November 25, 2006

A Walk in the Clouds

It was a really nice day out today. So nice that there was no way we were going to waste the opportunity to take the dogs on a nice walk in the forest. It was especially nice to have a break from the gale-force winds that have been blowing through town for the past couple of weeks. It was rather cold, however. We didn't last that long before we decided we'd rather be inside drinking hot chocolate than out in the woods freezing our butts off.

We also had a little competition to see who could look the most wintery. Sonja's took an early lead with the frosty hair and the ice crystals covering her hood.

But it's hard to compete against a frozen beard.

November 24, 2006

The Little Tin that Could

We received a strange piece of mail today which offered a warning that some of the spices in our home might be *gasp* expired! According to this letter, from the totally unbiased McCormick and Company, the average lifespan of common household spices is approximately two-three years. It cautioned every homeowner to examine their spice rack carefully and verify that none of the spices contained therein are past their prime (they also offered "helpful" advice on which brand of spices to purchase in order to replace the ones you will invariably be throwing out). They even described some of their older packaging to make the search for dangerously elderly spices that much easier. Apparently, McCormick stopped packaging their spices in those familiar little rectangular tins (except, oddly enough, for black pepper) in 1991.

Well, I had a strange suspicion that I'd seen just such a tin in our own spice collection, so I decided to take a peek for myself and find out if any of our beloved spices had lost their oh-so-fresh feeling. The results of my search were shocking, to say the least. As well as a bit entertaining.

Exhibit 1: A rather suspiciously bedraggled tin NOT containing black pepper. But wait! This is a tin of Schilling spice. So, despite the fact that I do not recall ever using ground oregano while cooking, let alone purchasing this tin, we may not actually be in danger of owning 28 grams of 15 year old ground oregano. You cannot imagine the relief I felt at this point. That is, until I turned the tin on its side.

Uh oh. Not only was this tin manufactured by the aforementioned McCormick and Company, it was made the same year Sonja was born. Somehow, this little tin of oregano has accompanied me since I was four years old. While I certainly don't remember spending my weekly candy allowance on oregano, the evidence is irrefutable. Obviously, I must have inherited this tin from the kitchen of my youth at some point. And considering the fact that I didn't start accumulating my own spice collection until I moved into my own apartment in college (sometime around 1996, if I recall correctly), that means this oregano was already 19 years old when it was given to me as part of what I vaguely remember as a "starter kit" Ziploc baggie full of assorted spices and condiments. Gee, thanks, Mom.

Fortunately, I am not very spice-savvy when it comes to preparing food, a fact I attribute to growing up in Minnesota, where the primary spices used in everyday cooking are ketchup and salt. So I think it is safe to assume Sonja and I have never ingested any of this dangerously expired oregano. I can't begin to imagine what might have befallen us had this not been the case.

We then had to decide what to do with this rather historic spice tin. We certainly couldn't just throw it away. I mean, aside from the obvious environmental implications of tossing it in the trash, this little tin has somehow become a part of who I am. Trashing it now would be like throwing away Grandpa-Dog! And that certainly wasn't going to happen. So the choice was actually rather simple. We opted to stick it back in our spice box and try to forget about it for another 29 years. We figured if it was this exciting discovering a tin of 30 year old oregano, imagine how ecstatic we'll be to find a tin of 60 year old oregano!

It was about this time that Annie decided to come investigate what all the fuss was about.

After a few exploratory taps...

...and a sniff or two...

...things got rather exciting. It was then that we learned yet another interesting factoid about McCormick's ground oregano from 1977. Oregano is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Labietae, a group of plants that also includes Nepeta cataria (a.k.a., Catnip).

The next ten minutes involved a great deal of swatting at the tin and knocking it onto the floor, rolling around, perturbed looks (see above), and just general chaos on the kitchen table.

Eventually, however, amends were made and Annie finally came to terms with the fact that the "little tin that could" would continue to be a part of the family for many years to come.

November 22, 2006

The Eagle Has Loitered

It's that time of year again. Time for every eagle within 100 miles to converge on humanity. There must be better grub around town than there is along the coast during the winter, and the eagles have figured out how to take advantage of it. In most parts of Alaska the dominant "urban" bird is the Common Raven. However, along the coast the number of city eagles often approaches, if not surpasses, the number of city ravens. Such is the case here in Seward. Case in point, on the way to the grocery store this afternoon I counted 37 eagles and only nine ravens (one of which is outside our apartment eating a french fry as I type this). Considering that the store is only a mile from our apartment, that's a lot of eagles.

Evening is coming earlier and earlier, too. I took this picture of the setting sun shining on Mt. Alice approximately 3.5 minutes ago. In an hour it will be almost totally dark. It's still a bit on the chilly side (I think the high today was around 7 degrees), but at least the wind is dying down a bit. It's just no fun going outside when the wind blows a constant stream of dust and dirty snow in your face.

And finally, still no word on any jobs (can anyone else see a pattern forming?), but I do have another interview next week. That, at least, is something, right?

