Friday, January 30, 2009

The Claudes: Dreamscape

Sitka has the best library in the world. Really, for a town of about 8500 the variety is amazing. Since we are broke, we get movies from the library. There is a HUGE selection of movies there and they're FREE! Since we've seen most of the movies there, we noticed this little sticker on the back of some real stinkers: In memory of Claude A. Bryner 2007.

I don't know if the relatives of Mr. Bryner donated his collection of L-list action-adventures or someone bought all of these with him in mind. It doesn't matter because any awesome/awful movie that we rent gets called a "Claude." Claude is shorthand for the most recent Steven Seagal movie, mid-80's fantasy, or pulpy western.

The Dirty Fisherman and I are connoisseurs of the crap/cult movies. Just about the only other person who loves this stuff as much as we do is my Brother.

I thought I'd start off with the first movie we notices with the magical Claude sticker. It's a little-known movie from 1984 starring the triangle-grinning Dennis Quaid. (Or as my Brother calls him "the DQ".)
Picture the DQ, as a psychic, whiz-kid, who plays his saxophone of angst in his panties. He gets recruited by some sort of sciencey organization or another to fix people's lives through their dreams.

Basically, DQ is "smart" and hooks up to various other people through a series of tubes and wires and battles their dream demons. Like the one adorable Cousin Oliver looking moppet. They battle a snake (remember this, it's important...SNAKE). You can do anything you want in dreams if you imagine it. Cut through all of this dreamy sciencey crap are scenes of the president tossing and turning, experiencing his own nightmares. That headache you're feeling is the pounding of the foreshadowing anvil. WHO-WILL-HELP-THE-PRESIDENT?

Now, since it's 1984 there's an easily identifiable bad guy. You know he's bad because he dislikes DQ's soulful wailing on the sax. Also, he has shifty eyes. There's something about killing his dad too. I think that was important.

This bad guy (don't know his name, will call him shifty) is recruited by the shadowy guy who also works at the sciencey organization. They want to do evil with their psychic dream-adventuring so they rip off Nightmare on Elm Street. You know, if you die in your dreams you die in your life. Blah blah, I think there's a woman involved, but basically there is a battle royale between DQ and shifty for the president's life in the presidents dreams.

They are running around in some misty dream tubes. Oh, and DQ's psychic mojo is so fierce, he can connect to the president by placing his hands on the wall of the adjacent room. In this epic battle, shifty becomes the SNAKE--DQ haaaates snakes. It wasn't enough to rip off that Freddy Kreuger movie, they had to take some Indy too. DQ racks his brain...what will work. Those super toothy grins aren't working. Ohhh, clearly shifty has some daddy issues so DQ conjures his dad. Shifty snake man pretty much implodes over this and DQ wins!

Karma is a tough thing, though, Dreamscape pretty much ripped of like 8 movies for this one and the Cell used their entire plot!

Really, I know you can tell I haven't seen this movie in awhile. We even got it like 3 times from the library to show people because it was so awesome. If I remember correctly, my brother and I watched it the same weekend as "Hard to Kill" and "Breakin' 2, Electric Boogooloo."

So what movies have you seen that qualify?


My Brother called me. Apparently I missed a few key features of this awesome movie:

1. The woman is Kate Capshaw, I think she was "smart" in this movie. She may or may not have worn glasses.

2. There was sinister George Wendt (of Cheers, Space Truckers, and House of Reanimator fame). That way my Brother's favorite part.

3. The DVD special features have this Snake! button. You click it and shifty-eyes as the snake runs toward the screen (toward you, the unwitting viewer). It was so awesome, we watched it like 37 times.

Did I miss anything else oh Brother?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dirt 101

My mom will forever take the credit for my becoming a soil scientist. "Remember that time I drove the car on that construction site to see what kind of dirt piles those were?" She'd reminisce. Of course I was 12 and MORTIFIED that my mother would look at dirt.

