Monthly Archives: September 2008

Big Sky Country

It’s pretty out here in Alaska. Take, for example, our large sky. The clouds look like a painting.

For your enjoyment, here are pictures from the end of our street and behind our apartment building.

In this next one, you can just see a barge coming into the bay.

I hope everyone likes the pictures. It was a pretty regular Monday, otherwise, so there’s not much else to say. Samara got a couple of birthday cards in the mail, and a package from Matt Hufford with a present in it. I’m making her wait until her birthday on Thursday to open those. She’s going to be 29! Don’t forget to wish her a happy birthday on Thursday.

The heat is off

When we woke up this morning, there was a chill in the air. I looked at the thermostat and it was only reading 62 degrees. It finally got to the point that Aaron called the landlord. He came over and said that the actual thermostat was broken. When he showed up, he had brought his dog. He made a comment that his dog was the only one he allowed in the apartments. I guess I can respect that, kinda. (Actually if Ann wanted another cat, I don’t really care as long as she’s still taking care of the other 3–but no dogs! ) He had to pick up the part somewhere so he left for a little while. But came back and got our heat working again. YAY!

I did get a few packages this week. My mother had sent me a package of some dry goods. Aaron’s mom had sent me some shirts, can goods and travel mugs for my birthday. Trilby sent me a recycled book. And the good news with that, is she is also sending me a rum cake for Christmas. I guess that is about it.

Weekend Post: Dogs, Shooting and Boats

Ahh, Friday. Day of champions. You know what’s great about Fridays? Saturday mornings.

That’s right, when it’s Friday, you know that you don’t have to get up early the next morning. After a long day of work on Friday, Samara and I had a weekend to look forward to. First things first, we headed home for a dinner of hotdogs and french fries. Samara had a package of birthday stuff from my mom. Here’s a picture of her holding some of her new stuff.

Also, she looks crazy because I made her keep her eyes open when the flash went off.

Speaking of crazy, then we watched the debate. Both of these guys are clearly politicians, but if John McCain beats Barack Obama, then this country has truly gone insane.

We were invited to another teacher’s house after dinner for some drinks and socializing. Various other folks from the school were getting together to watch the debate or watch movies in lieu of the debate, but Sara decided she was just going to stay home and have a drink. We scored a last minute invite, and it turned out that Ricky came by as well.

Here’s Aaron standing outside Sara’s house. See how the fall colors have arrived in Alaska?

Sara has three dogs. Two Afghans named Angel and Chaos, and a Tibetan Terrier named Joey.

It was nice to have drinks with folks. (Well, Samara had drinks. Aaron just had chips and dip.) It was also nice to play with the dogs. They’re not cats, but they’re okay.

We took Ricky home. He lives in a little cabin. (Quite little, really. It has a small bedroom, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and a loft over all that, which Ricky uses as a family room.) He has fuel oil heat, but his heat isn’t on right now because he hasn’t bought fuel. Anyway, he rents from some guy that also has hunters out–I guess it’s kind of a bed-and-breakfast deal. There are lots of those here. So there’s a bunch of pelts and meat and fish in the freezer on Ricky’s porch. He showed us.

I don’t know what that fur is from, but it’s some kind of animal in Ricky’s freezer. He also has a some kind of carved mask on his porch.

Today, we got up late and did some grocery shopping and then went to the post office. After that, I talked Samara into going out to the shooting range with me. She brought her camera, so we took pictures of the changing leaves on the drive out Waskey Road.

Here’s an interesting sight. When you wreck a car out in the bush, apparently it’s easiest just to leave it there. It’s not like there’s body shops and stuff out here. Mechanics, yeah, but not really body shops.

The funny thing is that there’s so much wilderness out here, that even a wrecked car in the middle of it doesn’t really spoil things for me. It’s still pretty.

The shooting range is out at the dump. So of course, you turn down Landfill Dr.

From the firing line, this is the view behind you.

Samara took a bunch of pictures while I was shooting. First, the rifle.

Me, downrange setting up targets.

Then shooting some soda cans at 25 yards and a target at 100 yards.

Then, the results.

Here’s Samara enjoying herself.

She got cold and got back in the car. It was sunny and about 55 degrees today, and Samara just wore her hoodie. She did take a few more pictures of me shooting, from the Jeep.

I only had about 19 rounds of 76.2x54R left, so it wasn’t long before we were done. On the way home, we took the Lake Road, and then stopped off at the harbor. The tide was in, and we got a variety of pictures of boats. Samara took a look at the bay, and we watched some guys get ready to pull one out of the water.

Samara was cold, so we came home.

Now Samara is working on cucumber sauce and kebabs for dinner. Yummy!

