Monday, December 24, 2007

Peace Joy Hope

Cookies, candles, bells and stars, friends and family, light and love this winter season. See you in 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Daemons and tigers and bears!

Oh my!

Hmmm ... I couldn't resist "meeting my daemon" at the Golden Compass movie site, and look! It turns out my daemon and I have multiple personality disorder. We are solitary, modest, leaders, softly spoken and assertive. I feel mildly dizzy from attempting to reconcile of some of those traits. But, what the heck, I love my osprey daemon, Archeleron! Maybe he will share his fish. Yum, fish.

So, anyhow, watch out bad guys or Archeleron will show you what the word "predator" means!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's all about meme

Is there such a thing as blogger's block? 'Cause I think I have it. So, anyway, since I can't think of anything brilliant to write (as opposed to the previous, dazzling 50+ posts), I decided to perpetrate yet another annoying blog meme by listing The Ten Things Most People Don't Know About Me and then tagging three unfortunate victims and hoping they'll share the love. So here goes:

1. I have experience inoculating oranges.
2. Both of my thumbs are double jointed.
3. I know what kiln furniture is and how to us it.
4. My first paid job was spending an interminable evening inventorying cosmetics at Macy's.
5. On a road trip from South Dakota to Colorado, I got lost and ended up in Nebraska.
6. My music collection includes performances by Vladimir Horowitz, the Sons of the Pioneers, Elton John and Kermit the Frog.
7. I can't see the eye chart without my glasses, but I can count fingers at 6 feet.
8. If there's reincarnation, I want to come back as a dolphin.
9. I can read a sphygmomanometer, measure your depth of field and irrigate a surgical site.
10. I wasn't always a geezerette (see photo for documentation of this preposterous fact.)

Okay, got that out of my system! Now I'm tagging Robyn, Roger, and Paul. Well, and just to make it more obnoxious, I'm tagging anybody else who reads this (in the unlikely event anyone else actually does that). Go forth and write blog entries listing 10 secret things about yourself, then tag 3 more victims. Yes, it's almost like a chain letter! Now send up heartfelt prayers that I get my writing groove back, so you can merely be bored instead of bored and irritated.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Living in the past

Well, here's the deal. The rhinovirus I had? It won. Now I'm on the second round of antibiotics for the bronchitis it welcomed with open arms, and, really, I'm just crabby and wallowing in self-pity and new generation drugs. Blechh ... My sense of humor is down the toilet, it's only 4:40 pm and the sun disappeared for happier climates long ago. So I decided the present sucks. I am going to revisit my autumn vacation, when I was healthy and it was sunny, and post my favorite pictures. Hope you like 'em!

Junction of the Seward and Sterling Highways, southcentral Alaska.

Pond, Seward Highway, southcentral Alaska.

Storm over Kenai Fiords, Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

Russian Orthodox Church, Ninilchik, Alaska.

Church yard, Ninilchik, Alaska.

Mount Alice and beach houses at Lowell Point, Seward, Alaska.

Okay, enough escapism. Gotta go slam the next pill. And daydream about sunny skies. See ya!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tight crops

The title refers to the photographic technique of zooming in on a subject, or cropping a photograph during post-processing, in a way that isolates elements of a larger subject or even reduces the subject to abstract lines and colors. This photo of graffiti on a downtown Fairbanks wall is an example of a tight crop ...

(The title does not, of course, refer to last summer's unfortunate fashion statement in women's pants. I mean, don't even get me started ...)

... as is this photograph of metal benches taken outside the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska. I really loved the contrast between the curved and straight lines of the benches, the bright water drops from an earlier rain storm, and the enigmatic diagonal stripe of the concrete retaining wall behind the benches.

(... but, since you mention it, what the hell are clothing designers thinking of, coming up with all these form fitting clothes and pants with cropped legs and dropped waists? I mean, hello America, no one wants to see your spare tire even if it's accented with a pierced navel! And do you have any idea what that stuff looks like on a 59 year old geezerette? I mean, gravity won, people, and it's not a pretty sight ...)

This photograph of a part of the boat launch ramp at Chena Lakes Recreation Area shows how tight cropping can isolate elements of a larger subject (much like todays fashions isolate unfortunate figure flaws) and bring attention to interesting graphic patterns and colors (which reminds me, children's fashions aren't much better - I mean, what's with all the pink, fluffy stuff in the girl's section and when did streetwalker chic become a fashion must for the under 12 set? And what's with the camo clothing in the boy's section?? Who are we trying to hide them from?! Where is all this going? What is the world coming to? My god, fellow clothes wearers, it's time for the revolution! Let's march on Paris and 5th Avenue! Death to the godless, imperialistic fashionistas ... oh ... er ... heh, where was I?] Um, so anyway, if you're feeling like you're stuck in the photographic doldrums, I highly recommend tight crops. The end.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Road trips can be -- whimsical

"Lawnmower races, Sisterdale VFD Annual BBQ and Dance, August 18 -- be here!" Road trips can be whimsical.

Once I saw a faded La-Z-Boy recliner sitting in an ocean of red Indian Paintbrush, out in the middle of nowhere, facing the distant, beige mountains. It was a little the worse for wear, but the view from its lumpy cushions was as good as it gets.

On the backroads of Alberta, a witty farmer stuffed a pair of blue work britches with straw, fastened boots at the ends of the pant legs, rolled the whole works up in a hay bale with the legs and boots protruding and left it neatly centered in his field, causing drivers like myself to do a double take and veer wildly over the center line. They like to be push the envelope down there, those Canadians.

Once in Missouri I was in a MacDonald's where every single customer, down to the smallest child, wore cowboy boots. They stared at my family and our feet, we in our scuffed tennies, as if we had just landed our space ship in the parking lot.

I paid $12.44 for a meal in Tennessee. The figure sticks in my mind because it took me a few minutes to interpret, "Thatah be tway-uh fo-ah-tee-fo-aah," each syllable drawn out like the strands of some verbal taffy pull.

