Rained on Glerum’s Parade

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The change in the weather is thanks to the Glerums. Since the last snowfall on May 20th, Anchorage baked in a warm buggy summer. We saw days in the 80’s and blue skies enough to suggest global warming’s arrival. One day we got spits of rain. Another day it was overcast for the afternoon. One morning a creepy fog rolled over the city. The other 40 days it was sunny and B E A Utiful.

On Thursday night the clouds rolled in just about the time my old drum corps friend Mary Glerum, her husband Shawn, and their kids Nate & Grace landed at the airport. We haven’t seen sun since. If its rained, I didn’t see it but it walks the line all the time. It is expected to rain most of this week. They got to see glimpses of Mountains yesterday and some today. With plans for Girdwood the next 3 days we can only hope things get clearer for them to “see” Alaska.

Their visit did mean the christening of the bear den for guests. I finished the bedroom, complete with closet doors (upside down closet doors), with 45 minutes to spare. It was, of course, given a name – The Brad Barns Throwdown Emporium – intended as an open invitation to get out mutual friend (yes I am friends with THE Brad Barnes) up to Alaska to visit. They are actually starting their 2nd week if vacation, so this weekend was more of a recharge weekend. The highlight was a nice dinner of grilled salmon and lots of sparkling mead (HEAVY on the mead) and good conversation with the Glerums and Ryan & Melissa Morse (Ryan & Mary are related and Mary hooked me up with the Morses when I got to Alaska).

So they vacation on, and I go back to work to work tomorrow. I hope the weather clears for their sake, but if the rain and winds does something about these Mosquitos then I am kinda okay with that.

De-Bacholering the Pad

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I am cursed by closet doors.

When I bought my house, my planning included guests. Living in a major tourist destination put me knowingly in the travel plans on anyone choking down the cost of a hotel room during tourist season. When I lived in Kansas, I held a “2 week notice” rule for anyone stopping by just because the house was that messy, I slept on a mattress on a floor with no place but an awful couch for anyone else, and the dust/heating/cooling in the house was more of an acquired taste. I embraced the bachelor pad life there in Kansas — and in Alaska, I had no choice but to reject it. The Bear Cave has a guest bedroom, though not very big, it is complete with a bed and clean linens. Two bathrooms make for good rotations for visiting parties. I have the big couch, the deck, and an airbed all ready for come what may. I even have a cleaning lady come through every two weeks to keep me in check.

This week, that gets thrown into action. My old drum corp friend, Mary Glerum, her husband and two kids are staying at the bear cave between their Alaskan adventures. In an instant, this house will go from having good space for a man and a dog, to being filled with twice as many more living beings in it. That being said, I became acutely aware that as much as I rejected the bachelor pad feel of the house, it still was a bachelor pad. So, I got to work on “de-bacholering” the place.

That starts with the simple things, having enough pillows / towels / blankets /stuff that make you feel you are a hotel. Pillows are what took me by surprise; since I am so proud of my “pillow theory” (that’s a different story) I was surprised that I had only 6 pillows in the house, and two of those smelt like dog. So … that number was doubled. Speaking of which, smell is a big part of this transformation. Let’s face it, we get used to our smells, and for people to enter your world you don’t know what they do and do not smell. I don’t want the place stinking with man/dog mess, but I don’t want it stinking of girly stuff either. Enter “Yankee Candle Company” and their man scents (I chose “lawn mower” over “2 by 4”). Then on top of all that, I needed to install a jungle. Okay, some plants, something to fill up the front room and give it some color. But its surprising how quick it can fill up.

The guest bedroom has been a labor of love, and it’s turned out nice. But for three months I’ve been mostly putting off but at times struggled with closet doors for the guest bedroom. It remains the last thing needed for the guest bedroom to be complete – but I am out of time.

As all those plans came together, a curveball was thrown. Auggie, during a walk by a lake on Friday, drank some creatures from the lake. We saw a vet and he is on the mend, since Saturday he has been flowing like the Russian River off the poop deck. My routine included hosing down his kennel (and him) twice a day. While part of the issue is it takes time needed for final preparations – it’s just gross.

So in my last rush (I have until 10pm tonight), I have a list to complete. Mowing the lawn, folding laundry, hosing down the dog (if necessary), and … Finally … Getting those closet doors up.

Almost Missed It!!!!

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I said there would be anniversaries, and almost missed a few.

