Courting Disaster

I had lunch with a newly-returned-to-Alaska friend (NRAF) today. The conversation went something like this:

NRAF: What do you think of all of this volcano stuff?
Me: I think it's just a bunch of hype; the media trying to scare us again. [1]

[1] Actually, this time I don't think it's just media hype. There are legitimate, verifiable scientific reasons why we should be concerned that Mt. Redoubt may erupt any day now. Accordingly, I scored a few face masks from the black market (all the stores were sold out), because the other suggested option, using a wet bandanna to cover your face and prevent inhalation of mass ash, doesn't seem like it will work in 11-degree weather.

NRAF: I actually kind of want it to erupt--I mean, it's one of the cooler natural disasters you can live through.
Me: You do realize it is going to fuck everything up for months, right? The last time it erupted it lasted for 5 months. [2]
NRAF: Wait--what? I was willing to be inconvenienced for a weekend . . . nevermind. I'm not rooting for an eruption anymore.

[2] The last time Redoubt erupted it occurred over a period that lasted from December 1989 through April 1990. This doesn't make any sense to me. I thought volcanoes just erupted and then you dealt with the aftermath. 5 months? Can someone explain this?

If it does erupt, at least it will look pretty cool. Here is a picture from 1990:

UPDATE: Maybe it is all hype. I just went to the Anchorage Daily News website and the pending eruption isn't even listed among the main headlines anymore. Here are the top stories affecting our safety at 6:25 pm:

1. C Street closed after car gets hit by train.
2. Storm may bring a foot of snow overnight.
3. Students safe after school fire.
4. Palin forms PAC.
5. Man shoots and kills woman then self in parking lot.

Train accident, snowstorm, school fire, Sarah Palin for President, murder/suicide in a parking lot. Oh, and a volcano may erupt. This place is scary. Get me out of here.


Toys for Tots?

Someone actually thought that kids would want to recreate the thrilling experience that is airport security. Seriously. Here is the manufacturer's description for the Playmobil Security Checkpoint:

The woman traveler stops by the security checkpoint. After placing her luggage on the screening machine, the airport employee checks her baggage. The traveler hands her spare change and watch to the security guard and proceeds through the metal detector. With no time to spare, she picks up her luggage and hurries to board her flight!
Yeah. Sounds awesome. And it looks like hours of fun too:
I loved Playmobil when I was a kid, but this look super-boring. Some of the customer reviews are great and hit on the larger social issues inherent in a playset that is one step short of recreating a "papers please" checkpoint behind the Iron Curtain:
  • I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!".
  • Thank you Playmobil for allowing me to teach my 5-year old the importance of recognizing what a failing bureaucracy in an ever growing fascist state looks like.
  • I like the basic idea. I applaud Playmobile for attempting to provide us with the tools we need to teach our children to unquestioningly obey the commands of the State Security Apparatus, but unfortunately, this product falls short of doing that. There's no brown figure for little Josh to profile, taser, and detain? Where are all the frightened plastic Heartlanders pointing at the brown figure as they whisper "terrorist?" Where are the hippy couple figures being denied boarding passes? And shouldn't someone be forcing a mother figure to drink her own breast milk?
  • This toy would be a lot more realistic if it came with about 350 other Playmobil people to stand in the line and wait about hour. Is there a deluxe set with an interrogation room?
Or, if you really want to raise a fascist, you can purchase a video game called PRISON TYCOON. I shit you not. Your child can now control the prison industrial complex from the comfort of home. As the website advertises:

"You are the warden...Their fate is in your hands...rehabilitate them...or BREAK them."

Control the layout of your prison buildings and the arrangement of the rooms and facilities within them. Place dormitories and cellblocks, mess halls and gymnasiums, but don't expect to be able to build death row right away.

When you begin you will have a low security rating and must, with effort and managerial skill, improve your prison, maintain inmate discipline and increase your security to maximum. As time passes more inmates will arrive and you must deal with each new influx as they step off the prison bus, all of them needing to be housed and fed.

Raise funds for the upkeep of your inmates, staff and facilities by building on-site factories where your inmates can work. Will you rehabilitate offenders by allowing them learn trade skills or educate themselves while in prison, or discuss their issues with the prison Therapist? Or will you simply send in the guards to quell unrest...
Oh. My. God. Who thinks this stuff up? [1] This is much more disturbing than video games like Grand Theft Auto that allow players to carjack at will and shoot random hookers in the head (without even having sex with them first). This is making social injustice fun and acceptable. This aggression will not stand.

[1] This premise of this game sounds remarkably like the terrible Stallone movie Lock Up.


