Friday, February 29, 2008

Eagles Love Family

This is one of a couple immature eagles in the neighborhood that still hang out with Mom (or Dad); they were sitting on the satellite dish earlier and I see them around the plant on and off all day.

It's the weekend, and even though we all still work seven days a week out here it seems like the weekends are a bit more relaxed . . . no calls from vendors, the Seattle office is closed, it's a good time to get those longer projects done and reflect on the good in the world. I'd like to offer up a Friday Five, five things that have exceeded my expectations and made me smile, 'cause lets face it, some negativity can creep in over the week and its time to leave it all behind . . . . .

1. The Only Kayak, A Journey Into the Heart of Alaska by Kim Heacox I haven't read something that affected me this much in a long time. I haven't actually finished the book yet, I'll read a phrase or a paragraph that will stun me with its imagery, its Abbey-ish simple brilliance, and I'll quickly close the book before any more words escape - I don't want the book to end, so I ration it out - even though I have ANOTHER book by the same author (kudos to Goldfish for getting them both) to dive into after this is finished. I can't praise this book enough, part of me wants to keep it my own little secret . . . .

2. Icky Thump by the White Stripes. I knew on the edge of my consciousness this was a great album - both my sons loved it, it got good press, I kept bumping into here and there among the cobblestones of modern society, but the idea that maybe it wasn't as good as everyone thought is was began to creep in. Goldfish (again) settled the issue, Amazoned it to the island, and I have to say there isn't a single song on there that isn't an original work. The fact I was the last one in America to discover that doesn't bother me a bit - the mantra that the wanting is almost always better that the having is a cornerstone philosophy of my life - and the exception proves the rule . . .

3. Alyeska Trading (the company store). They have done a lot of work remodeling in there, moving the entrance around to the side and increasing the square footage drastically. Goldfish and I were in there last night after dinner at the Crab Pot and everything was immaculately faced and they have a bulk foods section with the best prices on the island thanks to a contract with Costco.

4. Our new purchasing software - those of you that work with me, don't roll your eyes. I've been eating and breathing this transition this past month and today spent a good part of the morning in conference with the vendor to see how the inventory module would play out. While we're not going to be able to go live with it for another month due to some functionality issues, overall I found more to like than dislike, and I think Paperless with be able to add in the features I need in a few weeks, time to get it working before I go on vacation.

5. No Country for Old Men - you know, I figured since it won all those awards, it just couldn't live up to the hype - pretty much the same reason I have never seen Titanic. Well the storyline might have been a bit convoluted at times but Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, and yes, it pains me to add, Woody Harelson, all acted their butts off and some of the scenes (the candy wrapper on the counter scene for instance) were so imbued with a sense of impending violence I found myself forgetting to breath . . .

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Okay, I'm Back

Work has been pretty intense but I think I'm over the hump. I know March will be going by pretty fast as well so that means vacation is just around the corner!

Let's see - first of all, thanks for hanging in there for the few days of "Eagles Love _______" series - I was putting in some pretty crazy days and it was all I could do to post up a pic and fall into bed. Tuesday night it was Goldfish's birthday so we went out to The Grand with friends to celebrate. It was an interesting meal - Sig Hansen was sitting 10 feet away at the bar at the entrance to the restaurant; just before we all met up the catcher/processor Pacific Glacier caught fire about 12 hours out from Dutch Harbor so Elaine was on her cell phone trying to find out if her observers were safe, Keri and Tami were sitting in a daze from working 18 hour days, we all shared our entree's and Elaine brought a cake . . . it was fun, and the wind had picked up outside and was plastering everything with 32 degree snow like one of those quick-crete guns.

Yesterday is a blur, I worked from 7 AM to 3 AM getting the database up to date and ready to export into the new inventory system. Today I took pictures on the dock after work then Goldfish and I went over to the Small Boat Harbor to look around before dinner at The Crabpot Cafe. Tonight we watched a pirated copy of No Country for Old Men that we've had for a month but haven't had time to watch - I can see why it won so many awards.

There you have it, up to date! Lots more daylight in the evenings these days, I'm looking forward to more snowshoeing, dog walking and hopefully getting out to the northern beaches soon to see what the winter storms left for me. Cheers everyone . . .

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Goldfish!