New job stuff and pot luck

Since today was an in-service day at the school, I didn’t have to work. Instead, I went to SAFE to fill out paperwork and do an orientation. I met with the HR person and filled out all the stuff that HR requires. Then I took a tour of the facility. Everyone was really friendly and laid back. As it turns out, I’m going to be a manager which means I’ll actually have people beneath me. I have this large training manual I have to read, take a test over and then edit and update. I also have to find more volunteers to help out at the agency. And have I mentioned that I still have 2 weeks left at the school? Things are going to be a bit crazy around here for a while until I get settled in at the new job. Oh, I also get my own office. I have a view of the mountains from the 2nd floor. Yeah, I’m cool like that.

I also found out about this pot luck thing that was going on at the school tonight. It was a wellness conference that focused on building bridges between the elders and the youth. Aaron and I got to try moose and maybe caribou–we’re not sure which was which. There was fish jerky which was pretty good and more of that Eskimo Ice cream (Akutaq). Some of it was mixed with salmon which is a bit too much of a new flavor for me. Aaron had some akutaq, but he said that he likes his really sweet, which when it is made without the fish is kinda like kroger cake icing with a ton of berries in it. After dinner, some of the kids did some of the traditional Yupik dance. There was even a song about Akutaq. It was neat.

I meant to bring my camera, but I had forgotten it at home. (No pics today) There is going to be a Christmas festival later in the year with Native crafts and food. I’ll be sure to bring my camera and my checkbook.

I guess that’s about it for today.

Samara’s new job (I tell my salary, if that bothers you, don’t read)

I got a call today. It was from Ginger at SAFE. She offered me the job as an Outreach & Education Coordinator and I accepted. I asked that I would be able to give a 2 week notice at the school before I went over there. (Here’s the bit about how much I will make) She offered me $21.35 an hour, which is a lot more than the $16.50 an hour at the school. Plus, at the school I only work 30 hours a week, this should be at least 37.5 hours a week. This means that I will actually be able to pay my student loans when they come due, plus I’m working at a non-profit and gaining valuable work experience. I have Thursday off at the school so I am going to do my orientation then. I believe that my first work day will be October 8. That’s all I know so far. I’ll keep this updated as I learn more about the position.

New Coats!

Samara only packed a hooded sweatshirt in her luggage, so she’s been making do since we got to Alaska. It honestly hasn’t been that cold, but it’s been wet, so she’s gotten damp as she walked around town. Well, now she has a coat for mild cold weather, and a parka for serious winter weather. My mom sent both of them–the winter parka is for Samara’s birthday, which is coming up on October 2nd.

Here’s the lighter coat:

And the heavy winter coat:

It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the beige one is much lighter weight, despite the furry hood. The black one is heavy duty and has a very warm lining.

So there you go. Samara is all ready for winter!

A Trip to the Range

Before I tell a little story about my trip to the firing range, I just realized that there were pictures from yesterday’s walk down to the beach still on the camera. So here we

As you can see, the tide was in. We hadn’t walked down to the beach before when the tide was in. I walked down to the end of a concrete ramp that leads to the beach when the tide is out. The water was cold.

A little farther down the beach, we saw a bunch of seagulls. Here’s a picture of one, so that you can see one of the only types of wildlife we’ve seen so far in Alaska.

Anyway, that was our walk to the beach yesterday. Now on to my main blog post!

After discovering the firing range at the town dump yesterday, I was afraid it was going to rain today. But it didn’t! In fact, it’s been a beautiful day.

I slept in, and Samara made me breakfast (eggs, toast and bacon–no, no reindeer sausage). We made a trip to the grocery to pick up some supplies for this week. After we got back, I decided I would head out to the range and shoot my rifle. I forgot the camera, so I didn’t get any pictures. I will next time.

To remind anyone that’s forgotten, I’ve got a Mosin-Nagant M44 which has been modified with a fiberglass stock, match-grade trigger, forward scope mount, BSA 2x pistol scope and shortened barrel. In other words, a scout rifle. It’s chambered for 7.62 x 54R, which is roughly equivalent to .308.

I drove out the lake road, hung a right on Waskey and a left on the Landfill Drive. There was nobody at the range, which wasn’t surprising. I set up at a table, and walked a target out to 100 yards. That’s my guess, anyway. There was a target frame set up at what I guess would be the 100 yard mark. I hung a target, which was actually just a paper placemat with a stick-on Shoot-n-C target.

I loaded three rounds, slinged up the rifle, and put three rounds down range at the 100 yard target. Then I walked down there, and figured out that I hadn’t hit the target at all. In fact, I hadn’t even hit the larger targets underneath. None of my shots even made it onto the target stand.