Okay, now, don't laugh. I fell in love with a blue-eyed cowboy at a Texaco station in Durango, Colorado. But after a few smitten minutes I signed the credit slip he offered me and left him and his tight jeans for the siren call of the road. I'm not sure it would have worked out anyway. Do cowboys take road trips?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Archives battles deadly pest invasion and wins!

Reports of the capture and subsequent demise of that most feared rodent, Rattus archiverae drozdii, have been confirmed by this reporter after interviews and on the scene investigation at a well known historical repository in this northern city.

"We were appalled, disgusted and quite pleasurably grossed-out," remarked one witness who declined to be identified. Staff at the archives were first alerted to the possibility of a rodent invasion by the usual signs, which we will not go into here, feeling, as we do, that this scandal rag ... er, apex of journalistic endeavor shouldn't stoop to discussing matters of excretory function. As our illustration illustrates (note to self: find better wording), mousetraps were deployed and archives staff expected shortly to capture one of the more mundane of the rodent species. Shock and horror reigned upon the discovery of R. archiverae drozdii, a vicious specimen known for devouring not only precious historical documents, but also the occasional archivist! However, courageous staff soon dispatched the nasty beast and the archives was once again safe and sound.

Rattus achiverae drozdii was first identified as a separate species by the preeminant scientist, Dr. Ozda. Dr. Ozda has noted that R. archiverae drozdii can be identified by the unique characteristics of its eyes, particulary the yellow sclera and red irises, and by its unfortunate taste for the flesh of archivists, not to mention its remarkable overbite and the pugilistic set of its snout.

Our great northern city owes a debt of gratitude to the brave archivists who brought down this ravening beast and averted a catastrophe. We can all sleep more soundly knowing our historical documents are safe and so are our beloved archivists.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Road trips can be -- scary

Isn't this an amazing view? What you can't see are the signs at this rest stop (and every other rest stop in the American southwest) warning of creepy, crawly, biting, stinging, hissing and venemous creatures hanging out in desert camo waiting to part you from a delicious piece of your warm, human flesh. And that's just the beginning of road trip dangers ...

I once sputtered to a stop in a dusty, one-horse town on a two-lane highway in Nevada. It was way past my usual stopping time, but nothing more promising had appeared and now the road stretched ahead of me for empty miles towards the horizon. A stringy, tough looking woman greeted me from behind the desk of the town's single, ramshackle, motel. "Honey," she said, "I'm putting you in the room next to mine so you'll feel safe." In my mind, the town lost its air of gentle decay and began to look dark and menacing.

After stashing my suitcase in my room, I stepped out the door, headed for a seedy convenience store, which appeared to be the town's only food source. It was after sunset and shadowy figures were lurking in the weak, orange light given off by the single dingy lamp over the entry to the store. I may have considered going without dinner that night. Luckily, common sense (and my devotion to regular meals) kicked in. I gathered my courage, leashed my attack dog, Sam the Cocker Spaniel, and, assuming my most fearsome don't-mess-with-the-librarian expression, I proceeded forth. The miscreants gathered around the store's entry attempted to intimidate me by greeting me with a threatening, "Good evening, ma'am," but my determination to snag a frozen dinner unmolested must have impressed them because I lived to tell about the encounter and to enjoy my mac & cheese and a peaceful night's sleep.

Road trips can be very edifying and adventuresome, but it is necessary to pack a resolute attitude and a fair bit of courage along with your undies.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Word for the day: Egregious

Some words are just freighted with meaning. You simply have to be grateful they're a part of the English language. Egregious for example. If you say it, you sound intellectual and articulate. People will be impressed with the breadth of your vocabulary. But they'll also know what you've really said is that some brainless twit, some drooling lackwit with the I.Q. of beach sand, has done something seriously stupid. You've managed to package all that withering scorn into a word that makes you look like an upstanding citizen protesting a grievous error. So let's hear it for egregious!

P.S. Sorry for the really bad cartoon. I don't have a photo of egregiousness. I'm either stunned to the point of paralysis by someone else's egregiousness and incapable of pointing my camera at them or I'm busy committing egregiousness myself (and you know I'm not going to record that for posterity!).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Be seein' you off planet!

Wooohooo! I just took a quiz to see which science-fiction space crew I'd fit best with and, omigod, it was the Serenity crew! I am so out of here and off planet! So thanks to my favorite cynic (you can find him at I Love Cynics) for the idea. I'm a happy space cadet, 'cause Firefly is my favorite sci-fi series. Here are my results:

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in with? (pics)
created with
You scored as Serenity (Firefly)

You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


I'll be sending you a post card from somewhere far, far away, as soon as I figure out how that works.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our refrigerators, ourselves

Refrigerators remind me of phrenology. You remember seeing those old illustrations with some hapless person's head all divided up like a butcher's chart? Except instead of being divided into cuts, the head is divided into regions, and the lumps and bumps in each region are supposed to shed light on that region's aspect of personality. I think you can do that with refrigerators and acquire deep insight into the owner's personality. Here are some refrigerator regions I've identified:
  1. The Beverage Zone - anything beyond non-fat milk and high pulp orange juice can be very revealing.
  2. The Half-used and Abandoned Condiment Region.
  3. The It-was-bad-the-first-time Leftover Area.
  4. The Out-of-sight-out-of-mind Scary Science Zone.
  5. The Future Experiments with Weird Food Region.
  6. The I-had-good-intentions Mushy Vegetable Zone.

Picture your refrigerator door. Now picture it with those zones drawn on it. See? You can diagram your refrigerator just like a phrenology head and gain insight into your subconscious mind. I'm giving you self-help advice for free! You should always read my blog. I rock!

In the interest of transparency, here are 10 things in my refrigerator:

  1. Half empty can of Hershey's chocolate sauce.
  2. Organic free range eggs (can't you just see little legs poking out of the shells as my eggs trotted around on the prairie!).
  3. Box of baking soda that absorbed its last odor in 2003.
  4. Bottle of Koon Chun Barbeque Sauce.
  5. Day old pizza slices.
  6. Half empty jar of dill pickle relish.
  7. Cranberries (antioxident bonus points for me!) (See picture above; you were wondering how it related weren't you?).
  8. Roll of polenta purchased last spring.
  9. Sweet and sour guava sauce, best before 05/2007.
  10. Half-eaten bar of Maya Gold chocolate, best before 08/2007.