I have known Goldfish for over 12 years - her friendship has been unwavering and for the last year or so that we've been "together" I've come to realize I'm quite a lucky guy to have her in my life. She loves all the same things about the island that I do, she loves animals, we share the same quirky sense of humor . . . . she lets me be me and encourages me in all my odd endeavors. We both love books and movies and the sound of a blizzard outside. We both love to travel, both love to hike, both love to snowshoe. She is always up for an adventure - I think we knew last winter when we were exploring Boston together that we were a great match.

Goldfish turns 35 today . . . . I swore I would never become involved with a woman younger than 50 so I guess I'm going to have to say she's turning a very young 51. I told her when I moved out here that all I could promise was 45 years and I can't believe how fast the last 8 months have gone by and how much I'm looking forward to the next 44 years and 4 months . . . Happy Birthday my Goldfish - private birthday cards are good but so are public ones!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chalk One Up for the Raven

When I was walking Chico after work tonight I saw an amazing aerial show and I have to give kudos to the raven for some spectacular maneuvers. The raven had what must have been a supreme bit-o-nasty in its beak - I could see it dangling but couldn't identify it - and four eagles were trying to take it away from him. The eagles acted together, like a pack, but the raven simply out flew them. It was embarrassing, really - an eagle would be inches away, talons out-stretched, and I would be positive the raven was as good as dead, and that raven would pull some freakish barrel roll move and escape - again and again. It all took place right over my head like some 3D movie effect, complete with the whooshing of wings as eagles pulled out of dives just before the ground and swung around for another attack. What surprised me was the quiet - no squawks, no eagle cries, not a sound except wings as the birds went about the deadly business of survival.

And yes, the raven won the dogfight, landing in a sheltered spot long enough to gulp down the morsel and take off . . . . which all has nothing to do with the photo, these are eagles on the F/V Alaska Rose I photographed yesterday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Eagle has Landed

The thing about my camera is if I want to capture an eagle with its wings spread, I have to get that moment right when it flares before landing, when it is barely moving. You can see the Grand Aleutian Hotel across the bay; the boat is the F/V Alaska Rose.

Goldfish and I went snowshoeing this evening with Chico, a nice 75 minute workout along the water. We saw something rare for out here - evidence of someone else enjoying the outdoors, a set of cross country ski tracks. The best thing about island life is the celebration of the individual - there are so many folks just working and parking in front of the TV, Goldfish and I often marvel its like we almost have the island to ourselves, especially in the winter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

F/V Kevleen K

F/V Kevleen K was making her last delivery of opilio for the season when I got off work so I wandered down to the dock and took a few photos. I have an embarassing abundance of photos built up to post - including some fabulous new eagle shots.
I went snowshoeing out past the landfill tonight with Chico. Even though I had seen dozens of eagles on the dock after work it still made my heart happy to look up and see them perched on rocky crags, watching me pass by. Cheers for now, I need to head to bed . . . .

Monday, February 18, 2008


Saute a red potato in a bit of olive oil with some chopped garlic and red pepper. Season to taste. Serve with generous portion of red king crab meat. Repeat for 50 days . . . . . country cookin' Unalaska style . . .

This is what I've been eating every night for a week and plan on continuing until the big weigh-in on April 4th. It can't be more than 500 calories, max, and it's my reward for a day's hard work. There are two of us that are tied at 17 pounds so its time to get serious!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

East Channel & Mount Newhall at Lunch

Everytime I look at Mount Newhall my eyes are drawn to the rocky outcrop near the top that I know from experience looks like Richard Nixon from the side, and my mind returns to that perfect September day when Chico and I were standing up there. I love how Newhall looked today, the summit wrapped in fresh cloud like a down comforter. It was snowing when I walked home from work tonight, huge wet flakes that are gone already - but at noon the weather was perfect!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Finally Some Calm

It's raining - down for a change, not sideways - and maybe the fleet will get a break on the weather for awhile. Even by Dutch Harbor standards it has been an interesting couple weeks . . . .

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Today the weather finally calmed down after what seemed like a week of constant storming. Yesterday they actually closed the schools at noon, a first since I've been out here, due to the continued blizzard conditions.