Have a happy Turkey Day! Or, as they say in Istanbul (not Constantinople): A! evet. Biraz da üzüm almak isterim!

November 16, 2006

That's no moon, it's a space station!

Just cuz I think this is really funny.

November 14, 2006

Guess What I Am?

So, I was bored and decided to try to take one of those internet quizes. Cuz, you know, they're so insightful. Well, I figured I'd find out what kind of mythological creature I am.

The results were...insightful:

You Are a Mermaid

You are a total daydreamer, and people tend to think you're flakier than you actually are.
While your head is often in the clouds, you'll always come back to earth to help someone in need.
Beyond being a caring person, you are also very intelligent and rational.
You understand the connections of the universe better than almost anyone else.

What Mythological Creature Are You?

Oh, and I am not a mermaid.
I'm a mer-MAN!

November 13, 2006

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Our trip to the southwest was so exciting and fun-filled that it will take three posts to cover it all. So, if you start here and continue reading through the next three posts you should end up with a fairly clear picture of what took place.

Our first stop was Albuquerque for the National Association of Interpretation's conference. However, since Sonja wasn't particularly interested in attending sessions discussing a survey of the future of interpretive coursework in academia, she decided to go hiking. A wise choice, I think. Although, truth be told, I did rather enjoy the aforementioned session. Anyway, Sonja spent Wednesday exploring Petroglyph National Monument.

In addition to petroglyphs left by generations of people over thousands of years, Sonja also saw some more...recent...additions to the area. The photo below was not taken in Petroglyph National Monument, however. Where else but Albuquerque could you hike to the top of a volcano and see a 20-foot plywood cut-out of Jesus with a red mohawk and carrying a giant penny?

Next on our agenda was to enjoy as many meals at the world's most best restaurant ever, otherwise known as Los Cuates. We even dragged a bunch of interp-type people along to watch us gorge ourselves on chili rellenos and sopaipillas. Next to Sonja's smiling (?) face is Kristy, a friend from Kenai Fjords National Park who also attended the conference.

Then we have, from left to right, Holly from Bandalier National Monument, Andy from Organpipe Cactus National Monument, Sonya from Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Meghan and Lori from the Grand Canyon, and the shiny half of Nate's head from Sheridan, Wyoming. Altogether a rather happy group of parkies.

And, the sopaipillas! You know you're in New Mexico when you sit down at a table and see a bottle of honey waiting for you in anticipation of the sopas you know will be coming.

Mmmmmmmmmm.... nothing like dough made with lard and deep fried then smothered with honey to end your day!

Below you will see all seven of us Freeman Tilden Award nominees. I'm in there somewhere, too, along with Corky Mayo, Chief of Interp for the National Park Service, and Laura from the National Parks Conservation Association. They lined us all up there prior to announcing the national recipient so those of us who didn't win wouldn't feel like complete losers.

That's right, I didn't win. The actual winner is the first guy on the left. He's from Wyoming. Although I was disappointed, I must admit that the consolation prize was pretty darn cool, too. Doesn't everyone always dream of owning not one, but two ballpoint pens with a wrinkley bust of Freeman Tilden on the top? I know I sure did!

Actually, I didn't get two of them. One is Sonja's. And I suppose it doesn't really count as a consolation prize since they gave one to every person who attended the award ceremony. But it's still cool, though.

And finally, to finish out the New Mexico/Arizona section of our journey is a picture of Meteor Crater in Arizona from 29,000 feet. Just cuz it's neat and cuz it looks like a big zit that just got popped.

Or not.

Birds and the Beach

After leaving Albuquerque we headed for southern California to attend a wedding of two friends from back east. We arrived a little early so we decided to explore the coast around Malibu and Oxnard a bit. We found this beautiful little beach just off the Pacific Coast Highway and spent four hours relaxing in the sun and sand.

It's been a while since either Sonja and I have been on a "swimming" beach, so it took a few minutes to learn how to judge where to stand. Sonja took a little longer to figure it out than I did...

Did anyone else see that coming a mile away? Heh...

We also got a chance to do a little birding while on the beach. Both of us ended up with several life species that afternoon, including the Heerman's Gull:

We also had a small flock of Sanderlings in winter plumage racing the surf back and forth across the beach. If the waves got too close, they'd all jump into the air and fly back and forth for two or three minutes before settling back on the sand to do it all over again.

Here's a video of the sanderlings running around in the sand and looking like a pack of rabid mice:

We also saw quite a few Western Gulls hanging around.

Several Willets, like the one below, spent about an hour foraging with the Sanderlings and a group of Marbled Godwits. They weren't quite as entertaining as the Sanderlings, but they were still very cool to watch.

That picture actually turned out pretty good, eh? It's neat how his tracks catch your eye and lead right up to the Willet, who seems to be looking back at the camera. I'm so talented!
Here's one of the Marbled Godwits we saw:

Ok, so maybe I'm the only one that found that video entertaining. I mean, come on! It's a freakin' Marbled Godwit! What could possibly be more exciting than that?

