Monday, September 29, 2008

Big Sky Country

It's pretty out here in Alaska. Take, for example, our large sky. The clouds look like a painting.

For your enjoyment, here are pictures from the end of our street and behind our apartment building.

In this next one, you can just see a barge coming into the bay.

I hope everyone likes the pictures. It was a pretty regular Monday, otherwise, so there's not much else to say. Samara got a couple of birthday cards in the mail, and a package from Matt Hufford with a present in it. I'm making her wait until her birthday on Thursday to open those. She's going to be 29! Don't forget to wish her a happy birthday on Thursday.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The heat is off

When we woke up this morning, there was a chill in the air. I looked at the thermostat and it was only reading 62 degrees. It finally got to the point that Aaron called the landlord. He came over and said that the actual thermostat was broken. When he showed up, he had brought his dog. He made a comment that his dog was the only one he allowed in the apartments. I guess I can respect that, kinda. (Actually if Ann wanted another cat, I don't really care as long as she's still taking care of the other 3--but no dogs! ) He had to pick up the part somewhere so he left for a little while. But came back and got our heat working again. YAY!

I did get a few packages this week. My mother had sent me a package of some dry goods. Aaron's mom had sent me some shirts, can goods and travel mugs for my birthday. Trilby sent me a recycled book. And the good news with that, is she is also sending me a rum cake for Christmas. I guess that is about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Weekend Post: Dogs, Shooting and Boats

Ahh, Friday. Day of champions. You know what's great about Fridays? Saturday mornings.

That's right, when it's Friday, you know that you don't have to get up early the next morning. After a long day of work on Friday, Samara and I had a weekend to look forward to. First things first, we headed home for a dinner of hotdogs and french fries. Samara had a package of birthday stuff from my mom. Here's a picture of her holding some of her new stuff.

Also, she looks crazy because I made her keep her eyes open when the flash went off.

Speaking of crazy, then we watched the debate. Both of these guys are clearly politicians, but if John McCain beats Barack Obama, then this country has truly gone insane.

We were invited to another teacher's house after dinner for some drinks and socializing. Various other folks from the school were getting together to watch the debate or watch movies in lieu of the debate, but Sara decided she was just going to stay home and have a drink. We scored a last minute invite, and it turned out that Ricky came by as well.

Here's Aaron standing outside Sara's house. See how the fall colors have arrived in Alaska?

Sara has three dogs. Two Afghans named Angel and Chaos, and a Tibetan Terrier named Joey.

It was nice to have drinks with folks. (Well, Samara had drinks. Aaron just had chips and dip.) It was also nice to play with the dogs. They're not cats, but they're okay.

We took Ricky home. He lives in a little cabin. (Quite little, really. It has a small bedroom, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and a loft over all that, which Ricky uses as a family room.) He has fuel oil heat, but his heat isn't on right now because he hasn't bought fuel. Anyway, he rents from some guy that also has hunters out--I guess it's kind of a bed-and-breakfast deal. There are lots of those here. So there's a bunch of pelts and meat and fish in the freezer on Ricky's porch. He showed us.

I don't know what that fur is from, but it's some kind of animal in Ricky's freezer. He also has a some kind of carved mask on his porch.

Today, we got up late and did some grocery shopping and then went to the post office. After that, I talked Samara into going out to the shooting range with me. She brought her camera, so we took pictures of the changing leaves on the drive out Waskey Road.

Here's an interesting sight. When you wreck a car out in the bush, apparently it's easiest just to leave it there. It's not like there's body shops and stuff out here. Mechanics, yeah, but not really body shops.

The funny thing is that there's so much wilderness out here, that even a wrecked car in the middle of it doesn't really spoil things for me. It's still pretty.

The shooting range is out at the dump. So of course, you turn down Landfill Dr.

From the firing line, this is the view behind you.

Samara took a bunch of pictures while I was shooting. First, the rifle.

Me, downrange setting up targets.

Then shooting some soda cans at 25 yards and a target at 100 yards.

Then, the results.

Here's Samara enjoying herself.

She got cold and got back in the car. It was sunny and about 55 degrees today, and Samara just wore her hoodie. She did take a few more pictures of me shooting, from the Jeep.

I only had about 19 rounds of 76.2x54R left, so it wasn't long before we were done. On the way home, we took the Lake Road, and then stopped off at the harbor. The tide was in, and we got a variety of pictures of boats. Samara took a look at the bay, and we watched some guys get ready to pull one out of the water.

Samara was cold, so we came home.

Now Samara is working on cucumber sauce and kebabs for dinner. Yummy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New job stuff and pot luck

Since today was an in-service day at the school, I didn't have to work. Instead, I went to SAFE to fill out paperwork and do an orientation. I met with the HR person and filled out all the stuff that HR requires. Then I took a tour of the facility. Everyone was really friendly and laid back. As it turns out, I'm going to be a manager which means I'll actually have people beneath me. I have this large training manual I have to read, take a test over and then edit and update. I also have to find more volunteers to help out at the agency. And have I mentioned that I still have 2 weeks left at the school? Things are going to be a bit crazy around here for a while until I get settled in at the new job. Oh, I also get my own office. I have a view of the mountains from the 2nd floor. Yeah, I'm cool like that.