I'll leave it to your imagination which regions those items came from.

What? You want a chart to tell you what particular regions and items might mean personality-wise? Are you kidding - after I've revealed what's in my refrigerator? Actually, I've included an interpretive chart in my book, Your refrigerator and you: if it's lurking in your frig, it's lurking in your mind. Look for it soon in book stores near you.

Now it's your turn! What's in your refrigerator?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't make the sea bird police mad - just don't

Here's where it all started to go wrong: There's a little vestibule thingie that you have to pass through to get to the sea bird exhibit at the Alaska Sea Life Center. And there's a cop stationed there. I didn't notice she was a cop at first, because she's disguised as a mild-mannered staff member. So my sea bird experience started by being held captive in the vestibule, staring longingly through the glass doors that led to the exhibit and the truly cool birds, while Ms. Cop read us the riot act ... er ... explained exhibit policies regarding our behavior when we viewed the sea birds, plugged several Center programs aimed at our wallets, and listed the types of birds we'd be seeing (in case we hadn't gotten a clue from pressing our noses up against the glass doors). She does this in a high speed monotone designed to kill enough brain cells that no one could possibly pose a threat to the birds. Trust me on this.

But I'd already visited the sea birds on a previous trip and I was jazzed! I had my camera and my ever present goal to take the absolute perfect bird picture; one that will blow all other bird pictures off Flickr and into the ether. Plus I truly, truly love animals. I get that it's an amazing privilege to stand in that exhibit and watch those birds. So I stationed myself about 4 feet back from the wall that separates the birds from the onlookers and pointed my camera. Now, mind you, I was using an 18 to 200 mm lens, which means it goes from a wide angle view to a close-up view, and a person can get a little confused about where they are relative to their subject when they are zooming through that range. Still, I hadn't moved from the spot I was standing, I was using the close-up end of the zoom, and I figured that, unless I saw a giant bird eye staring at me through the lens, I was far enough away not to annoy the birds. So you can imagine my surprise when I hear, right in my ear, "PSSST!! STEP BACK NOW!" It was Ms. Cop, glaring at me. I couldn't have been more startled if she had drawn a gun and shouted, "Step away from the sea bird!!"

Of course, I stepped back. But I kind of thought that if I was scaring the birds while standing four feet away from the pool, holding perfectly still so my pictures wouldn't be blurry, and not talking, maybe I should just watch them from outside the exhibit. So I headed for the door. But, I turned back for one last look. And here is what I saw: Ms. Cop was up close and personal with one of the birds that had hopped up on the dividing wall and she was scratching its little head! Possibly my eyes narrowed and a tiny "grrr"escaped my lips. But not until I was outside the exhibit. I'm not getting in Ms. Cop's face. She's mean.

I would have written off Ms. Cop as just one of those icky people that you meet once in a while, but then we crossed paths again under circumstances that made me more sympathetic. I returned to the Sea Life Center a few days later, on a day when 250 Anchorage school children were loose in the Center. Walking down a hall, I passed Ms. Cop. She was a study in controlled anger. She looked like she could spit nails! I knew just how she felt. Those miniature deliquents/hell spawn/school children scared my octopus! When they came trompling and shouting up to its tank, it shrank up into a far corner, turned pale and closed its eyes. I really, really wanted to walk up to them and hiss in each child's ear "PSST! STEP BACK NOW!"

P.S. Ms. Cop and 250 school kids notwithstanding, I still totally love the Sea Life Center. I still want a job throwing fish to the sea birds. Or, maybe, I want a job guarding the door to the exhibit. I can be mean, too. Send in the kids ...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Today is Cephalopod Awareness Day!

So, have you hugged your octopus today? I haven't because mine is far south at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. I know it's my octopus because, when I sit quietly in front of its tank, it looks me right in the eye and then it slowly begins to dance. Its tentacles curve and spiral. The membranes between its tentacles billow and sway. I'm enchanted. I could sit for hours watching, and I do. I am convinced this amazing creature is trying to communicate with me. Cephalopods are smart.

Here's what you can do to celebrate Cephalopod Awareness Day (stolen directly from The Octopus News Magazine Online):

1. Tell a friend some random things you know about cephalopods.
2. Hug your cephalopod plushy.
3. Meditate for 15 minutes and imagine yourself as a benthic octopus, feeling in the dark, cold ocean floor with your eight independently-sensory arms ... passing food up to your beak which is located under your head.
4. Eat cheddar-filled jalapeno poppers as a way of supporting that product, in hopes they will eclipse deep-fried calamari as the mid-grade appetizer of choice ... poppers, yum!
5. Sculpt an octopus out of mashed potatoes (you were full from the poppers anyhow).
6. Make octopus shaped pancakes for breakfast.

And, last of all, check out Cephalopod Centerfold, a blog dedicated to all things cephalopod. Plus it's funny.

So, if you're at the Sea Life Center and the octopus dances for you? Don't tell me. I want to keep thinking it likes me best!

Update: If squids are your favorite cephalopods, take a look at the squid site.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Giant Fall Picture Frenzy

So, a couple of posts back I was whining about how it was raining? And how I might go out anyway, but, you know, ew? So the weekend before last I put on my "Alaskan women kick butt" outfit, grabbed my camera and a bucket and went out into the woods to slay some cranberries and take pictures. What a ravishing sight I was with my giant fleece pants, black wellies with the cool red stripe around the top, red raincoat, blue baseball hat with rain-crazed gray hair sticking out over my ears, as I slogged along swinging a bright orange bucket. Anyway, it's been nonstop photos since then. I started with the high bush cranberries leaves above and just kept going!

There's this one:

This is a pond near the ski slope on Eielson Air Force Base. You can't tell from the picture, but I'm standing on squishy ground in about a foot of water, praying that I'm gonna be able to take this picture fast enough not to vanish forever into the bog goop that's sucking at my boots.

This one ...

... was taken out at Chena Lakes Recreation Area at the River Park. I didn't have to worry about sinking into bog goop here, but I did kind of wonder if there were any bears around, hiding behind the trees and sizing me up, thinking about how I might make a fine last minute snack before hibernation.