The Wedding

The culmination of our five-day trip to the southwest was a wedding of some good friends of ours from NH/MA. Nahleen and Corey, in probably one of the funniest weddings we've ever attended, got hitched in the mountains north of Malibu on Friday. To the left we have the happy groom, Corey. Sonja was going for an ethereal feel for this photo. Isn't it cool how she was able to get the random face of a complete stranger to be completely in focus while our friends look all funky?
Now that is talent.

Next, it's my turn with the camera and an attempt at a shot of the happy couple...well, at least half of Nahleen's face and Corey's neck. This is actually my favorite picture from the ceremony. I'm sure that Nah and Corey will agree. I think we're going to frame it and send it off to them for their first anniversary. Corey's neck is particularly manly-looking, don't you think?

Now, Nah and Corey are one of the most entertaining couples we know. And their wedding cake was equally entertaining, and probably one of the coolest wedding cakes I've ever seen. Although they wouldn't let anyone eat the leaves. If you can't figure it out, they're supposed to be oreos.

By the end of the evening everyone was pretty well spent. I'm not exactly sure what Nahleen was doing to Sonja to elicit such an...interesting...expression.

Sonja's going to love that I posted that picture.

November 06, 2006

I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque

Well, we're off to the Duke City for NAI's annual shindig and the Excellence in Interpretation Awards Ceremony. I probably won't be putting any updates on here while we're gone, but you can expect to see one or three this coming weekend.

I've been hmmming and hahhhing for the past couple of weeks regarding preparing an acceptance speech for the Tilden Award. Although I've got a one in seven chance of winning it, I still don't know what my competition is. I'm assuming that the other projects are pretty spectacular, though. They always are. Besides, I would feel kind of presumptuous if Iwere to arrive with a speech prepared. So, while I'm definitely going to think about it, I still haven't decided whether or not I'm going to write anything down.

Sonja's pretty excited to get a chance to go hiking while I'm attending workshops at the conference. She's got several desert trails all lined up for Wednesday. She is bound and determined to see a Greater Roadrunner while we're there.

Finally, a couple weeks ago the Alaska Sealife Center learned that one of this summer's rehabilitated harbor seals, Poppy, was shot by a young boy on his first seal hunt with his father in the Bering Sea last month. Apparently, it was this boy's first seal kill and, by Y'upik tradition, it was subsequently shared with the entire village. While her death is unfortunate, it was done in a humane way and she helped provide food and clothing for native village in bush Alaska. A bittersweet ending for a seal the rehab staff worked hard to save. Here's a video of Sonja with Poppy last June at the Sealife Center:

November 05, 2006

Dogs on Ice

With the beautiful sunshine Seward has been experiencing lately, Sonja and I decided to take the dogs back to the beach.

We were hoping that the week-long stretch of below-freezing temps have rendered any smelly and disgusting blobs of grossness less appealing to Luna. Due to some rather unpleasant experiences lately of Luna rolling around in whatever yucky goop (which has included rotting fish guts, dead moose bits, and my personal favorite, human poo) she can find, we've been avoiding walking them in any area that may possibly contain anything even remotely questionable. This has meant no walks along the beach or any creek/stream/river. Which is too bad, really, considering how much fun they both have playing in the water.

However, we figured it was time to chance it again, so we drove down to 4th of July Creek to give them a good swim in the hot-tub-like water:

We also took a little stroll down by the beach, which ended up being quite pleasant with the sun shining on the bay all pretty like.

Living in Seward, where the winters don't really start until sometime in January, it's easy to forget how low the sun gets in the sky. This picture was taken around 1 in the afternoon today. So imagine how low it will be come December 21. If I remembe right from last winter, it just barely peaks up above the mountains to the south before dipping back below the horizon.

No big news on the job hunt, yet. Although I did get an email from the folks at Cape Cod National Seashore indicating that I am on the "short list" of top candidates for the position. They sent an email to those of us they are most interested in to inform us of the horrendous housing conditions on the Cape. They want everyone to seriously consider how much we're willing to spend on rent/mortgage (yeah, as if we could afford to buy a house on Cape Cod) then let them know if we're still interested. So, the good news is that I anticipate this short list getting even shorter. We'll see, though.

November 01, 2006

Day 3

I'm already sick of being unemployed. I want something to do besides flip through our two channels on TV, eat chips and cookies, and rewatch Office Space for the thirty-seventh time.

Ok, so that's not all that I've been doing. I did take the dogs for a walk yesterday. And I've been doing a pretty good job of honing the skills that chicks really dig. You know, like laundry skills, dishwashing skills, movie-dialogue-memorizing skills. Sonja particularly appreciates that last one. I've also managed to streamline my apartment-vacuuming strategy, enabling me to cut my time by nearly five minutes. I figure I'll be able to go for the record by December.

Still no news on the job front, although the folks at Zion, Montezuma Castle and Fort Pulaski have all said that this is the week they will be reviewing applications. And, there are still more openings coming up. From my observations, it seems that November is a popular month for parks to post job announcements. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here's a classic Homestarrunner toon you can watch.