On the dog walk after work yesterday I geared up and headed over to Little South America to give Chico a good run off the leash as we had been just walking him in the neighborhood for a few days. I drove in as far as the road was cleared and parked by Crown Alaska. Chico and I were drawn to a narrow corridor between stacks of totes on the right and stacked containers on the left, ending in a small warehouse. About halfway down the alleyway I noticed movement on the ground through the blowing snow - a bald eagle, sheltering from the storm. Before I could react the eagle launched towards me, heading out the way I had come in but unable to gain altitude due to snow and ice buildup on its wings. I put a gloved hand in from of my face to ward off what I thought was an attack but quickly saw was an escape attempt of a very frightened eagle that felt cornered. I saw the fear in its eyes as it swept inches over my head, landing clumsily on a small shed just outside the alley. I gave him as much space as possible as I exited the alley to avoid frightening him into trying to fly again, wasting precious energy reserves.

Chico and I walked up the unplowed road, 50 feet of ledge on the right and Captain's Bay on the left. I noticed small song birds flittering along the rock face, attemping to feed in the storm. Small birds cannot just hunker down for a week and weather out a storm - their rapid metabolism requires them to eat enormous quantities of food to maintain their body temperature. They can roost overnight, but they have to eat or die, no matter what the conditions. How can they live through a week-long blizard? The answer of course is that some can't . . . I had never considered the impact of our winter storms on the wildlife out here, I had always ventured out into the weather as a tourist, safe in my gear and retuning to a warm car and house. As I plodded through the storm, trying to keep Chico in sight with the 100 feet of visability, I sucked in snow with each breath and sometimes felt like I was drowning, like the air had turned liquid. I watched the tiny birds and then a raven, impossibly soaring along the rock face, contorting it's wings into fantastic shapes to maintain straight flight through the swirling unpredictable air currents. . . . .

I love to watch storms from the safety and warmth of the couch but I'm beginning to love the up close version even more . . . . I remember reading an interview of a longtime Unalaska resident who had retired and moved outside, to the lower 48. When asked what he missed the most about Unalaska he replied "the wind" . . . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You've Got To Love . . .

A headline like the one in today's Anchorage Daily News - Falling Moose Nearly Takes Out Trooper . I've driven by the area described hundreds of times when I lived on the mainland and what you normally see are Dall sheep scaling the rock cliffs beside the Seward Highway. I did see a moose stranded on an ice floe one time, floating out to Cook Inlet on the ebb tide, but a moose falling into the roadway takes the cake.

Age Old Question . . .

How many eagles CAN you stuff in a standard shortbed pickup anyways? By the look of these fatties - not many . . . . nice job sticking the landing on the mesh tailgate by the way . . . .

I've been giving some thought to getting a cheap (of course) digital video camera and posting video clips on here once in awhile - photos are fun but sometimes a short video would do much better in conveying what is going on. I have yet to capture the unabashed violence of the wind out here with a photo despite countless tries. With my horrible upload speed it might not work but its something to think about.

And no, I'm not done posting eagle photos this week . . . . you know how I roll . . . .

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Makushin Volcano

Makushin Volcano was steaming away last night when I was over on Ballyhoo walking the dog. I tried to post some other pictures but Blogger is not cooperating tonight - maybe tommorow. The city is planning on building a geothermal project on Makushin to supply some of the enormous energy needs of a 24 hour a day processing town like Unalaska/Dutch Harbor.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Not A Cloud In The Sky

It was a stunning day today, a day of calm and sun and flat seas, a day that can only truly be appreciated by putting it in the context of the past week of storms. And perhaps the next week of storms as well, but today . . . well, it was perfect. It may be the storms raging inside my body have let up as well contributing greatly to my sense of well being; the doctors seem to have the leg headed in the right direction, my cold is almost gone, and the island is absolutely INFESTED with bald eagles - there is no other way to describe it. You can see an even two dozen perched on the Pollock Plant and I couldn't resist the one spreading its wings at the top of the access ladder. You know me, the forecast calls for more eagle pictures posted in the days ahead . . . .

