Little More Suiting

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Some questions came up this week from some of y’all about a legal thing in the news regarding BP.  Monday, a judge accepted the plea bargin from BP on all federal criminal charges with respect to the Deepwater Horizon (aka Macando, aka Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill).

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/business/judge-approves-bp-criminal-settlement.html?_r=0 

This is actually related to a blog post I made in November:

https://bearfeed.net/2012/11/16/settled-sorta/

It’s not really my place to use this blog to cover the details of the suit or give opinions about it, but I thought I could clarify the misconceptions out there about these litigations.  The thing is … you have to think like a lawyer:

The sentence I wrote up there has the key “limiting factors” to yesterday’s news:

1) “Accepted the Plea Bargin” — This means this is the same settlement as was announced in November.  It isn’t new.  It was in question, because of some pushback on the size of the fines but that is part of what was lost in the rest of the information.  What is the rest of the information you ask?
2) “Criminal Charges” — This plea bargin was only for the criminal charges.  There is another lawsuit that is going to reach a head in the next 30 days for a civil suit from US Government Evironmental Protection Agency.  That is a violation of the Clean Water Act (you spill oil into the Ocean, the water isn’t clean).  That fine is expected to be 2 to 10 times larger than the criminal fine.  Or more specifically – 10 to 30 billion US$.  Of course, all that money goes to the government, not like:
3)  “Federal Criminal Charges” — All that money goes to the government, not like the approxiately 200 lawsuits filed by individuals and other companies effected by the oil spill.  The totals for that won’t reach the fines for the criminal charges, but the process is slower as most need to be handled individually. 
But what shouldn’t be forgotten either is the last limiting factor:
4) ” plea bargin from BP” — Four former BP employees are on trail for criminal charges of their own.  The charges against them are seperate than those applied to the corporation, and those four were only arrested in November – so they have a long way to go.

The point of this whole post is in part to let you know that this process isn’t over with the announcement this week.  Moreso, suggestions that BP is getting off easy is just too early to call.

But what can be said, and what we tried to show, is that BP wants to make this right.  Sure the oil industry makes alot of money, sure there is a continued need for more and more oil & gas, sure we have alot to be held accountable for.  But part of the reason I work for BP today is because the attitude of those I met with were about doing the right thing and keeping what happened in the Gulf from every happening again on any level.  We can’t change the past, we can only fix it, pay for our sins, and do what we can to make things better.

Talk About the Weather

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I got a text today from my brother about the weather in Wisconsin.  I wanted to respond with a “don’t make this a competition” quip, but … well, if you have read this blog for any lenght of time, the weather comes up quite frequently.  Part of the reason for that is something I tell myself to break through my natural introvertedness — if you need something to talk about in a conversation, say something about the weather, because everyone has thoughts about the weather. 

Part of talking about the Alaskan weather is my learning of it as well.  The obvious change when I moved here was there was going to be a lot cooler temperatures and a lot more snow than when I lived in Kansas.  What was a change was that things weren’t as predictable here as you would think, and predicting weather isn’t what I am used to.

Anchorage has a fair bit of odd things effecting the weather.  The landscape is fairly open to the north, so when winds come from that way its usually dry and COLD.  We are on the ocean (though a fair bit inland on the Cook Inlet) so a system coming from the west or the south tends to be wet and warm(ish).  Having our backs to the Mountains in the east has an impact too, because anything coming from that way has to get over those mountains, which means we could get nothing from it, just a bit, or  whallop of wind and moisture.  Parts of town get different situations, like on the south part on Hillside, where winds coming throught Turnagain Arm can reach epic (faster than Kansas) speeds.  But of course, a system does come from due north or due west, so little variations in that direction could impact how the weather really effects us — will the winds to the north slow hitting the moist sea air? will the story to the south get caught up on Kenai? Will all the east snow just stop over Valdez and and up 10feet on them (no, that wasn’t an exaggeration).  So even when we know a weather system is coming in, sometimes we don’t know what it will actually do until it gets here.

But I have to say, Kansas spoiled me for weathermen.  The most dangerous thing about living in Kansas was getting hit by a tornado.  The weather service and local media knew that and built themselves around it.  For Weathermen, Kansas was the big-time, where you got the most expensive equipment and got to be tested with the most complicated of systems – and what you did saved lives routinely.  In Kansas each station had their own “super doppler viper high-powered 3D radar” in multiple locations so they can get multi direcitonal views.  Most of Alaksa has no radar coverage – a storm comes into view and they say “oy, I guess we should warn someone”.  In Kansas, every channel you watched had just about the same prediction for weather.    In Kansas, if the weather man said it was going to snow, you believed them and … it snowed (or it snowed nearby and they would show you why the prediciton wasn’t dead on) – you trusted your weatherman.  In Alaska,well … the weather girl is cute to watch, that’s a plus.  Yesterday, I talked to 3 people and we each heard a completely different weather report for today — and turns out none of them were right.