A year ago this week, I had the business meeting of a lifetime.  It was a week in Berlin, Germany for a Nadcap Meeting.  After 10 years as a member, and seven years as a vice-chair, I took over as the Chair of Nadcap Heat Treat Task Group.  Basically, I was placed in charge of the quality direction of the heat treat industry for Aerospace.  Those who held that position before were considered the  most influential in the heat treat industry, and I was ready to take it over.  This week anniversary represents the first and only time I led that meeting.

A year ago as well, I met one of my best friends, nut slinger, and occasional Bear Feed commenter.  She also happens to live in Germany, and when visiting her, I was introduced to Currywurst.  I was jet lagged from flying & riding the train all day but I still somehow found a way to stay awake some 30 hours just because it was just too good of a chat.

But today marks the one year anniversary of a phone call I got.  I was standing outside of a beer garden just down the road from our meeting.  I was half a liter into my liquid starter and was expecting a really good traditional german meal, when I got up to take this call. A few details were shared, some numbers discussed, then with as much of a straight direct tone I could say I said: “Consider me accepting your job offer.”  From that instant my life began changing directions. Of course, at that moment I was still an employee of Cessna, living in Wichita Kansas, and the Chair of the Nadcap Heat Treat Task Group — but with every second that passed from that point on, I was on a path that would eventually lead to me quitting all that I was, and becoming all that I am now.

 

Summer of Anniversaries

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Summer has arrived, and like most of y’all I have my summer plans.  They don’t sound as exciting as they did last year (I mean, my summer plans last year included going to Germany, visiting Gettysburg, hiking in Appalachia, and … oh yeah .. moving to Alaska), but they still have some depth to them.

As I thought about the summer to come, it just seemed to be loads of anniversaries to come, best I can count:

One 150th anniversary
One 50th anniversary
One 20th anniversary (actually, seems like a whole summer of 20th Anniversaries)
Whole bunch of first anniversaries.

Some of it is going to be obvious, like .. I don’t know …  a year since moving to Alaska.  Some of it is going to be cute, like a pup’s first birthday.  Some of it is going to bring me back to see friends.  Some of it is going to make me remember days gone by.

I remember at the start of last summer excited about what the future was going to bring.  I am not thinking like that to start this one, only excited to remember what was.

Rutter’s Magnificat

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I should have realized how this day would be when I, on a whim, flipped my IPhone music over to the orchestral / choral work by John Rutter called Magnificat. The music rolls through waves of high tempo accents to soft raised voices. Entirely approachable, it speaks simple moods and while the Latin biblical lyrics are easily missed it can leave an impression to even a casual listener. For me, it has this ability to bring a calm, quiet day to its furthest threshold – in peace, it helps me find bliss. Magnificat has had that ability since my first deep listen while taking a calm quiet day off in London’s Hyde Park in 2005. While I listen to it regularly, it’s those days that Magnificat finds me that returns me to a mood like no other.
It is solstice weekend in Anchorage, the official start of summer and the longest days and shortest night of the year. The weekend is marked by the Mayor’s Marathon (Anchorages primer running event) and downtown festivals. In my opinion, the events are underwhelming, in the land of the midnight sun there seems to be little to celebrate midnight nor the sun, but that didn’t stop me.
Friday was the first overcast day since our snows in May, but we barly got a sprinkle to go with it. After an evening (like you could tell) walk with the pup, I won’t downtown for a few drinks and meet some new friend at the Irish pub. Once midnight rolled around, I took a walk to get the flavor of things – but it was like any Friday night bar hopping night. Still, seeing the first light at 2AM when it never really got dark was worth seeing; and heading home I wondered what Saturday would bring. 41 year old bones don’t usually do well with a 2AM bed time.
What I woke to was blue skies, a cool morning, and a happy relaxed mood. Rutter found me soon late and wafted through my mind through a playful breakfast and a few errands. Auggie and I won’t downtown where we spent a fair bit of time wandering, chatting, relaxing.
For some reason, I thought about a friend I really hadn’t thought much about for years; leading me to dig out old pictures, find some old things to make me remember. Being the technical age, I poked around and learned probably more that I wanted from google and I won’t lie .. It made me shed a couple tears for the days long gone by. Not for something bad; but just one of those stories that reminds you that you are alive. It’s not a story I want to blog about, not all are, but I pulled the pup onto my lap while sitting in the park and I told him the whole thing.
Maybe that is what that music is to me. Magnificat is this subtle, simple piece. But it finds a place in me to be in the subtle simple moments. It helps me and reminds me that within the calm is something great to appreciate. I don’t know the meaning or content of Magnificat, but in it I am most aware of everything … everything … that can make one happy.

