Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"You didn't think it was gonna be that easy, did you?" - Lucy Liu, Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Proof that gravity next to a hot stove on a cold day is very high. Gravity=Hot Stove Temperature/Outside Temperature. Where do I go to pick up my Nobel?

Okay, on a related note, The Mrs. has written a novel. It's located here. Or, at least the first part is. Let me know what you think - we'll be popping in more.

Now, on to the show . . .

Thick fat flakes of snow falling from a clear blue sky on a Sunday morning in Fairbanks, and I'm here in my front room, fire crackling, a cup of hot, fresh coffee in my hand, dogs and The New Boy wiggling on the floor. And I feel good about it.


Because yesterday I did 90% of the things I had on my list to do before it starts to get cold. I cleaned out the ashes, then I swept the chimney.

Then, I changed the oil and filters in both of the Wildermobiles. I figured that the oil would tend to flow a bit more at 20F than at -20F, and that my mood would be better, too. I did this in the yard. For reasons too long to explain, I didn't put the cars into the garage to do this.

The first car I did was The Mrs.' car. I drove it up on the ramps. As I wiggled underneath the flannel shirt and jeans that I was wearing soon melted the snow under me. I was just at the right temperature that the snow my body heat melted plus the snow on the ground and driveway gravel soon melded into an amalgam ice-rock armor on my butt and shoulder.

Now, the air temperature of 20F is really not too bad in Fairbanks. What is bad is touching bare metal that's at 20F for an extended period of time. That tends to make your fingers as numb and icy as Susan Sarandon's soul. So, I went back and forth into the house to warm up, leading a trail of tiny rocks clattering to the floor as my armor melted.

I drained the one quart of oil that was actually in The Mrs. car. This marginally disturbed me, since it's supposed to hold five.

The Boy was outside, asking numerous questions about every step.

Boy: What's that thing?

Me: An oil filter.

Boy: What does it do?

Me: Filters the particulates out of the oil so they don't abrade the engine.

Boy: Oh. What's that word you just used when you banged your hand? What does that mean?

Me: Go ask your mother.

I then went to work on my car. My car is interesting. We bought it from "Viagra Steve." "Viagra Steve" got his name when I was cleaning the car out after buying it from him (dog hair everywhere). As I cleaned out the nooks and crannies, (old sweatsock, assorted small nuts and bolts) I found the empty bottle of Viagra, complete with the prescription label that indicated that it was Steve's. So, now, he's "Viagra Steve."

The Mrs.' one comment when I told her about the Viagra was, "Eeeew."

Even though The Mrs. and I have essentially the same vehicle, her's is far more genteel. It has more neat things, like a thermometer, compass, and automatic door locks when you put it in "D".

Mine has dual pipes, custom suspension, wide oversized tires, and a deep throaty rumble when you start it up, much more like a Hot Wheels toy. Plus, when you roll down the driver's side window, the door automatically opens.

I finally got all that done, and finished (mostly) insulating the hot tub.

I think The Mrs. is pleased with the hot tub - we now have steps, and it looks far better than the entertainment center we made eight years ago.

So, give a guy a case of beer and $180 worth of lumber, and, what comes out? A snuggly warm hot tub.

So, I sit inside my warm house, with my hot coffee, with those big, fat flakes dropping from a sky that's starting to get gray. It's a lot like the sword fight scene in Kill Bill between Uma and Lucy Liu, except that we don't have bonsai in our front yard. Oh, and we don't have two women attempting to kill each other with Samurai swords.

Friday, October 28, 2005

"God giveth. And the DMV taketh away. We can make your life a living hell." - DMV Clerk, License to Drive

Not my car, but it describes my life.

Ahhh, a wonderful Friday morning.

The Mrs. rides herd on the galloping glob of mayhem and spit that are our boys most days. This day, however, I decided to get The Boys and I covered in man-smell and head out to do errands. You know, manly errands. The Mrs. is great, but she's missing a "Y" chromosome. She's a great Mom, but as a Dad, well, let's just say her version and my version of Hot Wheels on the carpet are way different. There are way more fiery crashes in mine. Because?

I'm a boy.

So, we headed out into the great world. Me and my boys.

But first, coffee.

Okay, after I had coffee with some friends, then The Boys and I headed out into the great world. It wasn't General Foods International Coffee or a mocha-frappachino. Just coffee.

First we went off to the auto parts store. I decided it would be much more pleasant to change the oil at 20F than at -20F so I needed to get some oil for our cars. I also had another mission in mind. To shut off my "Check Engine" light.

One morning, my car did it's own change from summer to winter behavior. I turned on the Family Truckster and:
The left window, when rolled down, now opens the door.
The left turn signal, which when depressed to "on" would just hiss all summer long, now worked fine.
And, the "Check Engine" light came on.

No problem, winter. And, as for the "Check Engine" light, well, I'd seen my engine just the other day. It was there. Rock on.

When it gets really cold here, our cars have difficulty. By difficulty, I don't mean not running, I mean that the "Check Engine" light comes on. A car has to deal with an entirely different set of issues up North than it does in, say, San Diego. Most of them are temperature related. The computer sees data and says, "No WAY is it that cold. Something is very wrong. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!"

But, we have, you know, government here, and that's waaaay to logical for them.

They have decreed that we have to have an emissions test on our vehicles. Every two years, coincidental with getting our plates renewed. That's funky, since I don't think the Caribou really care, but hey, I might get a ticket if I don't have the green and white sticker in my window.