I will leave you with this:  Today called for light snow highs in the mid-20s (-5°C) — and we have about 3 inches of blowing snow, 8° (13°C).  But it should get above freezing later in the week (or go to epic lows, or snow, or rain frogs … you can’t tell for sure).

New Normal

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I got a bit weirded out tonight by something, but it takes some explaining.
I had a busy day today.
Because of the work schedule, everyone at BP gets every other Friday off – that would be today.
I took Auggie to the “Happy Time Cookie Party Fun Fun Place” (the vet) to get his rabies shot making him, as the vet called him, “Street Legal”. After that I took him over to the Conner Bog. I kept a close eye on him since the when I was here this fall I saw moose and am not sure how he would react.
I grabbed lunch at a Vietnamese place, because a hot bowl of pho would hit the spot after a cold hike.
I went up to the curling club to practice for about an hour. Creepy place when you are the only one there, but I needed the practice. They let members come in 24/7 to practice (as long as we clean up and lock up). So there I was falling on my backside in a curling rink all to myself.
I came home and flipped on the big screen to catch NJ Devils Hockey live for the first time in the season. Game started at 3pm our time, so it was daylight for most of it (yep, days are noticeable longer).
After that, I fought with the pup over chew toys before cleaning out the car. If the weather is good I am going to make a run for Denali or Takeetna, and to take Auggie on his first Geocache run & my first physical cache since November. So I cleaned up the junk in the car and put my survival stuff in there (blankets, sleeping bags, water, dog food). Part of the reason I want to go there tomorrow is to scout out good resorts near Denali – family coming in August and I want to see what’s there (last time I was there I was a tourist in 2006).
Tonight, I made my usual trip to McGinleys for dinner, music, good food, and feeling like a regular. That’s where I sit now.
As I sit here it hit me … I live in Alaska. I see mountains out of my window. I can make a day trip to the park where the tallest mountain in North America is. I have to watch east coast teams that are 4 hours time difference from me. I have a dog, a real dog with real chew toys. I play curling, not just wondering what it’s really like – I literally am practicing to be a curler.
What weirded me out wasn’t that all of things are true. Or that a year ago they were just a concept.
What weirded me out was that it is just who I am. I just accepted it all to be true. I was weirded out because … Well … Because I had to weird out about not weirding out. I know, doesn’t make sense but … But I guess this strange new life isn’t just the new normal for me. It just is … Normal.

Pup at Four and a Half

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For those of you new to my great adventure, as big of a change in my life I took by moving to Alaska was to decide to take in a roommate.  A four legged furball roommate.  In November, I bought a purebred Staffordshire Bull Terrier pup who just finished weening.  Auggie (rhymes with Doggie … and used to be Aughie (same pronunciation dangit) and really is Fullthrottle’s Gold Rush King if you ask the American Kennel Society)  is now on the cusp of five months old, and has spent most of his life as part of the Nelson pack.  So I thought, now would be as good of time as any to give an Auggie Update.2 months

For the unfamiliar (like I was before I first saw this little guy) Staffies are somewhere between boxers and bulldogs, looking similar to pit bulls; but with a far more friendly personality.  I like to say Auggie thinks every stranger is just another human hiding treats.  They are bred to herd cows and bulls (that’s the “bull terrier” name) so he is short, bulky, and full of muscle – so he can take a kick.  This means he is under foot alot, that’s just where he feels more comfortable, but talk about hard to get around in hallways with him so close.  Bully breeds, though, are not good with other dogs, and that is my biggest concern with him.  As much as I try to keep him social, certain dogs will always rub him the wrong way – and if they pick a fight, most of the time he will fight back and will likely win.Packer Auggie

As many of you dog owners know, owning a puppy is like being a parent of a new born (then again, as many of you parents know owning a puppy is nothing like being a parent).  My schedule for the most part is centered around the dog.  Wake up – take him outside.  Lunch – Take him outside.  After work – Take him outside.  Every other waking moment – take him outside.  He is mostly housebroken, which is a nice change, its been nearly 2 weeks since the last time he went indoors, but the weather seems to have more influence on that these days (a cold pup is a pup that doesn’t want to go outside).  Still, the cleaners aren’t far away.  He is curious and spends most of his time tasting things, while I type this sentence he bit a shoe, an end table, the wall, his water bowl, and … wait a minute, he wen’t behind my couch let me check … yep it was carpet.  He is not short of chew toys (and he goes through loads of them), but that doesn’t stop him from thinking everything is a chew toy.