This one ...

... is a pond at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, River Park. By the time I took this, I was feeling much wiser. I didn't stand in any glop and I was only about 4 feet away from my open car door.

This is also at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, but at the Lake Park. Actually, just a few feet away from the boat launch there. Can you believe the colors of the trees? After I took this one, I actually managed to put the camera down and pick some cranberries.

Then, this last weekend I went even further south:

This is an anonymous hillside somewhere between Salcha and Delta Junction. And, below, is a picture of Munson's Slough, Salcha, Alaska:

So, there you go. You'd think I'd be pretty tired of autumn by now, but no! Now I'm leaving for a week and a half to spend some time in southcentral Alaska, where the fall weather is lingering and, hopefully, so are the leaves. So I won't be posting for a while. Just to let my army of devoted readers know ... all two of them.

P.S. I apologize that you can only click and enlarge some of these pictures. Blogger was experiencing indigestion when I uploaded them, and only some of them are clickable. Curse you, Blogger, curse you!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Picture shortage

Okay, the title isn't really accurate. I don't have a picture shortage. Because, god knows, I'll point my camera at virtually anything that holds still long enough. And, if it's moving, I'll make another bad stab at panning. So I have a boat load of pictures. But none of them are about anything I currently want to write about. And see up there in the Snaps North banner, where it says it's an illustrated journal?

So I made big plans for a picture taking/cranberry picking weekend (that's right, MizMagee can multi-task!), but now look - it's raining. So do I want to slog out to the dank and dripping woods and muck around on sloppy ground foraging for berries and photos? Well, I might. But as a certain cynic, philosopher and relative of MizMagee's often says, "Meh."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

After autumn is, um, summer, right?

In keeping with my cheerful, sunny spirit and innate optimism ... ick, okay, I'll start over: In spite of my general air of grumpiness and my normally pessimistic assessment of life, I seriously love autumn. I just pretend this will be the year that winter doesn't arrive after autumn fades. Autumn is my favorite season. How can you not love autumn?

Okay, it's true that, in spite of nearly 60 years of pretending, winter has followed autumn with an impressive and perfect regularity, but the moment the leaves start to change I forget all about the fact that I live almost precisely 130 miles south of the arctic circle in the heart of the subarctic boreal forest. A place where, on the shortest day of the year, the sun hoists itself a meager distance above the horizon, looks across the frozen landscape, loses heart and plummets sadly down and out of sight again, and we're left freezing various mentionable and unmentionable body parts off in the dark and entertaining ourselves by seeing who comes up with the weirdest manifestation of seasonal affective disorder.

Instead, autumn arrives and I happily run out and admire the fabulous color of the same leaves about which I will later mutter inventive curses while fishing them out of my rain gutters and raking them into towering piles on my lawn. I take giant breaths of crisp air, fragrant with the scent of the forest floor, forgetting the fact that the forest floor smells that way because mold, my favorite allergen, is busy making compost out of the fallen leaves. Do I care? No. Because nothing looks as amazing as a stand of bright yellow birches against a deep blue sky, unless maybe it's a stand of bright yellow birches, illuminated by a shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds, and posed against the dark background of an autumn storm.

So pass me some kleenex and Nasonex, and don't you dare mention snow. I'm in denial.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fresh green fractals

Woooo! Look at this cool thing. Is this amazing or what! It could be anything: the surface of some misbegotten virus, intelligent life from another galaxy, a clump of fossilized pollen spores from the Cretaceous Period. And I found it at [...dramatic pause...] the Tanana Valley Farmer's Market. Yep, it's broccoli. In all its healthy green goodness. Boy, I love the Farmer's Market, but this just beats all. The first time I laid eyes on this crazy stuff (Romanesco Broccoli, sometimes called Fractal broccoli) I knew I had to own it, take it home, put it next to my kitchen window to backlight it, and photograph it. And, I'll admit, it's the first time I've gotten excited about something at the Farmer's Market when my main purpose wasn't to take it home and consume it. Although I will, when I'm done using it as a model for distant universes and life forms. I've always thought fractals were amazing, but I've never purposely cooked and eaten any before. I don't think. Okay, off to do more research on fractals!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Freaky Hijiki

Yeah, that's right, Gramma Peggy loves the Beastie Boys. Gotta problem with that? And yeah, I know the chances are that when some 59 year old librarian/gray haired granny makes that pronouncement it's probably the death knell heralding the end of the Beastie Boys' careers, but what the hell. It's true, I'm a fan. Even if the thought gives you a painful headache. At any rate, I highly recommend their album, "The Mix-Up." I got it as a loaner from my son, the king of eclectic music collecting (more on that in another post). Pretty soon I was dancing around the kitchen to this really great music! (Okay, scary visual.)

Wikipedia calls this album "post-punk instrumental." I'd call it a really creative mix of jazz, blues and electronica. The B. Boys themselves just say, "It spits hot fire." And maybe I've got a lot of gray hair, but I'm not dead yet and I get spittin' hot fire. I do! Really! Oh, just go listen. It's a treat, dearies, you have my word. Now I'm gonna go crochet antimacassers while rockin' my porch swing in time to Suco de Tangerina.

Anyhow, if you haven't been blinded by the headache or the visual of me dancing and you can actually see the picture, I chose it 'cause it reminded me of the music on "The Mix-Up." It's a photo of one of the rides at the Tanana Valley Fair, Photoshopped to within an inch of its life with motion blur and distortion filters.

Now, go dance!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Driveway Zen

I just spent two and a half hours weeding my driveway. I estimate that it might take another six hours to get the whole thing done. Sometimes when I'm weeding the driveway, I think about what my reaction would have been if, at sixteen, I had been told that my future held hours of driveway weeding in Alaska. I'm pretty sure I would have smiled politely and then backed slowly away from the crazy person, who, it would have been clear to me, was about as out of touch with reality as if they'd chosen to announce that Abraham Lincoln was living in their garage. I'm not sure a weed ever dared poke a head above concrete level in a single one of the driveways of the ultra-tidy, landscaped, manicured and sidewalked neighborhood where I spent my teenage years, but you can be sure if it had it would have been quickly fried to a mutated crisp by a brief but intense skirmish in the chemical warfare that passed as gardening at that particular time and place. "Driveway" and "weed" were mutually exclusive terms. And, of course, my disbelief would also have had to do with the fact that Alaska wasn't even on my particular map of the world (which featured Santa Cruz, the closest surfing to my house and, later, San Francisco and flower power, and not much else).