Confession Time

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For those of you know knew me well over the last three years, you may know the big story before my move to Alaska was the weight loss program I was on.  I had lost over 200lbs, and for the months before the move I was in a fight to maintain that loss.  Most who know me directly these days may not be aware of that, because they are likely seeing the opposite.

Truth is, I have put on alot of weight since coming to Alaska.  While it’s not the full return to where I was before the big weight loss, its enough.  Those of you who knew me before the move will notice, you would be blind not to, and likely you wouldn’t have known if I didn’t tell you here.  40 years of weight problems means I know how to avoid the issue, especially with those who don’t see me every day.  There are fewer pictures taken with me in it, fewer photos used from recent history, finding those right places to stand so not to be seen – I’m an expert on those things.

There are alot of reasons I can point to.  One is a job in Alaska that is way way more sitting at a desk.  Harder to find fresh food in stores makes cooking at home either more unhealthy or less likely to happen.  The great beer here, the great restaurants, and the bad habits I find myself doing with letting those into my diet.  The dog keeping me from tricks to make workouts a routine, and workouts with the dog becoming ineffective.  There are as many reasons as there are excuses.   In all honesty, though, my weight problems are more than the standard “you eat too much, you don’t exercise enough” though that is the direct cause.  The fact that I feel that I have to “confess”  to gaining weight should be proof of that.  The fact that I needed a hospital based program to actually be successful is proof of it too.

Don’t consider this a sign of me giving up though.  I need to make changes, and that means the simple things.  Change what I can change, seek help for the things I can’t.  This is actually the first step … the first step is always admitting you have a problem, and while I have admitted it to myself its time I become accountable to y’all as well.

So put up with the fact you won’t see many pictures of me, at least not without a fight, unless I can start winning this battle again.  Put up with the complaints, the confessions, the other junk … because that’s just what happens.  40 years of weight problems, I know that this is what happens.

Skeeter Madness

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Where you are at, it might get bad.  It might get to be annoying or chase you from cool places.  You may even call it the state bird.  In Anchorage, Mosquitos make front page news.

http://www.adn.com/2013/06/17/2943159/mosquito-invasion-in-southcentral.html

Alaska has had a magnificent run of good weather.  Since the last snow day (May 19th), we have had only one day where the weather was a touch of grey for a little bit.  Otherwise, we’ve seen sun sun sun and a little more sun.  It’s typical for June to be the best weather month, before rains start becoming more of a habit later in summer, but this is a remarkable run.  It’s even “Hot” today – breaking a record high.  The heat is a trend that even broke all time records around the state, including Talkeetna who’s high on Sunday of 91° was a temperature reached only twice before in recorded history and was an all time high, until it was beaten on Monday, by another 6°.

The heat has been something that we just accept it seems; it comes with the great sunshine and long days.  No one seems to be complaining about the heat at all.

We are too busy complaining about the Mosquitos.  I was noticing it the last couple of weeks, and I chatted with some folk about it when we were in the middle of being eaten alive; but then it came up over and over everywhere I went.  Every bug prevention thing out there is running short.  There are propane burning mosquito killers that, while stupid expensive, are really effective.  According to the paper, those are in really short supply — the three Wal-Marts in town report they have in stock one of those things, and its broke.

It turns out, we can blame last Autumn for this.  It rained loads in August & September, I am sure I complained about it back then, which was perfect for mosquito breeding, then the colds of October came and protected the buggy eggs.  Add the great weather, with little wind, and we got a blood sucker fest.

My house is short of screens, so there are more than a few of the bugs flying around the house.  Auggie seems to have more than a few bug bites everyday when I get home.  And I have to put more than a few layers of bug spray on me just to mow the lawn.

But I guess this is the price of great weather too.

Where We Differ

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It’s common to joke that a pet takes after their owner, or vice versa — I’m here to bunk that thought.  Passing his 9 month birthday, my dog Auggie and I have become good pals but we can’t be mistaken for two that take after each other.  After polite poking by some friends that the blog was more about my dog than Alaska, I haven’t done an Auggie post in a while — so I am due.

For those of you new to the Bear Feed, Auggie (short for Fullthrottle Gold Rush King … believe me, that is short) is a pure bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier (or Staffie for short, see that is short).  While not a show dog (cause of a wonky ear and his “boys” have left the building), he is a good example of the breed for his age — short at just under a couple feet tall, 40 pounds, wide chested for a short dog, and similar in shape to boxers, bull dogs, and pit bulls – and is quite the cute pup with dark eyes, mostly brownish short hair w/ white patches and a black fu manchu mustache look to the face.