So, during morning coffee, one of my pals indicated that there is no way on heaven and earth that the vehicle will pass the emissions test if the "Check Engine" light is on. Without the emissions test, no driving, either. Since I don't want to buy a new car, I know that the only way the vehicle will pass is if I reset the codes.

You can do this three ways. Unhooking the battery is one. Starting the car forty times is another. Going to where they have the computer that talks to the computer in my car is the third. You know, the computer that I own that doesn't hook up to the Internet.

I got the "Check Engine" light shut off. The problem occurred because one day I turned on the engine and it was Fairbanks cold here, and, well, not all parts of the engine were San Diego warm when the car started. But, regardless of how quickly the problem really goes away, the light is on for forty starts - kind of biblical -

Lo, there shall be great gnashing of teeth and renting of clothes and thine Check Engine light shall shinest for forty starts, and, yay, verily, for forty stops as well shouldst one tiny damn thing in thine engine be filled with Evil. Whenst thine light shinest, thou may not receive the bounty of blessing of the most Holy sticker that proveth that thine emissions art as clear as thine mountain stream, even as it descendth from Mount Jobethwilliams.

Now, why we have emissions testing in Fairbanks is beyond me. You can look and see the chimneys out of nearly every house, and I'm fairly certain that my daily house heating with wood puts out way more nasty stuff in a day than my car will in a year, but, I think we're being punished for living in this wonderful wilderness.

My theory is this: everybody in San Diego has to have an emissions test, (despite being next door to Mexico, where good car emissions means the black smoke shows your car is running), so let's make people in Fairbanks have an emissions test, too. You can bet your bottom dollar this idea of testing emissions didn't originate up here.

I went to Gabe's Automotive. Not only did I need the emissions test, but I could also get my plates renewed at Gabe's. And, I needed my plates renewed as well, so this would prevent a trip to the dreaded DMV.

I was getting beer the other night and looked at the emissions sticker, thinking, "Hmmm, 11/05. That's soon. The State hasn't sent me anything."

Well, I walked around to the back of my car and saw that my plates were a day away from expiration. Time to take action!

So, The Boys and I were out and about, it was time to get the emissions tests and plates renewed. We showed up at Gabe's. My car passed the emissions test, and I went to pay for the emissions test and my plates. The clerk, however, informed me that my car was already registered, and, in fact, I had done an emissions test on it in July. But, I knew it wasn't. Because that sticker was on the other car.


This was not good.

There are benefits to The Mrs. and I owning the same year, make, and model of car. I didn't plan this, it just happened. I bought the car for The Mrs., and then bought one for me. Just so happened that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Numbers) for the two were about five digits different, out of a string that looked like: 1FV2309847298374GHU2039749832749238749.

They'd registered the wrong car in July - testing The Mrs. car, and putting into the computer that they'd tested mine. The Mrs. was driving around in a car that had the wrong sticker on it, and that meant that, through no fault of her own, she was in total violation of Alaska law.

This would explain why the state never sent me a notice on my car - they thought it was registered. The nice people at Gabe's told me that there wasn't anything that they could do to help - I'd have to go visit the DMV.

The DMV up here is legendary for long waits. My buddy said that it was horrible. And here I was, on the last Friday of the month, having to go into a government office, and the vision of waiting in line for four hours jumped into my head. This was awful!

It took about 15 minutes at the DMV. Despite the horror stories I've heard, I've never spent more than about half an hour in there. And, you know, that might be it. Alaskans aren't used to standing in line for anything but beer on Friday night after payday, and any line tends to piss them off. An Alaskan thinks nothing of driving eight or ten hours (one way) to go fishing, but make one stand in line for ten minutes and you see them go a bit buggy.

The Mrs. finally showed up and I showed the nice clerk there that, indeed I had two emissions tests that referenced the same car, but that the garage had made a mistake. She was not impressed. I indicated that now I had proof - the stickers on our cars would show that they had been affixed improperly.

The clerk, however, was still not impressed.

"That's between you and Gabe's."

I went back, now towing The Boys and The Mrs. on a quest that had by now taken up four hours of my day. The Boys were now hungry. And grouchy like only hungry boys can be. The small one started to smell a bit funky.

The guy at Gabe's looked at our stickers, at our paperwork, and said, "Man, I'm sorry. We'll fix it. We'll give you another emissions test, no charge, and get your plates."

As we were driving away from getting the test, I said to The Mrs., "You know, we're doing this just to satisfy a bunch of computers, from the computer in my car to the computer that tested it to the computer that stores records of our test to the computer that checks that computer to see if we can be issued plates."

"Yup, just feedin' the Beast."

Dang, I love her.

Two years from now, I'll take both cars in at the same time, in summer, when it's warm. You know, so I don't confuse the Beast.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

"I've flown over 194 missions and I was shot down on every one. Come to think of it, I've never landed a plane in my life." -Lloyd Bridges, Hot Shots

Denali, the Great One. Or was that Jackie Gleason? I can't remember. But, this is an unretouched photo of Denali. You can make this picture larger, like Greg did on The Brady Bunch to prove that his team lost a game they won, but all you have to do is click on it. This one is very cool, and worth the time (check out the glacier). Unless you're a communist . . .

Fortunately, I was not shot down on this plane flight.

Alaska is big, about the size of Texas and Asia, if you put them together. This may not be as large as Sean Penn's ego, but, it's still a pretty darn big place.

Darned if it isn't small, as well.

