Saturday, April 26, 2008

What the...?

Well, made it to Anchorage! And as Richard Hayden would say, "and in just a shade under a decade too...all riiiight!"

Seriously. New personal record - just barely under twelve hours spent waiting at the Bethel airport yesterday. And by airport, of course, I just mean big concrete room with chairs. It was like a slow-burn nightmare. It's not really a fun story, just planes getting canceled and such.

But I made it! and just in time for a late-spring blizzard, apparently. One of the Alaska Airlines guys said he's lived in Anchorage all his life and he'd never seen a late season storm like this. No idea how much they've gotten here "officially", but it's about knee-deep in the driveway. After a week, Sara says, of beautiful, sunny, warm weather. Trees were budding, all the snow was gone. Oh well.

K, I'm off to explore. Yee haw!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I decided to make up a quick Google Map of some of the points and places I've been mentioning here on this blog. I may incorporate it into the html of the site at some point, but for now it's just a post. So zoom, pan, and enjoy.

View Larger Map

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pistons, Pitchers, & Pike

Well, spring is almost here, and I'm less than a week away from heading into Anchorage for the big event, so what this blog needs is one last good adventure story from this winter. Right?

So on Friday afternoon, Maria asked if I'd like to go fishing. "Of course," I said, not realizing (though I should have) that she didn't actually mean fishing around here, seeing as the pike haven't made their way this far upriver yet. She meant down on the Kuskokwim, as I soon learned. Either way, I was definately up for doing it, considering the snow and ice are fast melting, and that my remaining snowmachine days this year are numbered, and I'd pretty much take any excuse to get out and ride and do something fun before weather forces the machine into hiding for the summer.

The plan was to meet Christina and Erin in Bethel A.S.A.P., head down to the mouth of the Johnson past Napakiak, fish, and get home before dark. It was a good plan.

We got dressed and our stuff together, gassed up, and headed out. It's been pretty warm the last few days, and the trail was as smooth as I've seen it. And smooth, of course, equals fast. So we're making good time, and just a little past 2/3 of the way into town, when all of a sudden I see Maria fall off behind me. Her machine just died. Started to sound weird, then just lost power. So we check it out, and right away it looks bad, but we though maybe she'd just overheated. We let it sit for a while, and it got better, but still wouldn't stay running. Long story short, a guy that happened by did an impromptu test of the cylindars, and yeah, looks like she dropped a piston. Which sucks. So we knew we had to get her machine either back to Nunap or into Bethel for repairs, and so it didn't get stolen or stripped if left it on the trail overnight. We tried hauling it with my machine, but pulling it, with both of us, was really straining my engine and the though of having both machines broken down on the trail was scary enough for me to convince Maria to hop on with me and head into Bethel and figure out a solution from there.

When we got to Bethel we met up with Christina, as well as some folks we didn't know were going to be there. Not to mention, certain refreshments we weren't expecting, as well. So after, ahem, refreshing ourselves, Maria and a small crew headed out to wrangle her machine into town, while the rest of us continued to...refresh. At this point, we knew we weren't going to be doing any fishing Friday night, and after comtemplating heading back to Nunap, I decided to head down with Christina, Erin, and Maria to Oscarville and crash there. We still didn't know how Maria was going to get her machine fixed, or exactly how she'd be getting back to Nunap, but we did still want to try to get some fishing in. So, after a slight gas issue in the parking lot of the Bethel post office, and a visit with Bethel's finest out on patrol, we made it down to Oscarville around 2am and caught some sleep.

On Saturday morning, Maria got a hold of the repair shop (where she had just had her machine tuned up a week before!), and got them set to pick up and work on her machine, as well as getting a hold of our Principal, who with her husband was going to be headed to Napaskiak and back to Nunap in the afternoon. We made tentative plans to meet up with them and ride back together in the early evening, so we knew we had a few hours to head out fishing. We got our stuff together and headed out down the river about 10 miles, past Napakiak to where the Johnson comes into the Kuskokwim. There were probably half a dozen spots where people were fishing, with dozens of families out at each spot, but eventually we found who we were looking for and settled in to try to catch some pike.

One of the reasons I was really excited to get out ice fishing for the first time this spring, was to try out my new hand auger that I'd gotten back a little while ago. So I un-strap it from the back of my machine, screw it together and start drilling. And drilling. And resting. And drilling some more. Well, I don't know how deep was in the spot where I was drilling, but it was at least 44 inches, because that's the length (I measured) from the tip of the blades to the handle, at which point I couldn't turn it any more. Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself! But luckily, the people we met up with had some extra holes cut, so we just hopped on into those. It was a nice day on the river, and the fish were biting at a steady pace. Not an overwhelming bite, but enough to keep it interesting. I got five in the hour and a half or two hours we were out there, including a couple pretty good sized fish (nose to tail about the same length as my pole, so about 24"), and everyone else was catching at roughly the same rate.

After a couple hours, as I said, it was time to head back to meet up with our Principal and her husband to head back to Nunap. Maria rode in the sled they'd brought stuff down in, and proceeded to get drenched as there was a lot of water on the trail. But it was another smooth, fast ride, spooking up flocks of ptarmigan every few miles. Had I been thinking, I'd have brought my shotgun along too. But all in all, I was really glad that despite the drama and the "quick trip" becoming an overnight adventure, it was really great to hang out with Christina and Erin, to get all "refreshed" with Lee and some other coworkers, and definitely worth it to get out and do some fishing. Because hey, I leave for Anchorage on Friday! Not only is this likely my last snowmachine outing of the season, it's my last spontaneous trip before fatherhood strikes!

So yeah. Good times :-P

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From the update desk...

Let's see, anything new to update? Oh yeah, a bunch of stuff!