Googling Auggie

We are halfway through his second puppy training class, and he is doing alright with that.  He’s a smart dog, learns fairly quickly, but is stubborn and easily distracted.  For instance, in a training room when I stand there with a smelly treat in my hand, I can call him and he can run at full speed to me.  But get him out in the yard where there are peanut shells left by squirrels, plants, leaves, piles of snow (some of it yellow from a certain pup with the initials of Auggie) and getting his attention to come when called is like trying to convince a supermodel to date me.

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He’s grown alot too.  As a puppy, staffies are about as cute as they come.  He had it all going on too, from the brownish-red fur heading to the deep brown puppy eyes and the black fu-manchu muzzle look — as many have said “all puppies are cute, but he is cuuuuuutttteee”.   He is growing some, recently more side-to-side than up getting that barrel chested linebacker look.  He can now reach cupboard levels I used to use to keep things away.  The couch I would put him on to keep him in one place (because it was too high for him to overcome his fear of heights to jump off of) now is something he can jump onto.  He still keeps pup tendencies.  Right now he stares at his reflection in the window, because I guess chasing his tail was become a bit boring.  And he still thinks he can sit on my lap in the car, which he can but it makes turning nearly impossible.Driving Auggie

Not that its all peaches and poop.  I have had less time for things, not surprising.  You, my faithful blog reader, may see a serious decline in posts.  It’s not because of the lack of things to write about, one can only type so long between trips outside and yelling for biting my sock (with my feet in them).  I’ve been to the gym twice since I brought him home, and that was a while ago.  Only geocaches I found were events, he’s not so ready for the park n grab experience and weather hasn’t been friendly enough for a day cache hike.  And I haven’t been able to sleep in on the weekend for what seems like … since November.

Peanut Butter

I may sound like I am complaining but I really am not.  Someone suggested before I brought him home that the two of us will be each others whole world, and it sure does seem that way.  There are moments when he stops, sits, and stares at me – and while I used to think it was a sign of trouble to come, he follows if I leave the room when he does that and I know its just him making sure I am still there.  When we are out and about and something scares him, as they still do sometimes, he runs to my side, crawls up next to me, and knows I will pick him up to keep him safe.  But the best is those nights when he has a hard day, and I put him on the couch next to me, and nothing … nothing is as comfortable to him it seems than laying on me in someway completely uncomfortable to me.  Though all the nips, the barks, the ‘no’s’, and even the poops – that’s what makes it worth it.

Now if you excuse me, someone just tore a stuffed chipmunk to shreds.

4 months

A Festival of Beer

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Yesterday, I attended the Anchorage Beer & Barleywine Fest.  During a 3 hour session, you’re allowed to test offerings from local brewers and distributors at a price of nearly $60 (proceeds go to the American Diabetes Society).  While there were a fair bit of college aged students there (even for the connoisseur session I attended), most I talked to were there in the spirit of the event – to taste and test different things that we may like to buy in the future.  The way it works, we all got a glass that held 2 ounces and 30 drink tickets.  You would turn in 1 to 3 tickets for that 2 ounces (standard beers were 1 ticket, heavy triple or quad bocks and some barley-wines were 2, heavy barley-wines and mead 3).  Still, it would be hard for even the heaviest of drinkers to run out tickets in that 3 hours – and I walked off with some to spare.

The festival had many of the Alaska breweries I knew of, and some that I didn’t.  It had breweries from the Pacific Northwest & Hawaii, which wasn’t too surprising.  The distributors brought in some of the lower 48 brews they will be bringing up soon – including a Kansas favorite Boulevard (they were presenting the Smokestack Series like it was a new thing .. And I’ve been a fan for years).  There was even a table full of all the German favorites, some I haven’t seen since … well … July.

I got around a bit, learning only afterwards that I should have had a strategy (and a better way to take notes).  The day was spent trying things then trying to cleanse my palette unsuccessfully.  Like early on, when I went to two pale ales in a row and felt a bit overwhelmed by hops Things got better when a Wilmer Milk Stout came across with a rich flavor and smooth finish — turning into what would be the best beer of the day for me.  So then I went flavor flavor flavor, and then it became that I couldn’t taste one over the last.  Of course by that time, flavor is numbed by … well … becoming drunk.

I did get out of the beer world quite a bit though.  I had an apricot hard cider that was quite memorable.  I tried a mead for the first time ever — and I get why you mead lovers love it.  I used to hate all Porters (thank you Goose Island for showing Chicago makes bad beer) until Alaskan’s smoked porter (which yes … did have a smokey flavor … and it was awesome).

And finally I tired a couple of Barley wines. Barley wines are what the names suggest, a beer made with barley that is more like wine than beer.  As a result, barley wine has a heavy flavor and the alcohol content twice or triple that of a lager or pils.   It’s powerful stuff.  To quote Monty Python “This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.”  After the second taste of it, I was done — not crazy stupid liquored up drunk done — but palette destroyed, good bye to flavor, even the water tasted like barley wine done.