I was flying from Anchorage a while back and plopped down in my seat. As a guy who's spent more time in planes than Carrottop has spent listening to silence at the punchline, I know you're supposed to grab the aisle. You get in, have more shoulder room (which, for a magnificent sculpture of chiseled muscular manhood like me is important), and are first in line to pretend to be an NFL linebacker and push widows and orphans out of the way to get off the plane once it's landed.

I used to get the aisle seat.

Now, whenever I fly, I grab the window, and my camera. Alaska presents too many opportunities to take magnificent pictures. Denali always looks different, and no matter how often I photograph it, like a virgin on a wedding night, I never get tired of seeing something new.

So, I'm sitting by the window. A young gentleman had graciously let me by, and I had my book out - the ultimate in a Star Trek-like shield in a "leave me alone, I'm flying" sense. Another gentleman, this one older, finally showed up to take the center seat between us and the plane was now officially packed.

Our plane. No, just kidding, ours was smaller. But, I thought this looked snazzy, what with the artsy buildings, plane, and mountain backdrop. This is likewise enlargeable.

The plane, a 737 dating to 1937, and configured for carrying cargo up front (no kidding - half the plane consisted of cargo heading up to Barrow) lumbered into the sky. After the requisite warning that the I-Pod that would have previously sent the plane into a sudden and uncontrollable fiery crash could now be used to listen to The Clash without fear of turning oneself into and inadvertent mass-murderer, I unlimbered my camera for a few shots of Denali.

That's when I heard the most amazing thing. The passengers sitting next to me had never met each other. But, they began talking, and soon realized that the older gentleman is a lifelong friend of the younger gentleman's father. They talked at length about all things Fairbanks. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, and, was soon reading my book again.

But, it struck me: two people, never having met, knew all about each other.

Alaska is small.

I can't go to the grocery store without meeting someone I know. I can't go to Anchorage without running into someone I know. Heck, there was someone I knew on the same plane - just several rows ahead of me.

Alaska is huge in area, but small since there are more people who worship Ra, The Sun God than live up here.

I actually know my neighbors, by name. They know us, by name. I've heard the horror stories of the previous owner, who, to judge by their comments was a cross between Linda Blair's character in The Exorcist and the crazy cat lady on The Simpsons. I think they like us better.

When I stepped out of Fairbanks International Airport into 23F weather, I realized what had been wrong when I'd been in Anchorage - it had been a blistering 40F, and it was nice to be back where the weather was a bit more temperate.

I guess it just feels like home. My family and I have become accustomed to this place. And because this is where I buy my beer.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

"Fear is the only darkness." -That old blind guy who taught Caine in Kung Fu

Above shows the snowy goodness that is Alaska in winter. Actually, Alaska is the first time I ever saw the six-sided flakes that they made me cut from construction paper in first grade.

Part of preparation for winter up here is the physical, changing out tires from the summer (five months of use) to winter studded-snow tires (seven months of use), getting little booties for your dog to wear so their paws don't freeze to the ground, and getting your light jacket out of the closet so you can wear it until it gets to be around -5F.

You see the numbers and hear, hey, it's -55F in Fairbanks. Actually, it's a tropic paradise up here fed by volcanic heat vents, and we've just convinced everyone it gets -55F. We walk around in hula skirts and cocoanut bras. And that's just the guys.

Okay, that was a lie. I wear no cocoanut bra, but that's because I'm on the wild side.

It wouldn't be a lie to say that -55F is cold. Really cold. But it's not that bad. You can put on a jacket, gloves, and appropriate boots. The Mrs., when first she encountered these temperatures said, "It's not that bad." And, it isn't. I actually have come to enjoy the cold. When you've been out in it a bit working, and come inside by the fire and warm up, and stare out at the gently falling snow, that's a General Foods International Coffee moment. It's fulfilling at a fundamental psychological level, it's cold outside, and you're warm inside, and, dangit, you don't have to go outside until you leave for work tomorrow.

I regularly spend time outside at -20F in a sweater and jeans. Not for hours, but a half an hour wouldn't be out of the question. I wish I could say it was all because I'm so tough. Well, I am tough, but most people fairly quickly adapt (low humidity and nearly zero windspeed make the cold easier), and they need to - winter is as subtle as a Nine Inch Nails love song when it finally gets here.

The cold weather can be abrupt - three weeks from green leafy summery trees to a constant blanket of snow on everything. It's snowing this morning, again. It's a mental mindset change that gets me to get the jack out and sprawl out on the ground with The Boy and change out the tires on The Mrs. vehicle so that when it comes to traction on an icy Fairbanks road, her vehicle resembles a car, versus a carnival ride gone very wrong.

The cold weather, the ice, the snow are all things you prepare for physically. The other aspect is the darkness.

The picture above shows that The Boy has not completed mental preparations for winter - note the lack of socks, and the short-sleeved t-shirt.

On September 21, it's all the same as far as day length goes, regardless of latitude. That's why they call it equinox (from the Latin equi, meaning horse, and nox, meaning nitrogen oxide, or literally, suffocating horse)- it's equal, and equal everywhere, from Buffalo, NY to Barrow, AK to Buenos Aires, FL (that's kind of a long-term plan). Due to our high latitude up here, we end up seeing a quick change, though. Our days get 6 or 7 minutes a day shorter every day. That's more time a day than most people spend tweezing eyebrow hair. I know I've mentioned this before, but reaction to light is such a part of being human, it's hard not to mention.