But now, here I am, weeding my driveway in Alaska. Actually, I'm pretty casual about weeding the driveway, only getting serious about the whole thing when the house starts looking like an abandoned building - since I'm not anxious to come home and find squatters setting up housekeeping on my porch. Well, and even that isn't too probable in Alaska. Up here we cultivate an air of gentle dishevelment in our living spaces, and the sophisticated squatter would know that, barring a fallen in roof and 24 inch gaps in the flooring, the most crumbling and humble of homes is still likely occupied.

I've gotten particular about what I pull up from the driveway. Every year I'm visited by the progeny of a group of pansies I planted the first year I lived in my house. I planted them in an actual flower garden, and how they migrated to the driveway remains a mystery. But I love them and so every year, at randomly spaced intervals scattered across the drive, their colorful heads wave happily at me when I come and go from my house.

Anyway, the picture is an actual close up of a bit of my driveway. The moss is nice, don't you think?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Snapshot of my sister

This is a picture of my sister, ca. 1967. Today is her birthday. Happy birthday, Sister! She's still cute, plus she's generous, caring, and really, really funny. In our family photographs, she's the one making goofy faces. The very best thing I remember from my childhood is the sound of her laughter. She was a wild child and I was a mild child. While I was reading stories, she was making them up, creating adventures for her Barbie dolls. When we were teenagers, we covered for each other, and we knew enough about one another to get each other grounded for life. Once she slugged one of my ex-boyfriends for saying something mean about me. Sisters just don't get any better than that!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I heart libraries

My first library came on wheels. It was a van full of treasures and visiting it was the highlight of my week. My friend Debbie's mom would gently herd Deb and me, and our two little sisters, through the streets and across traffic to the corner where the bookmobile parked. We would each pick the maximum number of books we were allowed to check out, enough to make our arms ache long before we got back to Deb's house, and we'd be off for another week of literary adventure.

We were binge readers. We read until our brains were bloated, until our eyes swam, until focusing on distant objects was no longer an option. We read until the stories became more real than the world we inhabited. We were bookworms. I'm not sure either of us ever really recovered. We're still friends and we still love libraries.

Since then I've made myself at home in quite a few libraries. I moved away from my hometown in 1970, to an exotic and very small town in southwestern Oklahoma. (Believe me, when you're from central California, small towns in southwestern Oklahoma are exotic.) Shortly after arriving I decided I'd better get a library card. I'm not sure who suffered the most from culture shock during that transaction, myself or the two little old, gray-haired librarians. (Ironically, now I'm a little old, gray-haired librarian -- but I digress.) These two honestly were the very archetype of librarian. Buns in their hair, orthopedic shoes on their feet. And the books - the books! The books were at least as old as the librarians and considerably more dusty. The librarians, of course, were delighted to see me. I was probably the first person to walk in the door in the last twenty years. They would have been delighted if Genghis Khan had walked through that door, providing he confessed to a desire for a library card.

In any case, the librarians, having had only one another to talk to for decades, were understandably curious about me. When they discovered I was from California they exclaimed, "Well, aren't you glad you're in Oklahoma now!" I admitted that I was finding Oklahoma interesting, but I wondered why they thought a California girl, in particular, would be glad to be in Oklahoma. "Why," they announced in unison, "because California is going to have an earthquake and fall into the ocean!" I wasn't sure how to reply to that because I really, really didn't want to admit that, while earthquakes didn't worry me too much, I was pretty scared about the fact that I'd moved to a place where I could be picked up by a tornado and deposited in a tree three counties over. Anyway, the first book I dusted off and checked out was on severe weather. I'm proud to say that there were a fair number of un-dusty books by the time I moved away. And not all of them were on weather.

One of my favorite libraries was the base library on Langley Air Force Base. There was a housing shortage at Langley when we arrived, and we were forced to take up residence in one of a group of quaint little tourist cottages which, for the sake of anonymity, I will call "The Aegean Stables." Our cottage came with a really rich and amazing bouquet of smells and roaches big enough kick serious tourist butt. So the library was my refuge. It was clean, quiet, roachless and it had enough books to keep me busy until we got our very own quarters on base. Which, by the way, came with a really rich and amazing bouquet of smells and roaches big enough to kick serious Air Force butt.

Anyway, I guess it's not really a mystery why I became a librarian.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rollerblade bottle tune guy

Huh, the Hallalujah Nuns has been removed from YouTube by the creator (no, that's not some obscure religious pun; the person who made the video took it off of YouTube - at least I think that's what they meant by creator!). Anyway, here, instead, is the Rollerblace bottle tune guy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hug your friends

This blog has strayed quite a ways from my original intention to critique my photos -- and that's just fine, because I was actually clueless about blogs and, apparently, clueless about what was lurking in the stranger recesses of my head. But I'm totally uncomfortable writing sad stuff. So this is all I have to say on the subject of the death of friends: Hug your friends and tell them you love them. Better yet, tell them why you love them. Because life is short and it helps to know the people you love left knowing how much they were cherished. Of course, we all know this, but a reminder never hurts.

Okay, (blows nose), now I'm gonna go see if I can find the Hallalujah Nuns to make me laugh. I'll share.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Holy crap, it's a puffin!

Sometimes it amazes me how articulate I am. For example, I was at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1982 and I stumbled across my most favorite self portrait by Rembrandt. I'd never seen it outside the pages of an art history book before. When I saw the real deal in all its amazing beautifulness, I burst into tears and said, "Oh, wow!" in my best 1960's California girl lexicon. How's that for profound commentary?