As you looked around the room, though, what was really missing is what you could expect from a mid-west beer fest — there wasn’t an American mass produced behemoth in the room.  No Bud, No Miller, Not even a Coors.  It was a festival about what is good about beer.  Truth be told, the big dogs are in Alaska, but they are far from dominant.  It seems Alaskan is probably the biggest seller, and best I can tell there are more favorites than there are standards. Maybe its because you have to import the standard big dogs, and its cheaper for microbrews.  But I like to think its because Alaskans have more taste in beer.  The microbrews up here aren’t just good at crafting beer, either, they’re just plain good!  I remember drooling over Alaska Brewing Company before moving up here, but was knocked over by stuff from Kenai River, was amazed at Broken Tooth (or Moose’s Tooth, whatever); and the brewery literally 3 miles from home wowing me with each offering: Midnight Sun.  Alaskans know their beer, and Alaskan brewers are amazing at feeding those lovers.

That’s what makes a festival like this so … Alaskan.  Hundreds of people of all ages (above 21 of course) sampling and evaluating beer not to get drunk, but because of what good stuff you can find.

 

Blizzards on the Slope

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In a surprise move, winter returned to Alaska this week.  In Anchorage, we were told to expect cooler temperatures yesterday & today with a chance of snow later in the week.  What we got was about six inches of snow, and the fluffy powdery stuff looks to be about a foot on my back deck. 

On the North Slope, however, they got hit by a blizzard.  Up there, there are no trees, no hills, nothing to buffer the wind.  So when the snow starts falling and the wind starts blowing, things have to come to a halt.  While I am in Anchorage and NOT on the Slope, I thought it would be a good time to blog about what they do in this situation.

While work up there is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week affair, weather has the power to shut everything down.  It’s not that the workplace is unsafe, its moving around that’s unsafe.  Officially they call it a “Phase 3” condition – meaning, no one is allowed to go anywhere except in an emergency.  Visibility is at a minimum, and even then if you get in trouble help may not be able to find you. 

It’s an uncomfortable time for those folks, because when they say “don’t go anywhere”, that means from the moment the Phase 3 is called.  If you are scheduled to fly home, you don’t fly home.  If you are at a camp, you stay at the camp.  If you are at work, you stay at work.  All you can do is hunker down, and wait for that condition to blow through.  They get a Phase 3 a couple times a year, and the old hands seemed to have gruelling stories of sleeping under your desk in a ratty blanket for days.  For us “townies” (people who work in Anchorage, aka “in town”), we just keep our fingers crossed we don’t get caught up there and start making other plans when it reaches a Phase 2.

Phase 2 is not a good condition either, it’s basically dangerous and hard to see.  You can drive around, but you must be in a convoy (minimum 2 vehicles going to the same place).  They really push you to not go anywhere during those times, but at least you can get somewhere.  Phase 1 doesn’t require specific driving precautions, but the expectation is that all the standard precautions are double checked (radios work, cold weather gear in you vehicle, you have the ‘dumbass’ turned down to low).

So, that’s your little FYI blog for the week.  Now to chase a puppy out into the snow so he does his business there and not on my rug.

Winter Classic on 78th Ave

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The front page of the Anchorage Daily News website is the lemonaide some found out of the weather lemons we were handed over the weekend.  It shows a girl in ice skates, skating down the street.  As in … ice skates … on … the … street.  You can play street hockey, with actual blades not the sissy roller skates. 

Since Saturday, we have had rain, at times a good steady rainfall, at times a drizzle, but near constant of the wet stuff.  In total, 0.50″ of rain (which would have been 6 inches of snow if it was colder). 

It wasn’t freezing rain, as what happened occasionally back in Kansas – where the air was cold enough to freeze the rain to trees and things.  It was too warm for that.  But the ground here is still frozen mostly, and we still had a good 7-10 inches of snow on the ground before the weekend began.  So what happened was:

1) Much of the snow on the ground melted, meaning not just that we had lots of rain water, but snow melt water everywhere.

2) Water not warmed enough by the air freezes to the ground. 

I soldified my regret for not buying studded tires for the car.  Not wanting to be uncool and get studded tires I was convinced by my realtor that snow tires were the way to go.  While it works in the snow, I have been on more icy roads than snowy roads this season.  This weekend solidified that problem — depending on the road, you weren’t sure if you needed a few feet to stop, or a few miles. 

Walking seemed to be a challenge everywhere too.  I carry traction devices (rubber soles with metal chains or metal spikes that slip over shoes) to help get through the rough areas.  But my hopes to knock off a good 9 miles of hiking this weekend turned into a couple miles at most.

Snow is on its way for later in the week, which should make things a lot more crazy.  Keeping safe will be a bit more of a challenge.  But I guess, that’s why I moved to Alaska and not someplace boring (yes Indiana, I am looking at you).