Which comes to my crazy idea - put Alaska on US Mountain (Daylight or Standard) time. Why? Because it really doesn't matter in the summer what time it is, it's daylight all the time. In the winter, it really doesn't matter what time the clocks show, since it's dark a good part of the time anyway. For about three weeks a year we'd have funky clocks. So what? Business with the mainland would actually be easier, so, why not? With the crazy things the sun does, it really makes sense. It would be odd as hell, but, what about Alaska says sane?

Darkness, though, does require a bit of mental preparation. Soon, electric lights will become as necessary as they were redundant in summer. Soon, driving without your headlights will become as crazy as spending money on anything involving Jennifer Lopez. You see, our day isn't just as short as Tom Cruise, it will also (in about two months' time)be as dim as Tom Cruise. The sun, while it comes up, comes up due southeast, and after a few hours goes down due southwest. At the highest point, the sun will be just a tiny bit above the horizon. I'll snap a picture of it this winter for you.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I wanted to be a lumberjack. Yes! A lumberjack! Leaping from tree to tree! - More Monty Python

As you can see, both The Boy and his dog are completely incapacitated by the weather conditions in Alaska. There can be no fun in the snow whatsoever.

In our last meeting I was just about to let you know the true meaning of life, but between Wednesday and today it seems to have slipped my mind. I'll get back to you when it comes back. Okay.

Above is another thing I've got to do before it gets too much colder. Cut down the tree above. Which one? The one that's gonna fall on my fence if I don't cut it down. It's like Ayn Rand's School for Forest Management - the weak tree has gotta go.

The tree above is weak, and must be destroyed. But, I took an artsy picture of it first.

The sad part is the only way I can figure out to cut it down sounds like the premise for a Three Stooges short film:
1. Get a ladder
2. Get a chainsaw
3. Prop the ladder against the tree I'm going to cut down
4. Climb the ladder with the running chain saw
5. Cut a bit of the tree down
6. Climb down the ladder
7. Cut the rest the tree down, 6' section by 6' section using steps 3-6

If that doesn't have the recipe for an emergency room visit comic mayhem embedded in it, then my name isn't Curly Wilder.

On a side note, a moose was skulking about my property last night. I found tracks out today when I went to go take the tree picture above. I know, I know, it is technically very difficult for a 1500 lb. animal to skulk, but I never heard this one, so, he was skulking.

On the second side note. I went out to take that picture when it was 20F outside. Wearing a t-shirt and some cotton workout shorts, plus some insulated boots. If you've ever gone outside dressed like that below the temperature at which water freezes and goofed around for five or ten minutes, you might be an Alaskan.

Part of it is a mental attitude. 20F just isn't that cold. Now, I worked outside with The Mrs. for a few hours (it was 10F or 15F) and I stopped not because I was chilly, but because I couldn't see the tape measure due to the shadow caused by the hot tub I was working behind.

And, what was I doing? Insulating.

We love our hot tub, but it is tasked with one of the most difficult appliance-jobs in the house - specifically, staying 100F when it's -55F outside. I know, you're saying, hey, an oven stays at 350F when it's only 70F in the house. Sure, but you only use an oven to bake those little biscuits that come in the package that you have to slam against the counter to pop open. Which takes, what, 15 minutes? The hot tub has to do this all the time, every day. Just stay hot. You know, that part of the name "hot" tub.

Hey, hot tubs need love, too.

Our hot tub was just fine, down south where it got as cold as 20F for a day. Now, in October, that might be the high for the day. So, I got some insulation (used) and built a frame so that I wouldn't go out to get in the hot tub and find it has become a thick block of ice, like Greenland.

One of the best uses for the hot tub is to view the Aurora. Sure, your hair might freeze more solidly than Greta Van Susteren's face,
but you can always dunk and melt. I'm near-sighted, and not about to have someone carve on my eyes with a laser, so, I have to periodically dunk my glasses in to get the frost off. But, dang, it's the best show ever, besides Battlestar Galactica.

So, to help the hot tub stay hot, The Mrs., The Boy and I have been wrapping it in a protective coating of blue-foamy goodness, to keep it warm that we might be warm when it finally gets cold around here.

See, now you've made me do it again. I'm still not done on discussing winter preparations in the north. Okay, more of that next time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."- Bill Murray, Groundhog Day

Above is the Denali Highway. Well, actually, above is the Denali Highway as it looks from above. Soon, the Denali Highway will be closed, not because of environmentalists, but because the environment - they don't maintain this highway in winter. You can drive on it, but, good luck. The 20' of ice and snow might be a slight deterrent. You can click on it for larger goodness.

There are a few interesting terms in Alaska - one of them is the name of the first snowfall - Termination Dust, some call it.

Why Termination Dust? Perhaps it's because it was on the first snowfall in 1971 that a robot from the future, looking just like a California Governor (Jerry Brown) came to Alaska to search for Adam Sandler so he could kill him to keep the remake of "The Longest Yard" from being made.

Nah. Termination Dust is just when construction folks get fired, since you aren't going to pour much concrete when it's -40F. It gets hard, but that's from the freezing. Another reason why car dates don't lead to too many teenage pregnancies in mid-January, you know, the hard parts freezing.

What else happens in Alaska when winter hits?

We don't use salt on the roads to kill the ice. Why, might you ask? We can't. Salt on a road really depresses the melting point of Ice. It makes Ice sit around the house watching Oprah and eating frosting straight from the plastic tub wishing it could get a date. Very depressing for Ice, but, salt only gets you so far. And, Fairbanks Ice needs a lot more depressing than that to turn from Ice to water. It gets cold here.