So anyway, I got to go to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward last month with my grandkids. What a great place! My absolute favorite thing was the seabird exhibit. I stepped in, took one look and said, "Holy crap, it's a puffin!" It was downhill from there. Once the birds started diving for fish, I was reduced to repeating "Omigod, omigod!" while hopping up and down and pointing. Maybe that's better than a pedantic lecture on seabirds, aimed at the grandkids, but I'm supposed to be a role model! How am I going to feel when they respond to life's best experiences with their grandmother's native language, proto-Valley Girl? I mean, like, they'll be all, "Omigod, bitchin'!" Well, okay, the truth is I'll be all, like, "Totally!" while I beam at them. Passing it on is the least I can do.

Anyhow, my secret desire is to retire to Seward and get a job throwing fish to the seabirds. Omigod! Omigod! It'd be awesome.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sad movie hangover

I have a sad movie hangover. Sometimes you've just got to watch them, especially when they're movies as beautiful as Brokeback Mountain, but you can count on walking around in a little cloud of leftover sadness for a while after.

Bud from a wild rose, Fairbanks, early summer, 2007.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Post-apocalyptic worlds

I just finished reading two novels set in post-apocalyptic worlds. I wouldn't ordinarily read two somber books in a row like that without Stephanie Plum stuck between them to make me laugh, but I happened to pick up Cormac McCarthy's The Road and then was given World War Z by Max Brooks as a gift.

I love McCarthy's writing and his ability to elicit pity from the reader for the worst of his characters and to convey with painful beauty what it means to be human. The Road is no exception, and I think it may be my most favorite of all his books. The novel is set in a fiercely grim world in which a father's and son's love for one another is the only relief, and certainly the only beauty, in the ravaged landscape and relentless destruction around them. McCarthy's post-apocalyptic world is utterly believable, as is the relationship between father and son, in this remarkable novel. If you are a pessimist, but hold out a tiny grain of hope for the human spirit, this is a book to read.

Okay, that was just a little too serious, so now we're going to rag on some Zombies! Be prepared to set all belief aside for World War Z. Well, I mean, zombies, duh, yeah! But, completely apart from zombies, be prepared to believe that -- in spite of millions of deaths (and subsequent reanimated zombies) in the U.S. -- the government, the military and the industrial world would continue to function, albiet somewhat badly at first, enough so that it becomes possible to manufacture zombie proof suits and diving equipment for the military, organize an evacuation to move most surviving Americans and their government west of the Rocky Mountains, and stamp out all but small pockets of zombies. (Zombies, it turns out, freeze in northern winters and then thaw and become troublesome in the spring -- and you thought break-up in Fairbanks was ugly!)

Anyway, all of this makes me wonder where Brooks was during Hurricane Katrina, and how he could possible imagine that any infrastructure would survive the body count, ruined cities and general disorder he describes as his post-apocalyptic world. Hah! Not gonna happen. Ironically, I think Brooks meant the book as a vehicle for making fun of the government and military.

Interestingly, Brooks has written this book as a series of oral history interviews, citing Studs Terkel as an influence. But anyone who has ever listened to oral histories, or who has read Terkel and paid attention, knows that people speak with their own distinctive styles. All of the interviewees in the book speak in the same voice, further diminishing the believability of the story.

Anyway, if you are an incurable optimist and hold out a boat load of hope for capitalism, oil reserves, and human nature, and if you're willing to suspend a whole bunch of belief to be entertained, this is the book for you.

Making post-apocalyptic pictures is fun. The above was done from a photograph of a rusted out marine boiler washed up on the shore at Ninilchik, Alaska ca. 1980, and stuck in the creepiest frame layer I could find in Photoshop Elements 5.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Staying connected, part 2

I got a letter in the mail the other day telling me that my cell phone provider wasn't going to support my old cell phone anymore. So yesterday I went to the local company office. I had a new phone all picked out, and I was pretty excited about it. This new phone would not only allow me to call friends and family, it'd also take pictures, play music, and connect wirelessly to all sorts of useful devices. Plus it was red. How cool is that? So when it was my turn to talk to the sales rep, I plunked the new phone's pamphlet down on his desk and said, "This is the phone I want." Well, this thirty-something guy looked at me, looked at the pamphlet and looked back at me. Then he said, "I think this is too much phone for you."

So, anyway, my new phone can take pictures, play music and connect wirelessly to all sorts of useful devices. Plus it's red.

And the sales rep? Yeah, he's red, too.

P.S. The phone picture isn't mine; I found it doing an image search. It's a kick, isn't it? Early '60's, I'm betting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Staying connected

Originally uploaded by MizMagee

Once upon a time, many years ago (1983, to be exact), I was complaining to a friend about how annoying it was to be in the shower when the phone rang. This was, of course, before answering machines became ubiquitous. So the phone would ring, and there you would be, mid-suds, and you'd have to leap out, grab a towel and leave a trail of wet footprints across the floor only to discover that the person on the other end of the line was interested in selling you a Ginzu knife or a new vacuum. Anyhow, my friend looked sort of bemused and said, "But I just unplug my phone when I don't want to be interrupted."

The ground rumbled beneath my feet, dark clouds parted and golden rays of sun poured down on me! Possibly I heard angels singing. I don't always have to be connected! What a concept!

I've had a lot of fun learning the features of Web 2.0. I'm intrigued by the sociological implications of it all, and impressed by the utility of a few of the things I've looked at. But my mind boggles at the idea of being constantly connected. Apart from the sheer craziness of trying to fit blogging, Twittering, YouTubing, podcasting, text messaging, Rollyoing, and being fed by RSS into a single day and still managing to sleep, eat and be productive, I have to wonder what the impact of all this is on the quality of an individual's life. When are people able to be alone with their thoughts? Isn't that important? How can Twittering stand in for being physically with friends, reading the expressions on their faces, hearing in their voices the day's joys and sorrows? I think always being connected means, oddly enough, becoming disconnected. It means trading depth of experience for number counters and statistics generators.

But, as I've said before, I'm old. Maybe I just don't get what constitutes a meaningful experience in 2007. Here I am blogging, after all, and I'd like to keep doing that now that I've finished Learning 2.0. My pictures are up on Flickr and my books are listed on LibraryThing. Clearly I don't think it's all bad. But, jeez, slap me if I start to Twitter!

