easy, even funny, half of the evening's travels.

So back to a little after 11pm. Armed with a pair of flashlights and not much else, we headed out to make the two or three mile trip back...or so we thought. We'd made it a few minutes out, maybe a third of the way across the first lake when the motor started to noticeably strain. The fact that we were traveling through pretty heavy weeds, and more slowly than usual at that due to traveling at night, made us think at first that it was just a matter of the prop being wrapped with vegetation. Soon however, the thick smoke and high-pitched beeping from the instrument panel seemed to indicate otherwise, and the initial diagnosis was that the motor was out of oil. Not a good situation in the middle of a lake at 11:30pm, with no oars of any kind, not to mention VHF radio or outboard oil to add to the motor. So, after a bit of discussion we decided to turn around and head back to Akiuk, to see a) if we could make it, b) if we would be able to scrounge up some oil for the motor, and c) if not, if there was a place there we could crash for the night until someone could come get us/fix the motor.

Of course, the "fixing the motor" part was entirely contingent on us not completely ruining the thing on the way back by running it (so we thought at the time) bone-dry on oil. Limping back and listening to the motor strain, I have to admit that while I knew we weren't in any real, immediate danger beyond just getting stuck on the water for a few hours overnight (and getting in trouble for blowing up the motor on the school boat), there was a bit of praying to the gods of internal combustion machinery. And, well, it worked, because about 45 minutes after we had left, we nursed the boat back into the school dock at Akiuk. Now lit by the village lights, we were able to take a look at the motor well enough to determine that while the boat was indeed a little low on oil, it was by no means out of oil as the beeping would have suggested. This was good, as we were unable to find any usable oil anyways at around midnight on a Friday. No, the beeping was something different indeed. A closer examination of the instrument panel by Christina revealed that the beeping we were hearing, combined with the inability of the motor to run above half speed, meant that the problem was as simple as overheating due to mud/grass/muck/whatever being sucked into the cooling system. The motor was then turned on to check if the output of water did indeed seem restricted (we hadn't noticed this through the smoke while trying to get back), and whaddaya know? It was spitting out exactly no water at all.

After all breathing an audible sigh of relief that the problem seemed to be an easy fix, as opposed to a possible welding of pistons to cylinders for want of lubrication, we procured some wire with which to clear the output, and borrowed an additional flashlight and Sara's VHF radio...just in case. We got the motor "peeing" like a champ again, and after the slight delay headed back out one more time for the attempt to make it home for the evening. We took it slow, which helped the motor stay a little cooler, but which also meant drafting a little lower in the water and chewing up more weeds and gunk, so we stopped a few times to clear the prop, make sure the output was clear, and give the engine some time to rest. The sky had cleared nicely in the time we were dorking around in Akiuk, and a full moon provided quite a bit of light for us as we dropped anchor each time to prevent the wind from pushing us into the heavier weeds at shore. In addition, the little bit of light was helpful in finding our way through the cuts and channels to navigate back to Nunap. Not to say we didn't make a wrong turn or two, but all in all the rest of the trip back went fairly smoothly...if at a much slower pace than the trip out.

I have to say, after we all knew the engine would behave if treated kindly, the mood relaxed and we had a pretty good time making our way back. With Cap'n Christina at the wheel, Carey navigating and operating the spotlight, Sara reprising her role as Communications Director in charge of the VHF as well as keeping an eye on the motor's "peeing" and a firm hold on the wire with which to clear the hole, and myself, well, not doing much of anything but trying to keep my appointed flashlight charged, we joked around and tried not to get too loopy from the smoke/fumes. Only a brief moment of panic when the motor didn't seem to want to start after we had stopped to rest within sight of home and swiming distance of the Nunap school dock put a kink in the mood, but like I said, that moment was brief. We were home and on dry(ish) land only a couple hours after we had originally left Akiuk.

Probably the biggest reason we needed to get home was that the boat was needed on Saturday morning to pick up another teacher and the school's cross country team at the airport, which as I understand was another adventure altogether...but I'll leave that story to Christina, as I was thankfully home snug in my bed at the time.

edited 9/12 to add pics :-)

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Bright lights, big(er) city.