So, in the war for some sort of road traction, we spread gravel about willy-nilly like the Kennedy family spreads indictments money around on Spring Break. Gravel is nice - it is pointy, whereas the ice is smooth. Pointy parts hold on to tires - smooth parts don't. All of this thought and care is nice when your car begins to spin toward a batch of trees that had the gall to grow right where the tyranny of inertia combined with the lack of friction would like your car to go. Short answer - gravel combined with snow and ice forms our road surface for six months of the year.

While we're on cars, winterizing your car means something here beyond your mechanic wanting to make an extra buck. All of the cars up here have (at minimum) car engine block heaters. This prevents your oil from being as thick as a Tom Clancy book.

Some cars have pads that heat the batteries. Some have heaters for transmissions. Many have auto-starts, which allow you to sit around driking coffee while your car gets toasty warm. The result of all of these electrical devices is every car has a dangly extension cord hanging off the front - summer or winter. Most public places have plug-ins for the dangly bits from your car. If you have dangly bits, you know how important it is for you have a place to insert them.

Many cars are left running when folks go shopping. Not good for gas mileage, but good for when it's -55F and you don't want to freeze your hiney off. And I like my hiney.

Also, it has to be the zenith of suck when you can't get your car started.

And you're attempting to start it.

At -60F.

Ugh. That's got to be as frustrating as attempting to teach Eminem to read.

Enough (for now) on cars. Most new parents swaddle their newborns in enough blankets to choke a horse when it's 50F above. Here, my five year old wanders around outside in a t-shirt and jeans (for an extended bit) at 20F without complaint. We do start to swaddle the infant, but only at about 30F. Gotta toughen The New Boy up sometime. It's gonna get 80 degrees colder than 30F.

I'll give some more change-of-season information next time. For now, I've got to go and frolic in the relatively balmy 20F before it gets a bit nippy out.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"If they showed a chick's butt, maybe it would be a Buzz Clip." - Butthead, Beavis and Butthead

Another pretty picture of Alaska. Because you've come to expect it. Damn the pressure!!! Okay, it's easy taking pretty pictures here, so I'll stop whining.

Thank you all for stopping by tonight! We've got The Boy leading the Orchestra, and for tonight my sidekick, The Mrs. is here for our four-times a year clip show. Not that we're out of ideas, or anything, but some people like clip shows. So, here's our version of a clip show. For you. Whoever you are.

For those of you who intended to be here, a hearty welcome. You may wear proudly your Life In Alaska Golden Moose Antlers of Glory without shame. For those of you that some search engine misled here, well, welcome anyway.

I find it fascinating some of the search terms that lead people here. It makes me giggle that secret giggle that men giggle only when alone. You guys know what I'm talking about.

I'm happy that my leading search term is "Life in Alaska". Hell, that's the name of the damn site. It is nothing more nor less than it seems to be - the musings on what life is like here in this semi-exotic local. I mean, if you're from Fort Lauderdale, this place would seem like frigging Mars, I mean, there's not a NASCAR track for thousands of miles. Is this the best site to tell you what life is like in Alaska? Is this the best site to tell you what life is like in Fairbanks?

Unlike the Oracle of Delphi, I know not. But, I do know that this is absolutely and completely the best site to tell you what life is like in my house. Except for the one the FBI runs about life in my house. But, mine has better pictures, but the one they run knows the last time I got a traffic ticket. So, without further ado (most likely about nothing), here are some of the searches that tickled my fancy. Now, nobody else out there get ideas about tickling my fancy, because The Mrs. would so kick your butt.

So, in no particular order, here are some ways that folks got misled here:

My favorite is:
"i reject your reality and substitute my own"
For those of you who don't know, that's a part of the opening titles for "Mythbusters." Mythbusters is very popular in our house (especially with the under six set), and I will soooo have a Mythbusters-worthy video when it gets -55F here. It's cool enough that I'll attempt to post it. After I film it. Or digitize it. Or whatever we do nowadays.

Like Mythbusters, this site is seven words of real science for a thousand of John hurting himself. So, Adam from Mythbusters, if you're out there, a shout out from The Boy. And don't put your face next to a vacuum pump. Yeouch.

The next search term that got folks here was "Gregg Rolie."

I really, really like rock music. I had no idea how many folks like Gregg Rolie. Hell, I had no idea who he was. But, he had an entourage, seemed nice, and was willing to travel to Fairbanks for "Two shows." The Mrs. thinks I'm slightly gay for Alice Cooper, so, if you're slightly gay for Gregg Rolie, hey, I know how you feel. Just not why. But I hugged him.

Speaking of Dirty Harry (I know I wasn't, but I just couldn't segue gracefully between Gregg Rolie and Clint Eastwood), there is no comparison) one search term that brings bored folks here is: a man's got to know his limitations.

Dirty Harry was about the best cop movie character ever. When I went with a buddy to see "Tightrope", we were so MAD, despite the copious amounts of nudity in the movie, that Clint was such a wussy in it. I seriously can't imagine Brad Pitt ever being so good. Okay, off of the soapbox.

Another term that got two(!) folks here was "Jabba hut slaves." See my previous comments about giggling. That's funny. We have no slaves here, over the age of six. Ask me again next year. The answer will be "over the age of seven."

Okay. Somebody got here searching for "55F bra."

That's just odd. Paging Dr. Freud. Besides, a 55F bra would never fit across my glistening, muscled, 52 inch chest.