It occurred to me that despite having sighted in the rifle before leaving Lexington, it might have gotten jarred enough during the road trip and various flights that it might not have been as dead-on. So I walked a target out to 25 yards. Again, that’s a guess, but it seemed to be about 25. I put up another placemat with a stick-on target.

Now I shot a series of groups of 3 rounds at 25 yards. Here’s my target, followed by the list of the groups:

Group 1: 3.5″ spread, low and to the right
Group 2: 3,275″ spread, low approx 3″ and right approx 4″

Then I adjusted the scope 6 clicks left and 6 clicks up.

Group 3: 3.25″ spread, low approx 1″ and right approx 1″
Group 4: 1.5″ spread, right approx 2″

Then I adjusted the scope 2 clicks left.

Group 5: 1.5″, right approx 1″ and low .5″

Then I finally adjusted the scope 2 clicks left and up 1 click.

Now by this time, I had gone through 18 rounds of a 20 round box. (I only brought two 20 round boxes from Kentucky.) I pulled 1 round out of the next box so that I could shoot one more 3 round group. I decided to see if I could get on paper at 100 yards now.

My final group was 5.5″. Here’s that target:

After shooting that last group, I decided to call it a day. I’d been at the range for about an hour, and I’d shot 21 rounds. I bought those two boxes before I left Kentucky, for about $17 a box. That’s about 85 cents per round, which is fairly expensive for entertainment. I figured out that I can get 7.62 x 54R locally at the hardware store. That’s pretty amazing. The problem is that it costs about $25 per box. That makes it $1.25 per round. At those prices, as much as I enjoyed shooting today, I wouldn’t be able to make a frequent practice of this hobby. It’s really unfortunate that ammunition suppliers won’t ship to Alaska. Surplus Hungarian ammunition is available in 440 round tins for $110. That’s 25 cents per round. They won’t mail it here, though.

I mention all of that by way of saying that it’s a real shame, because I really had a good time shooting today. It was very nice weather–about 51 degrees, and sunny. I wore a hoodie, and spent a nice hour outside. Considering that the shooting range itself is free, it’d be a great hobby to take up.

Oh well. That’s my range report. I hope someone enjoyed reading it.

A More Exciting Weekend

Bear in mind that exciting is a relative term.

So Friday was a slow day at work–the afternoon especially seemed to drag on for quite some time.

But then when it was near quitting time, Samara came by. She had gotten off work at the school, and we’d been invited to movie night. There’s a group of folks at the school, some of whom live together, who get together every Friday to watch a movie. One person each week picks the movie, and it’s always a secret to everyone else until it starts. The only rule is that each movie needs to have a link to the previous movie, like having the same actor, or director, or the same casting director or best boy grip. Samara was making a curry for dinner for us, so she needed to go get some heavy cream, and she also wanted to buy some Tupperware at the thrift store run by the women’s shelter.

After I got off work, we went home and she finished making the curry. Since the movie wasn’t until 7:30, we ate some. It was very spicy, even with the addition of lots of heavy cream. Samara took it to the movie night, and some folks tried it. They agreed that it was very spicy.

Anyway, at 7:30, we went over to the old schoolhouse building behind the city hall. Apparently it’s apartments now. In fact, it is divided into a duplex of two sets of apartments, but they have a connecting door in between. The side we were visiting has two bedrooms, with a gentleman in one and a couple in the other. On the other side, there’s the same arrangement. All of these folks are teachers. So I met a number of the local teachers, and everyone was very nice. Some are young and some are older. A few have been here many years, and others just arrived in Dillingham. Last week’s movie was Planet of the Apes (the Charlton Heston version), so this week we watched Shawshank Redemption, which shares an actor. (It’s the guy that plays the old man, Brooks, in Shawshank–I don’t recall his name.)

The apartments in the old schoolhouse are nice–they’re not as new-looking inside as ours is, but they have a really nice view of the bay, including being able to see the dock where the barges come in. They also have a nice view of the mountains, and get to see pretty sunsets. I’m a little jealous! Bill, who organizes the movie night, has two cats. They are really friendly, and it was great to pet cats again! One likes to eat people’s hair, and went after Samara’s head while we were sitting on the couch. One lady actually brought her beagle along with her. The dog’s name was Ginger, and it was very well-behaved and sweet.

We got finished up around midnight, and we took two different folks home. One was the history teacher, who lives in the apartments out Kanakanak Road (before you get to the airport) and the other lady lives on Tower Road, which I hadn’t been out yet. Neither one has a car here yet, so I guess we’re better off that most people now that we’ve got a Jeep to drive.