So let’s start there.  I am not full breed anything, not even a half breed with a wash of Norwegian, German, Scot, and a few other shades of Europe.  Sure I am short and seemingly wider than am I am taller, I tower over the pooch.  No one can mistake me for a good example of my breed, and I don’t even have a mustache.

He’s actually slight framed for his kind.  Sometimes the ribs on his chest make an appearance if he has been fairly active and not all that hungry.  I struggle a bit with getting to eat the right things, I’m not sure why, but when he is done eating he is done eating – I would stand over that half finished bowl that he can push away and I ask “how do you do that?  I’ve had the obsession to clean my plate since I was 5.” He’s fired up to exercise a lot when I get home — maybe its that I don’t nap all day, but I am not in the mood to run around in circles for hours.  He’s a runner too, I have no patience for running, and that’s all he wants to do.

Part of his expectations for me is to take him somewhere for a walk, every day.  He gets frustrated when we walk by the garage door and not head out to the car to go to the park.  When I go into the garage for anything, he sits the car door expecting it to open so he can hop in.  And heaven forbid if I open the door with no intention of going anywhere — getting him out of a the car without going somewhere is the greatest sin I could do, and he will plant hard in the front seat forcing me to drag him out of the thing.  Not that I don’t like going to the park, or going for a drive, but for me its about the journey, not the destination.  See, Auggie gets in the car quick, but when we get somewhere he is faster to get out — and he gets sick quite often in the car, including when I drove him home from the breeder for the first time.

The pup is an early bird too, more than happy to start sending word out he is ready to go outside at 4 or 5AM; and not himself if he is up past 10PM, even with napping all day.  Late night is his most confused time too.  Confusing Auggie is a passion of mine, nothing like the look of “WTF” on a dog who can’t help to stare at his daddy as he signs indy rock to him.  Well, its not just music that confuses him, turn the wrong direction in an instant and he gets the “WTF” look.

Above all else, Auggie’s personality and mine are quite opposite.  You’ll never meet a more social dog.  I joked that he thinks every human is someone who hides a treat, and his reaction is usually like that.  It can take some work to keep him seated when someone comes up to us when on a walk, and he is quick to jump up to say hi.  It takes a hell of a lot more for me to come out of my shell, but I would probably get arrested for jumping up on some girls leg unexpected.  Auggie as well is quick to cuddle, if fact he insists.  He curls around me like you would see a cat, he crawls onto my lap at a drop of a hat, and when I pull back the recliner or lay back in bed, he can sleep only right across me in someway.  His desire to be close, to lay against, to be petted is a mystery for the introvert in me.

As much as this blog is about complaining, don’t take this post today as just another one of those complaints.  The pup and I are pretty different, but I like him the way he is.  I’ll take the “WTF” looks, the eating habits, the social butterfly, the cuddling, the mustaches any day of the week.

Now if he would stop chewing up his beds, that would be nice.

 

The Concept of Camping

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It was about 10pm last night that I realized I am a much bigger fan of the concept of camping than camping itself.

Let’s create a fantasy together, shall we?  Let’s go camping.  It is us off the grid without anyone around.    We will bring forth the tent & the gear, spread out our claim, and take in the forest and all that is pure about the wilderness.  We are going to head out into the woods, where boys are men and pups are dogs.

Last night, the pup and I attempted to camp again.  I won’t call it a fail, because we did camp just not for long.  I wasn’t really in much of a mood for camping, but I wanted to try again before I needed to camp with folks come to Alaska soon.  As I rode back to town, I realized that I need to change my concept of camping – because it is just that fantasy that we dreamed up together.

Let’s start with the obvious one — being alone with the woods.  There is nothing about camping in a campground that says “alone”.  Campsites are separated by less ground than what’s between houses.  There aren’t fences to help with your privacy, just an occasional tree.  Most of us sleep in a shelter made of thin fabric, which while water resistant, will never be mistake for noise dampening.  All you need to be is one site away from some kids fueled by s’mores induced sugar rushes, or the college kids sipping from way too obvious paper bags, and there is enough noise to make camping to rival the intimacy of a Dennys during “kids eat free Mondays”.  For you social people, you probably don’t really think too much about that, and maybe even embrace such a place.  Seemed I had three or four people stop by and want to strike up a chat – but come on, I’m an introvert, I’m trying to be one with nature here.  You’re not one with nature in a campground; you not even one with your dog.