This is not meant to be a political blog, but, "mccain mozzarella" got a person here. So, instead of just at my house, he bogarts them at TGIFridays, too. I guess.

After the humor, comes the potentially life-altering. "god do you want me to go to alaska" got a single soul here. I was unaware of my status as deity, but, hey. Come on up if you want to. In actuality, that person was practicing a variation on "bibliomancy," which is attempting to figure out what you should do by picking a random passage from a book. Most commonly, this book is the bible. I guess this is "netmancy" via Google. I am so totally sorry that they ended up at this site. I'm going to shake my finger and say, loudly, in my Dad voice, "Do NOT listen to John for advice." Sheesh.

The last query we'll examine is, "What to do if being billed from Blockbuster for late fees".

Pay them. Doofus. And return your movie on time next time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

It is winter. Cousin Jerry was lying in the snow making snow angels. Along came the snowplow. Now Cousin Jerry is making real angels. -Poet Red Green

Time to prepare for winter.

The signs of it are all around. Above is a picture out my front door back in September. First snow, but it didn't stay. As I write this, however, it's snowing outside, and the snow from earlier in the week never melted, so, unless Hillary Clinton and John McCain visit with a buttload of warm air, this is the last snow that will melt next year. It'll be on the bottom all winter.

So, everyone is getting ready for winter, and colder temperatures. Some signs of winter below:

This is a snowshoe rabbit changing color. If they were a superhero, that would pretty much be their power. In the middle of changing, though, it looks like all of the rabbits have gone to culinary school, and are all wandering around in the forest with Chef's hats on. Kinda like a secret government program to produce rabbit cooks.

This is a Toyota Tercel fully laden with wood. A Tercel filled with wood. Think about that for a moment. Must be like caterpillars that get fuzzier to show a longer winter is coming.

We tried to get a hunter to shoot our dog. No takers. But, somehow she got her tongue super-glued to her nose.

You can see in my previous post that I've been doing so for some time. We just moved into this house in January (memo to self: don't move in January in Fairbanks ever again) and given the tender love the house required, not to mention the hammering, cutting and sawing, it took until late June before we really felt caught up. I've still got some things to do outside, but, most of them are doable (a half an hour of chainsawing, some minor carpentry, changing regular tires for snow tires, building a two-story octagonal gazebo, etc.) even as temperatures start to drop.

There's a feeling of solitude, of silence, of peace that hits when I'm inside next to a roaring fire as the snow gently falls in straight vertical trails from the sky outside. But, that feeling mainly lasts half a second or less, since by then one or the other or both of the Wilder Boys wants something. Babies are soooooo rude. Feed me. Where's my bottle, where are my clothes, where are my keys, I'm going to be late for work - oh, wait, that's me. I guess both husbands and kids must be a big pain.

The changing levels of daylight have already begun to impact us a bit. In the summer, we tended to want to stay up pretty late along with the 24-hour day. Made you a bit tired, but you took a nap here or there. Now, as fall hits us, the darker days already make us tend to curl up in a warm, cozy bed a bit earlier. Nice.

The other change is it's now warmer in the house. Warmer, you say, how could that be? Winter is colder. Energy is expensive. I'm going to have to keep my house just this side of frostbite this winter just to avoid having to trade my kidney to the folks who sell me the stuff that heats my house. Is John stoned?

No. College is over.

Now we have a fire going. A nice, hot fire. Beyond that, we're using it to heat the entire house, all from one stove. So, the room that the stove in is hot. A delicious, decadent hot. And, it helps us not spend money on expensive type heat. Yay, wood! It allows us to dress up like trashy California celebutantes and frolic in our front room! In Alaska. In winter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Those parts mean a lot to me." -Hal, Malcolm in the Middle

Parts for The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required)

Despite the impression that you may have gotten in the last few posts, it isn't all fun and games here at Life In Alaska. We take time out to drink, too.

And while we drink we build things.

Take, for example, our latest family acquisition: The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required).

It's pictured above. At least parts of it are.

I love to put things together. When I was a kid I used to take things apart just to put them back together. And during my "electricity" phase I discovered that you can make a letter opener turn into an arc welder in your bedroom, at least until the breaker blows.

Putting things together is a relaxing way to spend time in the garage, teaching The Boy about tools, about mechanics, and about words The Mrs. would rather he not know when some metal object slips from my hands and begins traveling at approximately the speed of an asteroid impacting the Yucatan before it impacts my knuckles. Yeah, I'm not proud of it, but a time or two he's heard me say things about our Lord that would have gotten me a stake-burning or worse back in the good old days of the Inquisition. Plus, I can keep an eye on the boy and make sure that he starts with real arc welders first. But, I'm wandering on a tangent.

I love to put things together. Normally, I work pretty quickly, and most things require only a cursory look at the instructions to complete construction. The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) was not one of them.

I didn't say I didn't enjoy it. The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required)was just hard to put together. First off, the instructions were written with the assumption that I knew what the in-house name of each part might be. No, I don't. Then, somebody in the John Deere Technical Manual Writing Department got a camera.

A camera does a great job at allowing the company to quickly make clear pictures that completely and clearly illustrate information that has nothing to do with the construction step you're on. And then make thousands of copies of it. It was similar to attempting to reconstruct a Boeing 737 starting with a pile of parts and several internal pictures of assembled parts of the airplane that are of unknown location.

"Look, Fred, I got the landing gear together. I think this is the auto-clevis-restraint-torque-pin."