Trivia was this past weekend, which was fun as always. It was a little strange, but fun. First of all, it's always tough playing from a distance, what with having to figure out how to listen to the contest (thank you, Skype) and how to communicate with teammates in HQ (thanks, unfiltered backdoor into blocked website that connects to the blocked MSN messaging network). Second of all, the weekend...hell, the entire preceding week...was marred by recent tragic events.

I'm not going to tell the story here, but there was a death in the village last week. A student. So the funeral was on Friday, at the school, and started about an hour before the contest was set to start. So I got to my desk when I could, but the funeral went on for quite a while. Not making any judgments, but just an observation - Russian Orthodox services make Catholicism look like a quick stop, fast food, in-and-out deal! Seriously, you've gotta have some endurance to make it through, it seems.

Speaking of endurance, Trivia. I actually got out and away from my desk more this year than last, and really, I was probably away from "questions" as for about the same length of time I would be if I was in WI and leaving to hunt down Trivia Stones, etc. But I was in and out to let out, feed, and play with dogs (Loki, as well as some co-workers dogs I was taking care of while they were into Anchorage for a mini-vacation). That, along with two naps of three hours a piece on Saturday and Sunday mid-morning (mid day, Trivia-Time...assuring that the basement at HQ would be at full capacity and not missing whatever help I might have been), made for a smoother and less insanity-inducing contest than some have been.

Unfortunately, in what in hindsight will be the big happening of Trivia 39, death reared his ugly head again during the contest, when it was announced that Tom Daniels, the "Voice" of Trivia, had passed away in his sleep. Everyone was completely stunned and taken aback. But to the Oz's credit, and to the credit I think of all the 90fm staff and even Trivia players, we took some time to pause, let it sink in a bit, and then got right back to the contest, really, as if nothing had happened. Leave the grief for Monday, whenever you wake up (or in may case, at work...), play Trivia and have fun. I can't claim that I knew Mr. Daniels, only to have met him once or twice...and I can't claim to know what he would have wanted. But for a guy as dedicated to Trivia, Stevens Point, and 90fm as he obviously was...yeah...he would have wanted exactly what happened. Rack 'em up, Fast Eddie. The show must go on.

So, we kept on truckin' (oops, wrong year), and fought our way to our first top-5 finish. And really, it was an amazing year, considering. Now, I can't claim to have helped much. Between the slow speed of my internet connection, using what seems to be a good chunk of my available bandwidth to just *hear* the contest, and then having a filter block many of the key websites that are useful to a Trivia player, my primary usefulness to the team was effectively neutralized. But I had a good time, communication issues were better than last year, and after getting a little frustrated in the first dozen or so hours of the contest, I came to a realization about my role, and really came to grips with what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. So all in all, Trivia was Trivia, even from 4000 miles away.

Let's see, what else? Oh yeah! Baby!

Sara seems to be doing really well in Anchorage while she's there waiting, getting around to appointments and meetings and stores and swimming, etc. etc. etc. on the bus. She's keeping busier than I thought she'd be able to there by herself, which I'm really happy about.

Now if I can just get this calendar to move a little faster so we can get to next Friday, the 25th...I can get into Anchorage and we can hopefully get this show on the road! I think we're both pretty much good and ready to meet this kid!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Why dry?

Yeah, I grumble about the fact that I can't get beer here. I've even had an ongoing debate in my head, trying to reconcile my previous attitudes about "bootlegging" as I've known it to exist, mostly as a romantic outlaw period during national Prohibition, versus the obvious destructive effects "bootlegging" has in this part of the country on a daily basis.

Articles about the issue appear pretty regularly in the state news, and on occasion I think about posting links, but rarely do. But this recent article in Alaska Magazine entitled Turning off the Tap got to the heart of the issue, I think. It's a real battle...some people want alcohol totally banned, all across the region...others want it legal. Still others like the ban, if only because it's a profitable business venture to buy $10 bottles of rotgut and bootleg them into villages where they can sell them for $150.

So yeah, if you've ever heard me complaining about not being able to drink up here, and wondered exactly why that the article.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Getting right down to it.

It's a little hard to believe. Sara leaves for Anchorage in three days! How is that possible? It was just yesterday that we were telling everyone that she had the proverbial "bun in the oven", and now she's headed in to be near the hospital in case baby _ _ _ _ _ decides to come early? He was officially 36 weeks along yesterday, so he's "fully cooked", as I believe the technical medical terminology puts it...but let's just hope he decides to stick it out at least long enough for me to get to Anchorage and be there for the unveiling, shall we?

So, of course, that means that this week has been spent getting as much as we can in order for our return in May, baby in tow. The clothes and diapers are washed, organized, and ready. The co-sleeper is set up and strapped in position. I'll do some hardcore cleaning right before I leave, because let's be honest...anything we uber-clean now will have a layer of brown fur on it anyway by the time May comes around. Silly dog. Not to mention all the travel and logistical preparations. If everything works out without too major of a hitch, I'll be amazed. Gleeful, but amazed.

So that's where we are right final preparation mode, feathering the nest with stuff, gifts, and orders (which is in some cases know who you are!!). I'm excited, too, that Sara's parents decided to fly up to Anchorage for a week while we're there, and hopefully, if the baby's not too late, they'll get to hang out with their grandson, too. But either way, it'll be good to see them.

But we'll see how the next month or so goes. No matter when it happens, I'll have one heck of a photo post to put up on this site...assuming I make it to Anchorage on time! I may be asking you all to cross your fingers for me at some point, ok??

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Well, I know one emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Southeast that isn't going to invited to any village feasts any time soon!

What to do with dying villages?

But it all seriousness...with any distance from the obvious emotional and cultural issues involved...does he make a good point? I don't know. I don't think so...but I'm not so certain that maybe there isn't something there.

But don't tell anyone I said that, ok?