Well that was fun. Like I mentioned, we went into Bethel this weekend to do some stuff and really, just to get away for a night. Which, I think, was about the perfect amount of time in Bethel, really. You see, we have this dog, and he's a bit...hyper. But yeah. One day was enough time to eat out a time or two, do some (okay, a whole lot) of shopping, and get back home without going too crazy. Not to say there wasn't craziness and a little frustration, but knowing we were headed home pretty quickly kept things from grating too hard, I think.

The problem with Bethel, it seems, is transportation-based. Not to say that transportation in Bethel is a problem in general, I obviously don't know the place well enough to judge that, just that it was a problem for us. We flew out after school on Friday afternoon with a few other teachers, and after the short, 10 minute or so flight, we were at the airport with some decisions to make. Namely, how do we want to do this? We had a short list of things we needed to do, as well as a couple things we'd like to do if we had time/a way to get there. Here's where the proper putting-of-things-into-order became crucial. we had gotten in just barely too late to get to the bank to deposit the cashier's check I'd brought with from my bank in Wisconsin, and they wouldn't be open again until, well, today because of the holiday weekend, so that plan was done for. The only thing remaining to do that night was to check in to our hotel and find something to eat.

After grabbing a taxi and checking in to the Longhouse again (which you may remember as the place we stayed when we were weathered in Bethel back in March), we walked over to the pizza place where we had made plans to meet up with Christina and Richard. We sat down, and since we were a little early, in true Wisconsinite style ordered some delicious fried cheese as an appetizer. Now, I don't know if I've mentioned this in passing in any posts before, but Sara has a little mantra that she's learned from living up here a few years that I'm trying to take to heart my cheap self..."Just don't look at the prices. It's not worth it, you'll just get upset." I'm learning quickly the wisdom of these words. You see, anything that gets out here for us to purchase likely wasn't produced within, oh, a thousand miles or two. Combined with the fact that there aren't even any roads on which to truck said products to us consumers, and you can see how the overhead might make things a little bit pricier that I'm used to. And being fairly cheap in the first place, it makes certain bullets harder to bite. But aaaaanyway...

So that was basically the extent of Friday night's excitement in Bethel, we poked around Swanson's until they closed and got an idea of things we'd look for while shopping the next day, then walked back to the hotel and were slugs and watched some Chapelle's Show until we fell asleep. Next day, we grabbed some "continental breakfast", a.k.a. watery coffee and one of those little boxes of cereal you remember from your childhood. Apple Jacks, yum. And here's where the transportation issues come into play. We're on a pretty good stretch of road, with a bunch of things within walking distance. the problem is, everywhere we want to go today is somewhere that involves purchasing things. And not just a couple things that can be thrown into a bag and carried with us to our next stop. We're talking lumber, gallons of paint, groceries to last us weeks, etc. That leaves us with the taxi, which are flat rates instead of by time or mile, and generally a pain in the butt. So along with Swanson's (which is really three stops: the hardware store, the lumberyard, and the grocery store), we also hoped to get to honest to god chain fastfood place, akin to well as the A.C. Which would require some fancy taximanship, loading up from Swanson's, one of us being dropped of on the way to the airport, while another took our massive quantity of stuff we'd purchased to the airport. This seemed like a good plan, until we got through at Swanson's and decided that, yeah...Subway's not worth it, not even now. Let's just go to the airport. Mind you, this is the sanitized, hindsight version of the transportation saga. At the time there was much debate and deliberation. Long story short, or I guess pretty long at this point, is that I think it will be a lot easier to get around Bethel, if maybe not to Bethel, once winter sets in and we can just take a snowmobile the 15 miles or so.

So after getting everything boxed up and to the terminal at the airport we got out of Bethel around 24 hours after getting there...a few hundred dollars lighter in the bank account and a few dozen pounds overweight with freight for our flight back (each passenger is allowed 40 lbs of luggage/freight on the bush planes...we were at about 130 between the two of us). And after getting our stuff home from the landing strip and surveying the damage done by Loki and hearing the tales of his dual dogsitters, I must say it was good to be home and not have to worry anymore. Either about how he was doing or how we were going to get to the next place we were going.

And that's the long, rambling story of the Bethel trip. Exciting, huh? Well at least we got right on the ball with using the painting supplies...I'll have to post before and after pics of the living room soon...remind me, ok?

Friday, September 1, 2006

And we're out.

Okay, off to Bethel for the weekend! Well, a day at least. Going to do a little shopping and just generally enjoy the big city life, ya know ;-)

I'll have a report on the trip when we get back! Have a good long weekend, everybody!!