Actually, our semi-active volcano was venting steam today, I saw hundreds of a new type of duck on the Dutch Harbor side, and that black fox that torments Chico so much walked by the window while I was typing this post, so who knows what I'll post tommorow! Cheers, have a great weekend - steve

Going Nowhere

The storms have been pretty unrelenting out here all week and interesting things begin to happen - the mail stops, the dairy section gets wiped out at the store, people go nowhere as their flights are cancelled day after day. You just have to go with the flow. The mail thing can be inconvenient as delivery out here takes long enough without a storm . . . . I don't like the one bank out here but love my Bank of America account so I generally express mail my paycheck to the mainland, for tracking purposes. I'm sure it's still on the island somewhere despite being mailed a week ago, and may be still here when the 15th rolls around and I mail another one. Most folks just pay any bills they have on-line and don't use the mail for anything except shopping and magazine subscriptions.

This is a picture of the black fox that Chico and I track on our nightly walsk, among others. The funny thing was, Chico was too busy sniffing tracks to see the actual fox, even when I stopped to snap a picture.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Post #201 F/V Auriga

Well, I think I'm going to try it back at work tommorow. Two shots in the tush and a bunch of oral medications seem to be heading me down the road to recovery. I need to take a photo sometime when the dressings are off, it really is quite colorful. The docs seem to be comfortable with it just being an infection, not a blood clot. They told me that if it WAS a clot, and it broke free, I should have a little warning before it made it to my heart because you can feel it move and will feel "a sense of impending doom", so I'm on the watch for that for awhile I guess . . . . new hobby, checking for impending doom . . . .

I can't believe I missed two days of work - out here on the island folks never miss work, they have to be on their deathbed. There were only 9 days TOTAL lost to sickness and injury in my whole company last year - a company that at times has 500 people working. No one misses work . . . it's actually a refreshing atmosphere to work in, and it's all the more amazing by our 12 hour a day 7 day a week schedule.

I noticed I've gone over the 200 post mark! I remember thinking that since the island is so small, I might not be able to find material to have this blog for long - I now know that won't be a problem, I think anyone anywhere in the world can just look at what goes on in their backyard and find something new everyday for years if they just look.

I'm going to head to bed after checking on Goldfish. Since we're back in crab season, she is back to being on call 24 hours a day - the landing reports have to be filed within 6 hours of unloading, no matter what time it is, and she is working on a complicated one where they have two species of crab on board, caught in different areas - and she's coming down with a cold, probably sick from worry over the possibilty of "impending doom", poor thing . . . cheers everyone and thanks for your good wishes and happy thoughts!

Out of Work

I spent all day yesterday at the clinic getting poked and prodded and today I'm home from work as well. It's either an infection in my lower leg or a blocked artery, exacerbated by the long hours sitting in a chair doing paperwork. They don't have all the high tech gear out here like ultrasound to solve the puzzle so we're just taking it day by day with daily clinic visits and work restriction until it's better.

The weather on the crabbing grounds has been absolutely horrendous this past week inflicting damage on both men and equipment. The boats that fish for the company I work for, representing less than 10% of the crab fleet, have received the follwing damages: one boat had it's new decking torn completely off, one boat had it's "bow crinkled", and one boat had all the interior trim torn away in the wheel house. As I sat in the emergency room all day yesterday there was an endless stream of deckhands and fishery observers being treated for sprains, strains and breaks caused by the rough seas - made me feel a bit whimpy getting injured as a desk jockey in engineering . . .

Anyways, just this short session at the laptop has my leg uncomfortable, I'll check in later this evening - cheers, steve

Monday, February 4, 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sorry Trevor . . . . . . . . (Edited 2-4-08)

The masses have spoken, and by a 7 to 1 ratio, the consensus is that you should not have bet on the Dolphins this year . . . . now, for full disclosure, the Dolphins actually beat the Patriots last year, so Trevor has similar pictures of me. We take our football seriously, and for us, the Naked Snow Angel is the only pure football bet.

Don't worry Trevor, I won't leave it up for long and no one looks at my blog anyways, so you're safe . . . . well, except for the 1,744 unique visitors from 28 countries in the last 30 days. Nice sock by the way. . . . . and you do get bonus points for doing it right in the front yard under the streetlight . . . .

Edited 2-4-08 - Trevor has shown off long enough. I have always felt that the best gift a parent can give their children is self-confidence - and Trevor has that in abundance. This is a picture that made the paper from his middle linebacker days . . .