This Is Getting Ridiculous

Life in the AK is hard and sometimes dangerous. You leave your house and you can easily freeze to death, get run over by a moose, eaten by a bear, sucked under the mud flats, etc. Alaskans know this. And we kind of like it. The sense of danger lurking around every corner makes life here more exciting and makes us feel tougher and more special than those of you living in the Lower 48/America. But in the last few days it has ventured into the ridiculous: a 5.7 earthquake hit the area on Saturday morning and a volcano may erupt tonight.

There isn't going to be a lava flow sweeping through Anchorage or anything like that, but if Mt. Redoubt pops, the city will be blanketed in ash. I've never experienced that before, but people who have tell me it sucks. The ash gets everywhere--in your clothes, in your car's air filter, even in your computer. It envelopes the city, covering it in a sooty cloud and making air traffic (and hence delivery of food and whatnot) almost impossible. Noted safety expert Neighbor Julie, in response to a "be prepared for disasters" e-mail that went out at her office, told me she was heading to Home Depot to get those facemasks people who are afraid of Asian Bird Flu wear on planes, covers for her heating vents, and an air filter for her car.

My response: Do you even know where the air filter for your car goes?
Neighbor Julie: No, but I'm hoping the owner's manual explains it.

She never made it to Home Depot, but she did instill enough fear in me that I ran to the grocery store to buy survival food. But somehow all I wound up with are the ingredients for mattar paneer. So, if disaster stikes, I'm going to whip up a big batch. That seems to be the appropriate response for the situation. I probably should have bought some water.



I resisted Facebook for a long time. I was a serious Friendster addict back in the day (c. 2002-2004), and once I kicked that habit I resisted the social networking site pull for a while (I skipped the MySpace thing entirely).

I finally caved in and created a Facebook profile last summer. I did it under duress: Viv threatened to make one for me "that I certainly wouldn't like" unless I did it myself immediately. So I signed up, created an account, but did nothing with it for a couple of months. But once winter hit I was back on the sauce. Hard.

I skipped my 10-yr high school reunion for two reasons: (1) I didn’t want to leave the AK in the middle of the summer and spend 10 hours flying to hot, humid NJ; and (2) I didn’t want to have all of the “catching-up” conversations with a bunch of people I didn’t really care about catching up with. I just wanted the best parts of the reunion w/o the reunion: All I wanted to know about my former classmates was: What do you look like now? What do you do? Are you married? What does your spouse look like? I remember thinking that instead of a reunion, it would be great if the school would just publish something with pictures and updates on the class of ’93. Ask and ye shall receive. Now I can see what every girl I had a crush on in high school is up to and what their husbands look like. Thanks, FB. I also have way more information than I need about almost everyone I’ve ever known since kindergarten. This has yielded some interesting results.

First, it has given me a new pet peeve. Why do so many people use pictures of their kids as their profile pic? It’s your profile, not your child’s. I hate that. It has now been added to the Offical B-Dice Pet Peeve List which includes crooked bumper stickers on cars, couples that wear matching outfits, improper use of apostrophes, and a couple of other things that I can't quite remember right now.

Second, some peeps from my past provide fabulous material for online people watching:

-A guy I went to high school with is either stalking Axl Rose, is in a Guns N’ Roses cover band, or both.

-A a girl that I only remember as being unusually fond of Debbie Gibson seems to have some cool LA film industry job and goes on a lot of dates that don't end well.

-A girl from high school seems to be an escort/prostitute. I base this conclusion on nothing more than her profile pictures. They are all self-portraits (evidenced by the distinctive angle achieved from holding one's own camera in front of and below one's self). Rather than invade whatever modicum of a privacy interest one has when you post pictures online, I won't copy-and-paste her pics, and instead will just describe each of them in detail:
  1. A black & white shot of her in lingerie w/ a rose tucked b/w her breasts (there are 2 of these photos--one close up, one wide shot);
  2. Wearing a red hoodie, pink panties, and showing off her below-the-belly button tattoos;
  3. Holding the camera from above her head with lots of silvery jangly bracelets and her bra (part lace/part leopard print) exposed;
  4. 2 extreme eye close ups;
  5. Wearing nothing but a bra w/a red bow tied around neck (2 of these);
  6. Lying flat on her bed, open cardigan sweater, nothing underneath (2 of these);
  7. The same pictures as the pictures described in #1 above, but in color and w/ the rose in her mouth instead of b/w her breasts.
-Another high school acquaintance seemed pretty cool at first glance: she lives in NY, dresses kind of funky, and is a graphic designer. Then I was notified that she joined the "1,000,000 Strong for McCain/Palin" group. I checked the group's page to see if it was serious or ironic. It was for reals. I don't know this girl at all, but I was still shocked that she was a Palin/McCain supporter. I deleted her.