"Great, Charlie. Do you think they intended to put the nose landing gear in the rear lavatory?"

"I dunno. Let's look at the picture. See, that blurry grey thing could be the lavatory door . . . "

Hey, it might sound like I'm whining, but I really did love putting the thing together. It garnered me quality time with The Boy in the world of men (he can fetch either a socket wrench or a beer at lightning speed) doing guy stuff. Listening to music, chatting, cursing, and solving problems.

The closest thing I can equate this to is the construction of one of those 3-D foam puzzles. You have a picture, a box, and lots of parts that you have no idea where to put. If you screw one of those up, Westminster Abbey ends up looking like the Addams Family house.

If you screw up the Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required), you've end up with parts moving at 72,000 RPM attempting to change your nick-name to "Lefty," or "Peg-Leg" or "Eunuch".

Just for fun, here's the Wikipedia entry for Eunuch, but in Bork-Text:

Frum Veekipedia, zee free-a eecyclupedeea.

A ioonooch is a hoomun mele-a vhuse-a testicles hefe-a ieezeer beee remufed oor ere-a nun-fooncshunel. Zee ierleeest recurds fur intenshunel cestreshun tu prudooce-a ioonoochs ere-a frum zee Soomereeun ceety ooff Legesh in zee 21st centoory B.C. Oofer zee meellennia seence-a, zeey hefe-a perffurmed a veede-a fereeety ooff fooncshuns in muny deefffferent cooltoores sooch es meelitery cummunders, seengers, releegiuoos speceeelists, gufernment ooffffeeciels, und ifee gooerdeeuns ooff vumee.

I swear that I didn't edit that. It's official. The only words that translate as exactly the same in Bork as in English are "a", "is", "in", and "testicles".

Let's move away from that, though. Suffice it to say, uncontrolled whirling metal blades can lead to more visits to the emergency room, and The Mrs. has indicated that taking a bleeding husband twice to the emergency room is already two times too many for one year. (Stylistic note for authors - note I used to, too, and two in the last sentence. Correctly. I think that means I finally pass 4th grade English.)

So, after four(!) nights, two cases of beer two beers, and untold befuddlement (there were times I held the instruction book upside down with a puzzled expression on my face)the Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) was finally complete.

I think.

I haven't tried it yet. Here's a picture of the completed product.

The finished Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required). The worst part may have been lifting the thing from the back of the Wildermobile into the garage.

There were extra parts. This is normally not what is considered good. And, since I want to keep all my parts I may wear my hockey gear while I crank it up for the first time. So, if you see a guy dressed up like Jason from the Friday the 13th series of movies (they don't make 'em like that anymore, do they) snowblowing his yard, well, come on in and say "Howdy."

Oh, the blood-spattered machete? Nothing. Say, cold weather we're having . . .

Sunday, October 09, 2005

There and Back Again, or, Frodo Does Fairbanks

Big lumpy mountains in Alaska. Mountains are funny that way, lumpy. Flat parts of Alaska aren't lumpy. I'm beginning to see a connection.

It was time. Decision time. The Mrs. was pressing. It was 6PM. Drive the great Alaskan wilderness, knowing we weren't getting home until late, or stay in soft, warm, Fairbanks until the next day.

Damn, the Broncos were playing. Not going to miss that. Plus, I'm a guy. I can drive anywhere, anytime.

We left. I was suitably caffinated from Borders, and we mounted our faithful 4x4 and headed out.

Our first stop was Wasilla. Wasilla is where they keep the, ummm, slow people in Alaska. It's okay, it's like making fun of the Amish - they can't read, so they'll never know I'm mocking them.

Actually, we stopped for gasoline and food in Wasilla. Although the clerk at Carls Jr. decided to add extra fries to our order, they got the rest of it right. So, that worked. The gasoline burned in the engine. So, Wasilla wasn't that bad.

Onward we went.

The trip from Wasilla to Fairbanks is beautiful. But, it's as lonely as an idea in Paris Hilton's head. It would die from lack of company. It's dark out there.

Let me give you an idea - no stars (cloud cover), no lights from civilization, no moon. Dark. I had to turn down the dash lights so my eyes could adjust to the dark. Dark. Very dark.

But then, the obvious happened.

Bladders and liquid intake being what they are, about two hours' out of Anchorage, The Mrs., The Boy, and I decided it was time that, well, we felt the call of nature.

But, a rest stop appeared just then! A rest stop!

The Mrs. walked down to it (remember, it's Alaska, so, it's just above freezing) and behold, it was locked. It seems that rest stops in Alaska are open between May 15 and September 15. No joy, as this was September 17. Drat.

Now, for The Boy and I, this is not a big issue. We have the external-type plumbing, and can go anywhere in most temperatures. The New Boy has external plumbing, but he has his own astronaut-grade waste disposal system (Pampers). The Mrs., though, I worried about.

I know her Grandpa had told her Grandma, "If you have to go, just throw your dress up over your face - no one will recognize you."

I, however, did not want to put The Mrs. in this position. So, we drove.

We hit Cantwell about 11pm. The store on the west side of town was open. The east side was, too, I think.

Cantwell has two sides. The store on the east, and the store on the west. We stopped at the one on the west because it was:

a. open, and,
b. the first one we got to.

We stopped, the restrooms were clean, we bought coffee and chips, and headed out. It was still dark.

Then, though, the moon rose in the east, breaching the clouds like a ship running through a dock covered with guys with fishing rods. Wonderful. The picture above are the mountains it rose over, but from about 30,000'.