Alas, I love it so. I like to dig too, but I'll cover that some other time when I'm discussing shovels. (I promise I will discuss shovels as my love for Razorback sharpshooters knows no bounds.)

Soil is a total sensory overload for me. It smells good (there are exceptions, I'll get there) and it's pretty. A way of categorizing or classifying soil involves a tool called the Munsell Color Book. It's a book of dirt-colored paint chips. Munsell color covers the entire visible spectrum, but the soil colors are generally in the red-yellow-brown-grey family. Also neat about soil are the terms. Soil scientist get to use technical terms like "mud--a mixture of soil and water, muck--finely decomposed organic matter, and gley--grey color from reduced iron.

This is an ash soil from nearby Kruzof Island. Isn't it pretty? Now, technically, this isn't soil it's parent material, but it's so striking. All the layers are cemented together by iron and aluminum oxides that leach out thanks to 150 inches of rain.

These layers are from several bursts from Mt. Edgecumbe and crater mountain. Most of the volcanic activity is from about 11,000 years ago.

Below, is an actual soil. She's a cute lil spodosol. Her name is Sarkar and she's from limestone parent material.

Spodosols are the rainbows of the soil world. They almost always have striking white, black, and red horizons. Layers in soil are called horizons.

That tool pictured is a U-dig-it. I wear it on my belt the way some folks have leathermen or cell phones. I'm cool like that.

I said not all soils smell good. That good, earthy, dig-your-toes-in smell is actually from a microorganism called actynomycetes. This little critter is responsible for breaking down organic matter in the soil. The by-product is that wondeful dirt smell. Some soils smell like rotten eggs, thanks to other critters who thrive in an oxygen-poor environment. Under these conditions, these little bacteria start breaking down the sulphur in the soil, creating a nasty smell. Like everything else in the world of dirt, this is used as a tool to help classify and understand the soil and site. I know if I smell rotten eggs, that the soil is a wetland soil.

Below is a funky mess. This soil is on the edge of a large, glaciofluvial (Glacially-influenced river) delta. The soils comes from very fine glacial silts. That's why its that grey, I mean gley, color. It was a sunny day for this photo, but the bugs were hideous.

Sigh, I know I've bored you to bits but I LOVE what I do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bucket accommodations

We've lived in some pretty sub-standard locations in the past 3 or 4 years of our house project. The saga begins right after we moved to Sitka and tried to buy a house. We could afford a house with a bad foundation and a leaky roof. One house listed to one side and was sinking back into the muskeg. Another was less of a house and more of a series of additions and remodels where the hallway linking the two structures was kitchen.

Faced with these terrible options, we thought we could build a house. Hind sight makes me want to throttle myself. We found a beautiful lot with an amazing view, a steep driveway and lots of trees. This was 2005. We spent the summer clearing the lot, drawing plans (on the floor with a quilting ruler and a library book), and living in a friend's half-remodeled house. There are very few photos of our year spent there. The kitchen consisted of a range, a sink on plywood supported by sawhorses, and a small table. The bathroom was functional but the plumbing froze during a particularity severe cold snap. The walls were plywood and the floors unfinished. But, it was free.

This was the nicest place we stayed before we moved into our own apartment January 2008. The other places make me cringe, they were so awful.

Moving on.

We were so thrilled to be living in the building we spent the past 3 years of our lives (and all of our money) on. It didn't matter that there wasn't a bathroom door--we could use a blanket and a radio! I so didn't care that our floors were filthy plywood, sweeping was for suckers anyway. My kitchen was just a range and a sink on plywood, but it was MINE.

bucket kitchen, but MY bucket kitchen.

Sure, the chopsaw was in the living room and there was the ubiquitous layer of sawdust. I'm not much of a housekeeper so this was a perfect excuse. Why clean?

That table has seen both cocktail parties and heavy use while trimming out all the windows. It's a multipurpose plywood sawhorse thing!