-One woman appears to have had a breast augmentation, and if you look closely at the background of her picture, there is a painting hanging on the wall of either Mary Magdalene touching the head of someone kneeling in front of her or of someone being knighted. Also, on a shelf under that picture: a bunch of beanie babies and other stuffed animals.

-A college friend is still crazy. This is what he wrote to me: “Well I live in southern Ohio, and I also have a small private campground. I am a Solar Power Engineer. I am Organizing Villages (sic), so that we will be safe when the anarchy begins, and it is beginning soon. I have many things I can tell you, keep in touch.”

-One girl, who mysteriously disappeared for about a year during high school now has a 16 y/o daughter. Ah-ha. Mystery solved. (Not judging; just saying).

-Finally, there is KT. I haven't talked to her since 1994. She is my absolute favorite Facebook find so far. She has an amazing hobby: she collects douchebags! See for yourself:

Note the Jesus tatoo.

Yes, he is grabbing her breast. Classy.

Mickey Mouse tattoo. Shows his sensitive side.

Is that just one arm?

Do these guys all shop at the same store?

I'm so glad I don't live on whatever planet she goes to for spring break.


Evidence Of Change

Granted, the technology has improved a lot since then, but a comparison between what the White House website looked like when W took over v. what it looks like now is telling.


Just Another Tuesday

Plans for tomorrow morning:
Wake up super-early.
Grind beans.
Make coffee for 6.
Get bagels from Neighbor Julie.
Take out cream cheese and smoked salmon.
Put it all on a big plate (or 2).
McGeez, Hank, Becks, Neighbor Julie are coming over.
Watch some pomp and circumstance.
Witness history.
Listen to a speech.
Smile (definitely).
Cry (probably).
Got to work (happily).


Isn't the apocalypse fun?

One week ago it was -20 degrees outside. Right now it is 40. Anchorage is covered in ice with periodic deep puddles. This is the Best. Winter. Ever.


How did I miss this?

Layover (2001): A married man (David Hasselhoff) has an illicit airport affair with the wife of a dangerous jewelry dealer he had previously befriended.
This movie sounds awesome on so many levels. I know what I'm doing this afternoon.


"Stay Warm"

I know, pictures of the temperature gauge in my car are not terribly exciting, but I wanted to share what I was looking at as I drove home tonight. [1] Anchorage is now on like ten straight days without temperatures rising above (or just barely above in some parts of the city) zero degrees F and sinking well into the double-digit negatives on a consistent basis.

And that's nothing: Stevens Village [2] has been stuck at -60 for a week. People there have run out of wood to heat their homes and food supplies are dwindling because planes with provisions can't fly in due to the ice fog. Suddenly, the fact that my iPod died and my dog is frozen in place in the backyard don't seem so bad. [3]

During the past few weeks "stay warm" has become a common salutation upon departure in these parts. Goodbye. Good night. Good luck. God bless. God speed. Farewell. Adios. Peace out. May the force be with you. Later. See ya. Stay warm. One of these things is not like the others.

That's because only one of these things is a warning: "stay warm," because if you don't you will die. This is not acceptable. What am I doing here?
[1] I was coming home from visiting a friend who just got back from a weekend in LA. The heat in her house was not working properly and it was a chilly 58 degrees inside. Despite the fact that it was 80 degrees warmer inside than it was outside, I didn't take my hat, gloves, scarf, or coat off during the two hours I was there. We discussed the pros and cons of living in LA v. living in Anchorage. All I could come up with as a con for LA was this: you can't wear down inside.
[2] No relation to Ted (that I'm aware of).
[3] Just kidding. She's fine. Here she is in her Winter coat:


Cold War Casualty

What happens if you leave a four-year-old iPod Mini (for those of you who don't remember, the Mini preceded the Nano) in your car for a few days during one of the longest and coldest cold snaps in Anchorage history? After it thaws out, this:

That's right, the dreaded iPod sad face:



Though Anchorage hasn't been as cold as other parts of the state, it has still been pretty chilly lately. There have been subzero temperatures all week and last night it was -20. The high today was only -8. But it was sunny and the sky was clear, so that was nice.

You know what happens when it is that cold? Your eyelashes freeze:

Also, as demonstrated by my neighbor Julie, who had been out running, [1] sometimes a weird frost beard [2] will form--yes, she was growing frost right out of her cheeks.

[1] She's nuts.
[2] Upon closer inspection, I think that, technically, she is sporting frost muttonchops and not a beard.