The picture (forgive the barrel distortion) is a nice example of an analog communication device, located, happily enough, right outside the front doors of the very library that set me the quest of considering Web 2.0. You don't have to be connected to anything but the ground in front of it in order to use it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Banishing the grump

Huh, well my last two posts might have been just a bit cranky. Only a little, of course, because I'm the queen of cheerful optimism and hearty enthusiasm. Okay, not. But I'm posting this photo, anyhow, because a) houses in Juneau are awesome and b) so are some Web 2.0 features. Just not MySpace.

Anyway, can you see the crazy curtains in this window? (You can click on the picture to make it bigger.) Umbrellas and raindrops in a red, blue and green window. The people in this house totally know how to deal with Juneau's drizzly weather!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


You can access quite a lot in MySpace without having an account. Which is all to the good, because I don't want one. What a bunch of irrelevant nonsense! MySpace is like talk radio; it really, really messes with the fantasy I have that most people are reasonably intelligent. Weirdly, I had the identical feeling I get when walking to my seat at the movie theater -- like my feet were sticking to the glop on the floor. Vapid, inelegant, crushingly stupid. Ick! Enough said.

Google Base, Google Labs, food, personal ads and a walk in the woods

Moss and flowers
Originally uploaded by MizMagee

Okay, it's true, this picture hasn't got much to do with Web 2.0. Well, I mean, I guess you could make some sort of analogy between pretty stuff growing on a dead stump near Juneau and new technology, but, hey, I'll leave that to the more literary and philosophical! I just like this picture because it's stress free and gentle, and it reminds me of a great hike I took near Mendenhall Glacier. Well, um, and because sometimes I need something beautiful to balance the strange and icky stuff lurking out there on the Web. But I'll get to that in a minute.

I ventured into Google Base right before lunch, so, guided by my growling stomach, I pounced on the "recipes" category and found a great recipe for salmon chowder. Emboldened by that success and still influenced by hunger, I searched the "events & activities" category for farmer's markets in the Seattle area. Of course that was a sure thing, so I decided to make it more challenging and changed the location from Seattle to Dubuque. And, hey, there is, indeed, a farmer's market near Dubuque. There's hope for the heartland! Or so I thought, but here's where I went wrong. I decided to add some humor to my day by searching the "personal" category. Google Base preserves the search parameters from your previous search and applies them when you search a new category. Voila! I had the only entry in the "personal" category for Dubuque. A 53 year old male who listed his body type as "other." I should have stopped there, because, god knows, that's pretty funny. But no, like a doofus, I had to click on the link. All I can say is you don't want to go there. Moss and flowers on stumps and hikes through the rain forest: all good. Google Base personal ads: bad, bad, bad.

Anyway, after that adventure, I tried Google Labs, which is Google's playground of possible future sites and features. Honestly, I didn't find much to be excited about, although I did like the possibility of viewing pieces of history on a timeline. On the right hand side of the Google Labs page is a list of former Lab features that have become Google standards, and I added Google Scholar to my browser bookmarks. Somehow I'd missed that Google search engine, and I was impressed with my search results.

Anyhow, I'm off to get becalmed contemplating old stumps. Peace.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Interval Library - more YouTube weirdness

Hey, I'm a librarian and a music lover. Found my bliss!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Google maps and mashups

My teeny, teeny house
Originally uploaded by MizMagee

This is my house. Happily, it isn't a picture of my house from Google maps - how creepy would that be! But I did find a satellite picture of my house, or at least the roof, on Google maps. So far Google maps hasn't gotten down to cat in the window level in Fairbanks. When they do get that detailed, Fairbanks being the place it is, I expect what will be seen in windows won't be napping cats, but, instead, cranky faces and expressive hand gestures.

I've used Google maps twice as a travel aid. One map was on the button, but the other left me in an empty lot late at night in Austin, Texas, wondering where the heck my motel was. That was an exciting travel adventure!

Google mashups are an entirely different (and entertaining!) story. I went to Cool Google Maps and discovered that I could find out where to locate a taco truck in Seattle, and, even better, I could read a history of each truck's health inspections. If you're curious, hungry for a taco, or on the lookout for ptomaine or salmonella, go here.

Another Google mashup will tell you where in Chicago recent crimes have happened. You can filter your query by location, a list which includes animal hospitals, car washes, day care centers, libraries and sidewalks. I found this list quite alarming and would, frankly, advise simply staying away from the windy city, or, at the very least, plead with you to have your hamster neutered somewhere else. However, if you insist on placing yourself in danger, you can go here to find a likely spot.

And remember, if you can't get out and travel, you can always visit the rooftops of the world on Google Maps.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How to make a bra out of two handkerchiefs, c1921

It's astonishing how much craziness is out there in virtual space. So, this assignment was to post a YouTube video on my blog. I did a search on "archivists" and came up with 75 hits including this little gem. Be patient with the sewing scenes, because the scenes following them are just too charming and funny for words. Oh, wait, it's a silent film -- there are no words!

Juneau rocks! ... and, oh yeah, minimal processing

Omigod, can you believe these flowers? After more than 30 years in Alaska, I finally got to go to Juneau. I was so excited that, my first morning there, I grabbed my camera, blew right out the hotel door and headed straight uphill! Forget breakfast! And these flowers were the first of many things that brought me to a screeching halt.

I love the gardens and the flowers. I love the quirky little houses that cling to the side of the mountain, with their bright paint and crazy colors. I love how the rain clouds press down on the mountain tops and shroud the evergreens in mist and fog. I love how the light on a rainy day makes all the colors pop and glow.

I was there for a workshop on what is a controversial, and maybe even revolutionary, new paradigm in archival practice dubbed MPLP for "more product, less processing," or, more succinctly, "minimal processing." Well, okay, I admit that using the words "controversial" and "revolutionary" in reference to anything having to do with archives and archivists is really pretty funny. But the suggestion that we ought to do less than organize and describe our holdings right down to the last piece of correspondence, and, even worse, leave them in their original folders with all those rusty paperclips, has left some of us pale and faint. Not a pretty sight, all us compulsive organizers reeling dangerously over our tidy boxes of diaries and correspondence! So really, between seeing Juneau for the first time and experiencing a heady whiff of revolution, I had quite an exciting three days.