I met one guy, who is the main special education teacher’s husband. I think he teaches shop, actually. He likes working on cars, and was asking me something about fixing the ignition on a Subaru. Another guy, Pete, said that the local college is doing a class on how to convert a car to run on electricity. This is the Bristol Bay branch campus of University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and they offer lots of distance learning classes. They have some local professors too. The electric car class, though, is one of their local 1-hour course offerings that are intended more for the community. I think the cost is $75. I may take the electric car conversion class, just because it seems interesting and they’re supposed to be converting a car as part of the class.

Once we got home, we went to bed fairly quickly. Of course, Saturday is always a good day to sleep in. The problem is that sleeping in is pretty hard when it gets light out and the only thing on your windows are mini-blinds. It gets sunny in our bedroom quickly. I’ve taken to keeping a small towel next to the bed to throw over my eyes in case I want to sleep more.

Samara got up early, though, and thought it’d be funny to take a picture of me.

That’s me, conked out asleep this morning. Lovely.

After I got up around 11am, Samara’s first thought was that we needed to head down to the post office and see if we had any mail before they closed at noon. I agreed, so off we went. No mail, but there was a yellow slip, indicating a package. And it said “back”… hooray! That means it’s a large package, and you drive around back and hit the buzzer. Then the lady lets you into the back side of the post office and shows you where your package is. (They have them organized by PO Box numbers into various piles.) I grabbed a dolly, because we had three packages! That’s right, the rest of the stuff that we mailed ourselves before we left Lexington has finally arrived! Two were boxes of clothes (and clothes hangers!), and one of those was really large. The other box was the one with insurance that included three Caphalon pans and some good kitchen knives, along with plates and cups. No more paper plates and tiny styrofoam cups! Awesome!

We’re still waiting, by the way, on a box that my mom sent us a little while back. We’ve been a little worried about it, but I’m fairly convinced that the mail is just sometimes insanely slow or mixed up in rural Alaska. These three boxes, which we mailed a month ago, arrived well after the boxes we three weeks ago. Parcel Post, no matter what lies the USPS tells you, do not take 12 days to get from Lexington, Kentucky to Dillingham, Alaska. They take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks, from what I’ve heard.

But nevermind, our things are here now. We need only wait on the barge to arrive in October, and we’ll be set!

After the excitement of new boxes, Samara suggested that we go out to eat for breakfast. Our only previous dining out experience in Dillingham (not counting movie night or the potluck at the courthouse) was at the Windmill Grille, and the judge paid for that. The food there was mediocre, and was pretty much like something you’d make at home. So I wasn’t so sure about having breakfast at the Muddy Rudder, which is restaurant downtown, about halfway between the two supermarkets. It is closing for the winter at some point, though, and I figured we could splurge just a little. I’m glad we did.

The Muddy Rudder takes credit card, unlike the Windmill Grille, and serves more than just pizza and pasta. They’ve got a full menu of Americana. We went for the breakfast, although the sandwiches I saw looked pretty nice. Samara had the biscuits and gravy, which had a good flavor to the gravy. She probably didn’t even really need to salt-and-pepper it (although she did). She also ordered a chocolate milkshake. They make all sorts of ridiculous flavors of shakes, by the way. The waitress named them off and it seemed to take forever. Fruit flavors, and butterscotch, and all sorts of weird stuff. It was a pretty good shake.

Myself, I had two scrambled eggs, toast, hashbrowns and reindeer sausage. It was all quite good, even if I did feel a bit like I was putting Santa’s Christmas deliveries in jeopardy. I also had a Coke, which comes in a can. I guess syrup and a giant CO2 setup would be a pain out here. The interior was clean and nice, and decorated with a bit of a nautical theme, not surprisingly. There were other folks eating there–locals, obviously. The waitresses were friendly, and we enjoyed our breakfast. Mind you, it would have been about $12 at Bob Evans, and it cost $36 with the tip, but it was still tasty. The prices of food here are just shocking, and it takes getting used to. I think the steak dinner was $27, and that’s without your $2 can of soda. I don’t think we’ll be eating out frequently.

As we left the Muddy Rudder, I mentioned to Samara that I wanted to drive out to the dump. I’d been told there was a shooting range there, so I wanted to check it out, and the weather is really nice today. She agreed. We headed out of downtown and up Windmill Hill, and turned onto Wood River Road. That’s the road the judge lives on, and one of my coworkers told me that was the easier or shorter way to get to the dump. We were supposed to take Waskey Road, to the left. Problem is, I missed it, because it’s all gravel roads, and it wasn’t marked. I thought it was a driveway. It wasn’t until we got to the end of Wood River Road and turned around that I found it on the way back. Then we followed Waskey for miles as it meandered through the woods and fields, with no real driveways or anything. It’s a nice wide gravel road, though.