This photos is a little more recent than the other one. The wood floor has been installed (yay) but the dryer vent has not. We ran two (2) different lengths of ducting from the dryer, across the floor and out the cracked door. Since it was probably 27 degrees that day, we used a sheet to prevent the air from coming back in. BUT it was my dryer that we got for free. I'm glad we have these pictures, they make great stories.

Also, notice the four or five pairs of xtra-tuffs in disrepair? That's life up here.

Slippery Slope

Our Driveway is awesome. It’s a perfect 20% grade gravel-covered slope. (For those in the know, 20% grade is the maximum a loaded log truck can make it up on one of the glorious logging roads here.) A small stream forms down the middle of it during heavy rains, depositing gravel on Edgecumbe Drive. These loose gravels become ball bearings when the rains depart and we get one of our four (4) sunny days. It’s safer to walk in the ditch, really.

During the not-quite-snow-but-still-freezing times, the driveway becomes the 4-inch thick ice sheet we call the glacier. It’s a quick ‘n painful trip downhill. There isn’t even the safety of a ditch.

But when it snows, and the shovel-happy, weirdo uphill neighbors are gone, our driveway is the best in town.

Yes, that's me trying to get enough momentum to get through 18 inches of wet Tongass snow. It took about 4 runs to clear the road.

The dirty fisherman is about to go off the jump built on our rock wall. He's much braver than I am.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

be prepared

As I slogged home through ankle deep icy slush, I stumbled on the perfect way to introduce you to Sitka in January. The weather was a super-great combo of snow then rain. Don't know about you but 35 and rainy is my favorite.

But first we must dress appropriately! Up here, that almost always means extra tuffs. Actually, xtra-tuffs can be quite fashionable when worn with a skirt. I was first introduced to these beauties when the dirty fisherman was working on a tuna boat in California. They looked so exotic there. You had to go this one hole-in-the-wall commercial fishing shop in Morro Bay to get them. They were incredibly expensive—I mean $60 for rubber boots? Jeez. I had more fun looking at hoochies and sinking line.

Alas, tackle and rubber boots have now lost some of their novelty. But I still remember looking for boots my size in Bellingham WA before taking the ferry up to Wrangell. It was exciting finally getting my very own pair. I now have 5 pairs in various states of disrepair. Folks here are pretty ingenious with their recycling of these boots. I’ve seen clogs, sandals, and slippers but the best pair goes to a guy in Yakutat who lined his with seal fur.

So boots, wear them when in Sitka. There really isn’t an event where these are unacceptable footware—no black shoe rule here.

What you folks outside may not realize is that it gets dark early here and the City is a bit lax with the streetlight maintenance. It can get pretty dangerous for we pedestrians (I lovingly refer to myself as tire meat) so I wear a really flattering orange reflecty vest. I'm convinced that it encourages cars to hit those deep puddles thereby showering me with slop.

These are the basics. I still have to cover rain gear and base layers. Wouldn’t want to get too exciting here just yet.

It Begins

The story of the muskeg harpy.

Thanks to the amazing imaginations and humors of my field partners, we all got nick names one summer. Most of it was inspired by the terrible Alaska-themed romance novels we were consuming. (Be sure to ask me about Storm Reynolds the pilot). Since we were all physical scientists, we came up with our own: Karst Banshee, Moxie Breccia, and Muskeg Harpy. That name tickled me so much, I figured I should keep it for a rainy day.

Today isn't rainy, it's snowy. And January. And dark. What better time to begin chronicling my life in the great land?

So, family and friends, I would check up here more often than my neglected email and flickr account. It is my great ambition to write about:

  • The house we're building ourselves (yes, the muskeg harpy and the dirty fisherman have a project)
  • knitting (for all 2 of you who care)
  • cooking! Man, I love to cook. I plan on canning this summer, so we'll see how that goes.
  • Stuff I like! Because you totally need to know about my love of all things wool and vintage pyrex.
  • Life in a temperate rainforest.
  • Bad action movies--ever seen Dreamscape? How about Gymkata?

Thanks for stopping by. (My plan is to write at home and post the next day, it's an attempt anyway.)