The gear annoys me.  I don’t camp enough to know what to bring, which usually means for me I bring everything I think I will need — and still end up not bringing what could screw the whole thing up.  I have a major backpack tied to my dream of hiking my life away, and while that was filled for my single night camping, so were my day pack, and the backseat of my car.  I had two sleeping bags, a water filtering system, two first aid kits, a bear bell & bear spray, four cans of dog food (he goes through one can a day, btw), 10 bottles of water (not wanting to recreate the dehydration we both had when hiking last week), and an extra t-shirt, shorts, and undies.  I didn’t pack the right tent though, and brought my 1-man (not 1-overweight man plus 1-dog) tent.  I didn’t bring utensils.  I didn’t bring trash bags, cleaning items, or a bear bag to protect the site from visitors with good noses.

We went to Portage Lake, a lake created and fed by Portage Glacier, one of the largest in the area.  Wind crosses over the glaciers here and funnels its way through the narrow valley on its way to Turnagain Arm.  The air here was 15° cooler than Anchorage, which was a bit of a shock, more so when the wind hits you too – and the shade when the falls behind the mountains.  Something forgetting a sweater or pants didn’t help.  This was the deal breaker for me; I didn’t trust Alaskan camping to risk hypothermia (in June).

Camping in reality seems to be more about cooking.  Think about what the experience is like, usually there is something cooked over a fire, or on a gas grill, or something outdoorsy.  Then there are the coolers full of something.  Then there is the roasted marshmallows, roasted hot dogs, roasted anything on a stick.  Personally, I don’t know how to plan for that.  What do I cook, how do I cook it, what other stuff do I need, does it take up space?  In the end, I usually bring things that are easy open, good cold or hot, whatever I can throw together somethings.

I guess it’s the “where boys are men” line that is the biggest fantasy.  Sure, we got chased from the campground because of the potential cold, but it was the mosquitos that really did a number on both of us.  Poor Auggie still has bug bites on him, and I still feel the stick of the bug spray.  I plan for bears, moose, rabid squirrels, but the bugs win.

Going to keep trying, though.  Let’s be honest, I want that fantasy of camping, and I am sure I will get that fantasy here and there.  But there is a difference between camping in forest and camping in a campground in a forest.

FYI – this is the 150th Bear Feed Post.  Not all posts got published, but this is a milestone, so  … yippie!!!

Good Thing It Gets Dark at Night

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I noticed I haven’t complained about something in a couple of posts … which yes, is really unlike me, but … but I felt like there really wasn’t anything worth complaining about to y’all.  Nothing that deserved the complaints.  Nope … nothing.  Nothing at all.

Nothing …

Alright, daylight, you win.

Here I was thinking I could get through the entire summer where I wouldn’t ever want to complain about the daylight hours, with all that nonsense of getting constant dark; and I thought there wouldn’t be anything to complain about

… well played daylight, well played.

I am dragging my butt around every morning feeling like I got just a few hours of sleep, needing gallons of coffee to get the motor going, then finally feeling I can sleep for hours the next night I lie in bed or on the couch not feeling all that tired.

Summer solstice still lies ten days away, and until then, we continue to gain daylight hours (or minutes at this point).  Make no mistake, there are LOADS of daylight hours.  The stats:

June 11th — Sunrise at 4:25AM — Sunset at 11:37PM — Total Daylight 19 hours, 12 minutes (a gain of 1 minute, 58 seconds over yesterday)

What I can’t mention enough is that you can’t just go off of the daylight hours.  Don’t sit there and say “well you still get four hours 48 minutes of night”, because … well … we don’t!  There is a value called “Civil Twilight” which represents approximately when the sky goes dark in the evening until when the sky goes light in the morning (or how much real “nighttime” you get).  During the winter, its pretty close to the sun up and down.  This is because when the sun is down, it’s ALL the way down and things go black until the sun is ready to make its next appearance.  Right now, even though the sun drops below the horizon, it peaks up at as from just across the landscape.  It hides there, and keeps its light coming our way like a little kid just out of sight singing “neener neener”.  By the numbers, this means the Civil Twilight officially is “null” … in other words, IT IS ALWAYS DAYLIGHT in Anchorage.

It’s so strange when you aren’t used to it; and strange on how it seemingly snuck up on me.  I would roll over and wake up briefly and see the morning bright and alive – then look over to the clock to see it’s 2AM.   Or when I fall asleep on the couch, and have to shuffle my feet back to bed — and I don’t have to turn a light on in the hallway to get there … and that’s when you realize that you haven’t turned the lights on in that hallway in months.

This all leaves me tired, tired alot.  Granted, my “hibernation weight” isn’t helping my sleep patterns and I get way too many early morning teleconferences, but the motor isn’t starting that well this week.