Finally we came upon Landfill Drive, to our right. I drove on in, and it curved around a few times before you got to a little building. Jesse was there, manning the dump. He was nice, and told me that the range was a little further down the road, and that it was free. I drove on down, and it does look nice. They have four or five shooting tables at least, and it’s probably a 100-yard range. (My best guess.) It’s probably where most folks sight in their rifles for hunting. I figure it may be a good place to go relax on the weekends and take up target shooting as a bit of a hobby. It’s a pretty cheap hobby, anyway, since the range is free. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I don’t know if I’ll get out there again this weekend. Anyway, I have my rifle, but I don’t have any cleaning supplies. Those are on the barge, in the Canyonero. But at least if I shoot up all my ammo, I can get more at the local hardware store!

As we got back out to Waskey, I decided to take a right, and see how far it was to Aleknagik Lake Road (or Lake Road, as most folks seem to call it). It was just around the next bend, actually, which is funny. It’s a paved road with a higher speed limit, so I don’t know why my co-worker thought it’d be easier to go down Wood River Road and take the whole length of Waskey Road to get to the dump. We drove on home on paved roads the whole way.

Now we’ve finished putting away our clothes, and Samara is talking naps. Seems like a reasonable idea.

Alaska is weird

I forgot to mention something strange that happened last week. Bear in mind that I now live in a town of 2500 people that’s only really accessible by plane. (Yes, by boat as well, but people don’t really come by boat unless they’re coming from a nearby village.) So I’m working at the courthouse, and there was a strange guy there doing legal research in the public court documents. Of course, I didn’t realize at first that he was a strange guy because I don’t really know people yet. Turns out he was from the National Inquirer. He was there to try to dig up dirt on Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska turned VP candidate.

According to Samara, the word in the grapevine is that he located a former wife of Trooper Wooten and wants to interview her. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google Troopergate.

Anyway, that’s pretty strange stuff for small-town Alaska.

Samara had an interview today at the local women’s shelter. She hates to even think about leaving her job as a special education teacher’s aide at the school, but this job would probably pay more and also be in her field. It also wouldn’t end in May. Her interview was at 4:30 today.

So it was weird when the magistrate came in a little before lunch and told me that there were having the monthly “community justice” lunch at the women’s shelter. Apparently all the folks in the law enforcement and legal communities get together to discuss issues relating to domestic violence, etc. He asked if I wanted to go, so I said sure!

Around noon, we headed over there, and it was really poorly attended today. Apparently part of the reason is that the person whose position is now vacant was responsible for sending out the announcement e-mails for that meeting. Nevertheless, I had a good salmon chowder, salad, cake, etc at the lunch. I also met the director of the shelter and saw one of the local attorneys, who is also on the board there.

After work today, Samara went to her interview. She says it went well, and the director seems interested in hiring her. She won’t know whether she’s being offered the job until the other interviews are over, but we’re hopeful. I know that she’d hate to leave the other job so soon, but I think the money would be a significant raise.

It’s starting to be darker later in the morning and get dark earlier in the evening. We won’t be having really short days until December, but it’s getting closer.

That’s about it for today.

Day 3 at the school bathroom

Today was day 3 at school. The kids are mostly sweet when they aren’t being agnsty or antisocial for no particular reason. Again, mostly what I do is hang out and help kids with school work. One thing I help do is explore ways in to make the children more successful in their educational career. Like make tests not as hard and not as long. Yeah, I wish I had a me back in high school.

So anyway, I had to go to the bathroom today. I was surprised that the toilet was one of those auto flushes, which was cool. What was weird was this:

Did you know what that is? It took me 3 days of going to the bathroom to figure out that this is a sink. Can you figure out how to turn it on? This also took me 3 days to figure out how to turn it on.

But today, I figured it out. I was at lunch, had to go and I finally saw the hidden bar below it that turned on the water. While it’s not automatic, you don’t have to use your hands so you don’t cross contaminate your hands when you turn on or off the water. I just can’t believe that place that has this:
Also has:
It just blows my mind.

I just want to mention that when I got home today, I had a strange message on my answering machine. One of the places that I applied to for a job called me back. She was excited to see that I had applied with a job at her organization and she asked for me to call her back. I know that I already have a job, so I was going to call to let her know. I called her and she was very impressed my my resume. So we will see what unfolds there.

Also, I made bacon cheeseburgers with french fries tonight for dinner. This was the first time I had a hamburger in about a month.