Saturday, January 26, 2008
Unless you live above, say, the 45th parallel, Alaska's weather is inexplicable. After 30+ years of living here, I still have many WTF moments. I grew up in central California, where every 20 some years it'd get cold enough to snow. If you wanted snow, you drove up to the Sierras. So imagine my surprise to find myself living somewhere where it had to warm up to snow! Somewhere where the higher in altitude you got, the warmer it was. Somewhere where fog could be frozen. Somewhere where, on a truly cold day, you can fling a hot cup of coffee into the air and watch it float back to earth in the form of little, brown snowflakes. After all these years, I'm still bemused.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Well, okay, actually it's warming up. Last time I looked it was an amazing 1 degree above zero, which, sadly, is what passes for warm in interior Alaska in mid-January. But it was 35 below zero when I took this photo on Monday. It's a picture of the inside bottom of my front door.
Anyway, the weather got me to thinking about an email I wrote to my sister in January of 2006, on a day when it was 50 below zero. (And I don't mean anything wimpy like that was the wind chill factor. That was the actual temperature.) So I thought I'd post it here, on the off chance someone besides two of my coworkers, who read this out of kindness, might happen upon it and be amused by life at 50 below.
Life at Fifty Below
I get dressed in long underwear and fleece pants, and carry my slacks and shoes in my briefcase. I wrap a scarf around my face, put on my fur ear muffs and my giant down parka with the hood up, and I tighten the fur ruff around my face. I put on my heavy mittens. Hmmm ... then I take off a mitten so I can flip on the porch light and open the door. Then I pull my mitten on with my teeth, because I can't get it back on with the other hand while I'm carrying my briefcase stuffed with my clothes. Then I walk fast to the garage, take my mitten off again so I can unlock the garage door, and I scamper inside.
I back my car out and the thermometer in my car breaks the sound barrier plummeting from 50 above zero to 22 below and then turns to two dashes, because it won't register anything colder than that. Meanwhile the automatic garage door creaks down to about 3 inches above the ground and starts back up again. It doesn't like the cold either. I punch the button on the remote about 7 times and the door finally stays down.
I drive through the ice fog to the University gym parking lot, plug my car in so it'll start at 5 pm and head across campus. After a 5 minute walk at 50 below, my breath has frozen streaks on my glasses and there's frost on the fur of my parka ruff. I walk into the library and the humidity fills in the few clear spaces on my glasses with more frost, so I take them off and stumble blindly to my office where, go figure, I'm having a hot flash ...
... and then at 5 pm, I change back into my fleece pants, stuff my slacks and shoes back into my briefcase, take a deep breath and head back out to my car. I punch the button on my key to unlock the doors, toss my briefcase into the back seat, shut the door and head around to unplug the car. Meanwhile, the electronics in my car, their tiny brains scrambled by the cold, proceed to relock the car doors all on their own. So I unlock them again, toss in the electric cord and shut the door. But the door latches don't like the cold either, so, when I get in and turn the car on, the door open icon lights up and the door open bell, which usually produces a vigorous and repetitive ding, lets out a weak bleat every 60 seconds or so. So I get out and slam the rear door shut.
Okay, now I'm ready to go. Backing out of the parking space is a challenge because the lubrication in the steering wheel has stiffened with the cold and the wheel doesn't want to turn. Then, when I put it in drive, I thump along through the parking lot because my tires have frozen flat on the bottom. Oh wait! The door open bell is bleating again because the driver's side door didn't latch. And look! The air bag deployed icon is lighting up sporadically on the dash. Isn't this fun! And I still have the garage door to look forward to! Life in Alaska -- always an adventure.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I know what you're thinking: the only thing worse than making New Year's resolutions is making them and then foolishly posting them on the internet. And you're right. But last year my only resolution was to have more fun, and I did! So now I'm ignoring the fact that, last year aside, I've never managed to keep a single, miserable resolution I've ever made. I'm overcome with optimism and misplaced determination. Here are my resolutions:
1. I will cook more stuff from scratch and use ingredients I've never tried before. But I'm still not eating anything that leaves a slime trail behind it when it decides to change locations. So there.
2. Motivated purely by my desire to be a good global citizen and not by the fact that Tanana Valley carrots are the world's best, I will eat more local food, and be more aware of where my food is coming from and how its production impacts the environment.
3. I will coax at least one tomato plant into production, even if I have to sacrifice an entire salmon and mega-gallons of water at its feet.
Okay, now that the food related resolutions are out of the way:
4. I will not celebrate my 60th birthday by counting the wrinkles around my lips or calculating the number of gray hairs per square inch on my scalp.
5. I will organize the garage. (Hey, it could happen.)
6. I will continue to be the cheerful, optimistic, enthusiastic person I love to greet in the mirror every morning. And if you doubt it, well, that's just another example of the way the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Oh. Heh. But I'm smiling when I say that.
7. I will take more food pictures. (Wait, should that go with the food resolutions??)
Happy 2008. May it be filled with purple potatoes, parsley, cranberry nut bread and other good things!