While I was being a tourist, I visited the state capitol. Which is not like anybody else's capitol, thank you very much! It's ours and it's unique. No fancy dome, no park like setting. It sits right there on the street, all square and brick and understated. Not that it isn't all fitted out with marble columns, dark wood and shiny brass, but in a most dignified and businesslike manner. I was strangely and embarrassingly moved by it. The "Alaska Flag Song" ran through my head for the rest of the day.

Other Juneau adventures: a drive to Douglas Island and a walk through an alpine bog; first encounter with an actual cruise ship - good god, they block out the sun and are the size of small Hawaiian islands - the horror, the horror; street vender food - yum; a public library perched over a parking garage; the Douglas small boat harbor; Mendenhall Glacier.

Did I say how much I love Juneau?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Online productivity tools, Ford trucks, and other oddities

Well, okay, this is a picture I took on Saturday and which I titled "f-stop" as a kind of wise-ass photography pun. But today's assignment is to use Zoho writer to publish a piece of writing on my blog. So, depending on how this goes, I could just rename this "F" for what I might get if this were a graded assignment.

I can actually see that Zoho writer could be a great collaborative tool. I like the huge flexibility of format and the capabilities of inserting images and graphs. I prefer this to using a Wiki, although a the structure of a Wiki makes more sense for collaboration within an organization. But Zoho seems like something people collaborating on a piece of creative writing might want to use.

So, on Saturday? I grabbed my camera, drove over to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and leaped out of the car, all inspired to do some power walking and work up a sweat. You would think I'd know better, because I've done this before. Two steps and I was already stopping to shoot pictures, and what was supposed to be a forty minute aerobic workout turned into an hour and fifteen minutes of happy, unaerobic photography. Great for the stress levels but forget the cardio thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

LibraryThing and Technorati

Children's section
Originally uploaded by p_asbury

Finally, LibraryThing is back up after some major down time, and I annexed this afternoon to get on and get going. I hate to admit what a really bad memory I have (And it's been this way my whole life, hasn't it? It can't just be my age ...), but more than once I've bought a second copy of a book I forgot I already owned. So I was delighted to find a place where I can input my library. Also I read like a maniac, so my friends are always asking what I'm reading, and what books I'd recommend. Now I can just point them to my LibraryThing library. Of course, we'll just have to see if I can bring myself to admit publically to the junk I read. If my list looks suspiciously lacking in trash, it should be clear that I'm embarassed to admit to the bad, bad cozies and horrible romances. Anyhow, I added a widget with random tags from my library to this blog; it's somewhere over there on the right sidebar. So, in a nutshell, yay LibraryThing!

The other part of my day's assignments was to take a look at Technorati. I did register this blog, though god help anyone who actually chooses to read it. I picture catatonic bodies, rigid from near-terminal boredom. Hey, I'm 59 years old and a librarian. I take cute pictures of flowers. I haven't raised any kind of hell since I was 18, and even then it was faint hell indeed. Well, er, so, anyway ... Technorati. The search features were a little different than described on my library's Learning 2.0 page, but it seemed easy to use. It's amazing how many blogs, photos, videos and miscellaneous things people have put up on the web! So the odds are I'm not alone in boring the living brain cells out of any poor victim who opens a blog page.

Boy, have I gotten far off the topic of photography! Photo above taken in the children's section of Rasmuson Library (just in case the title didn't give it away ...), with major post processing inflicted upon it, including a massive saturation boost.

Technorati tags:


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wow, well after the experience with Rollyo I was feeling a little beat up by my 2.0 experience, but is really easy and useful! I can't count the number of times I've been away from home and work, sitting in front of a strange computer and wishing I had my bookmarks.

I didn't add all my bookmarks, just my absolute most favorites. I'll keep adding them over time, but, like a typical librarian, I've pretty much bookmarked the world and then organized them into a system of folders that would make Dewey proud. It looks like provides a way to be that compulsive, but maybe I'll try being a random-abstract thinker for a while. It'll be good for my right brain.

I also like the potential this site has for research, because, well, I really haven't bookmarked the whole, entire world. Close though! But between all the other users, I bet it's very nearly covered.

And the photo - well, crab apples are the only thing I have on my flickr page. I need to take more food photos!

Urgh ...

My assignment today was to create a search roll on Rollyo. I don't have a photo bleak enough to illustrate my experience. I registered and followed the instructions, adding links to three archives sites that would allow me to search for primary sources. I named my search roll "Archivia." Then I decided to edit it. Which is when I found out it had been renamed "My Archivia" and, even though I added each new link on a new line, as per directions, my links had been squashed into a chopped up mess. So I redid the links, retyped the name and clicked on the "create roll" button (since it was that or "cancel"). And guess what, Rollyo created a whole additional, messed-up, search roll for me. And there is no way to delete a search roll. So now I have two non-functional search rolls. Yippeee!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Image generators: you're kidding, right?

Um, well, up until this assignment, I was pretty sure I had an image generator. Specifically, a Nikon D80 camera body, which I love the same way I love babies and puppies. I mean, if I could take pictures of my D80 with my D80, the photos would go in my wallet next to pictures of my grandkids.

So I started off this assignment with a bias. What could possibly live up to my very own portable image generator? Well, not much, it turns out. I created myself an avatar at one site, but then discovered the site didn't offer any way to download the image. That was disappointing, since I could sure use an alter ego with no wrinkles, cool glasses and an attitude. Moving away from image generators to poetry generators, I cooked up a William Carlos Williams-like poem which was too terrible to inflict on anyone who stumbles across this blog. Finally, I came up with the little button at the top of this post, which I thought looked really cool, and which I made at this button maker. I suppose I could use the button as a link, but since it would lead right back to my blog, I didn't.

The crab-apple blossoms were generated with my tried and true image generator, my D80, and were living on the crab-apple tree between Rasmuson Library and the Signer's Hall parking lot earlier in the spring.