We continued through the twisty, windy, road near Denali, on through Nenana, and back toward Fairbanks. The drive was lovely.

Then, the construction hit.

You might think that construction companies might want to actually do construction during the summer months, but, no. That's not the case. They decided to regrade and repave the road. The road we were driving on. But, not during the summer months, when it might make sense, but during the fall. When it was cold. Our car's thermometer indicated it was about 32F out. Not Alaska cold, but cold.

We pulled up to the flagger in pitch black night, illuminated only by the light plant near him. We stopped.

Immediately, one Boy started crying. Does it matter which one? No. Because this was going to be, my Parentsense told me, going to chain react. And it did. Soon, both boys were wailing in stereo. Sounded better than Bon Jovi, but, then again, what doesn't sound better than Bon Jovi?

After fifteen minutes, (no exaggeration) the flagger released us. During our trip, we went from 32F to 42F to 22F. In a mile. We drove.

We made it home.

Do it again? Sure.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"There's only two things that excite a man: expensive toys and real expensive toys." - Red Green of The Red Green Show, AKA, The Prophet

A very pretty view while driving. A burning bush tried to give me some tablets on this mountain, but I remembered to say, "Stranger, stranger! I don't know you!" Like all pictures on the site, click on them and they expand, taking you into Virtual Alaska!

After our fling with the President of Taiwan, it was time to head toward Anchorage, and our ostensible goal - Toys R Us.

We drove back through the beauty that is Turnagain Arm. The hotel that we had stayed at, had it not been socked in with fog and cloud, would have had the most wonderful view. As the clouds parted, you get an idea.

But, no time to do much touristing stuff. We had to get back to the road, to make the trip. The Mrs. was asleep through most of the trip back into Anchorage. She deserves it.

You see, she fed and took care of The New Boy when he got up during the night. A cruel combination led her to this current sleep-deprived state. You see, when The New Boy so much as does a baby's sniff, as gentle a sound as a butterfly's fart, she can hear it from behind two closed doors over the sound of the radio and my snores. Biology, I guess, has given her this curse of being woken by tiny baby sounds.

The second portion of this fateful combination is my utter incompetence when being woken from a sound sleep. I have no idea who I am or where I am or if the thing that was happening in my dream was real or not. I'm just as likely to attempt to feed and change the dog as The New Boy. Or try to feed The New Boy lasagna instead of formula. It's pathetic.

Yawn. Another wonderful, glacier-encrusted mountain.

Turnagain Arm. Named, no doubt, by a guy who wouldn't stop for directions.

So, The Mrs. had good reason to sleep.

We continued on down the road. Every turn of the car's wheels increased the tension in The Boy. He was like a string on Jimi Hendrix's guitar, being used by tiny mice in a tiny mouse version of the medieval rack torture device to torture some other mouse because they had a mouse dictator who was really not a nice mouse. Anyway, to illustrate, every time we could turn, he assumed that I was driving right by the only way to get to Toys R Us. A gas station attendant confirmed that on one occasion he was right, so we backtracked to get to Toys R Us. And there, at last, gleaming like a multi-colored changer-La of tedium, was his goal, his 1984 (The Boy is a bit of a despot at heart, and Big Brother might be what his school guidance counselor suggests . . . .).


We drove into the parking lot. His tension kept increasing. Soon, I was worried that the relatively high center of gravity of our 4x4 was imperiled by his excitement. I could see it now - "No, Officer, I was only going 15 miles an hour. But The Boy was bouncing back and forth, and, well it just tipped on over."

We got there, and got out of the parking lot. The Boy was jumping up and down, showing outwardly the excitement that he felt.

We loaded The New Boy into the shopping cart, and in we went. The Mrs. indicated that The New Boy was as ripe as produce in Siberia, and went into the bathroom to change him into somewhat of a Less Offensive Boy. That left The Boy and I to wander the aisle of a toy store.

Let me make this clear. I hate shopping for most things. Except for lumber, tools, and electronic devices, I hate it. There is one other thing I do like to shop for. Toys. Not baby toys. They're lame. But boy toys - cars - space ships - light sabers - I love that. I wasn't nearly as excited as The Boy, but some of it had rubbed off during the last few hours. I imagined wandering the store until The Mrs. finally joined us, and we could show her the bounty of boy birthday presents we had found.

We walked up to the very first display that we could see in the store. Hot Wheels. The Boy looked, selected a five pack of cars, and said:

"Okay. Let's go home."

I was so proud. He even shops like a man. Drive 16 hours, get the one thing you want, and go home.

Funny thing is, he could have gotten those same cars in Fairbanks.

We finally convinced him to get some other things. But it was tough. He loves firemen. Didn't want a fireman suit. He loves Star Wars. Just keep that crap on the shelves. The first thing he showed an interest in were the Thomas trains. No way. He doesn't play with them, and they cost a human kidney for the three-pack.

We finally loaded up our loot, and headed for the bookstore. There are bookstores in Fairbanks, but this was a Borders, so we sat down and had coffee and overpriced soda. The Mrs. and The Boy wandered and found some books. I sat with The New Boy and was amazed at how many Grandma-aged ladies came and gawked. All the Mother-aged ladies steered clear - they remember how nasty little babies can be. I guess that makes you a Grandma, forgetting the horrid baby parts. Or maybe missing the horrid parts. I don't know, not wired to think that way.

It was 6PM.

Now the question. Drive home or stay in Anchorage. What would we do? Hint: I'm a man.

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