I also found out about this pot luck thing that was going on at the school tonight. It was a wellness conference that focused on building bridges between the elders and the youth. Aaron and I got to try moose and maybe caribou--we're not sure which was which. There was fish jerky which was pretty good and more of that Eskimo Ice cream (Akutaq). Some of it was mixed with salmon which is a bit too much of a new flavor for me. Aaron had some akutaq, but he said that he likes his really sweet, which when it is made without the fish is kinda like kroger cake icing with a ton of berries in it. After dinner, some of the kids did some of the traditional Yupik dance. There was even a song about Akutaq. It was neat.

I meant to bring my camera, but I had forgotten it at home. (No pics today) There is going to be a Christmas festival later in the year with Native crafts and food. I'll be sure to bring my camera and my checkbook.

I guess that's about it for today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Samara's new job (I tell my salary, if that bothers you, don't read)

I got a call today. It was from Ginger at SAFE. She offered me the job as an Outreach & Education Coordinator and I accepted. I asked that I would be able to give a 2 week notice at the school before I went over there. (Here's the bit about how much I will make) She offered me $21.35 an hour, which is a lot more than the $16.50 an hour at the school. Plus, at the school I only work 30 hours a week, this should be at least 37.5 hours a week. This means that I will actually be able to pay my student loans when they come due, plus I'm working at a non-profit and gaining valuable work experience. I have Thursday off at the school so I am going to do my orientation then. I believe that my first work day will be October 8. That's all I know so far. I'll keep this updated as I learn more about the position.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Coats!

Samara only packed a hooded sweatshirt in her luggage, so she's been making do since we got to Alaska. It honestly hasn't been that cold, but it's been wet, so she's gotten damp as she walked around town. Well, now she has a coat for mild cold weather, and a parka for serious winter weather. My mom sent both of them--the winter parka is for Samara's birthday, which is coming up on October 2nd.

Here's the lighter coat:

And the heavy winter coat:

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the beige one is much lighter weight, despite the furry hood. The black one is heavy duty and has a very warm lining.

So there you go. Samara is all ready for winter!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Trip to the Range

Before I tell a little story about my trip to the firing range, I just realized that there were pictures from yesterday's walk down to the beach still on the camera. So here we

As you can see, the tide was in. We hadn't walked down to the beach before when the tide was in. I walked down to the end of a concrete ramp that leads to the beach when the tide is out. The water was cold.

A little farther down the beach, we saw a bunch of seagulls. Here's a picture of one, so that you can see one of the only types of wildlife we've seen so far in Alaska.

Anyway, that was our walk to the beach yesterday. Now on to my main blog post!

After discovering the firing range at the town dump yesterday, I was afraid it was going to rain today. But it didn't! In fact, it's been a beautiful day.

I slept in, and Samara made me breakfast (eggs, toast and bacon--no, no reindeer sausage). We made a trip to the grocery to pick up some supplies for this week. After we got back, I decided I would head out to the range and shoot my rifle. I forgot the camera, so I didn't get any pictures. I will next time.

To remind anyone that's forgotten, I've got a Mosin-Nagant M44 which has been modified with a fiberglass stock, match-grade trigger, forward scope mount, BSA 2x pistol scope and shortened barrel. In other words, a scout rifle. It's chambered for 7.62 x 54R, which is roughly equivalent to .308.

I drove out the lake road, hung a right on Waskey and a left on the Landfill Drive. There was nobody at the range, which wasn't surprising. I set up at a table, and walked a target out to 100 yards. That's my guess, anyway. There was a target frame set up at what I guess would be the 100 yard mark. I hung a target, which was actually just a paper placemat with a stick-on Shoot-n-C target.

I loaded three rounds, slinged up the rifle, and put three rounds down range at the 100 yard target. Then I walked down there, and figured out that I hadn't hit the target at all. In fact, I hadn't even hit the larger targets underneath. None of my shots even made it onto the target stand.

It occurred to me that despite having sighted in the rifle before leaving Lexington, it might have gotten jarred enough during the road trip and various flights that it might not have been as dead-on. So I walked a target out to 25 yards. Again, that's a guess, but it seemed to be about 25. I put up another placemat with a stick-on target.

Now I shot a series of groups of 3 rounds at 25 yards. Here's my target, followed by the list of the groups:

Group 1: 3.5" spread, low and to the right
Group 2: 3,275" spread, low approx 3" and right approx 4"

Then I adjusted the scope 6 clicks left and 6 clicks up.

Group 3: 3.25" spread, low approx 1" and right approx 1"
Group 4: 1.5" spread, right approx 2"

Then I adjusted the scope 2 clicks left.

Group 5: 1.5", right approx 1" and low .5"

Then I finally adjusted the scope 2 clicks left and up 1 click.

Now by this time, I had gone through 18 rounds of a 20 round box. (I only brought two 20 round boxes from Kentucky.) I pulled 1 round out of the next box so that I could shoot one more 3 round group. I decided to see if I could get on paper at 100 yards now.

My final group was 5.5". Here's that target:

After shooting that last group, I decided to call it a day. I'd been at the range for about an hour, and I'd shot 21 rounds. I bought those two boxes before I left Kentucky, for about $17 a box. That's about 85 cents per round, which is fairly expensive for entertainment. I figured out that I can get 7.62 x 54R locally at the hardware store. That's pretty amazing. The problem is that it costs about $25 per box. That makes it $1.25 per round. At those prices, as much as I enjoyed shooting today, I wouldn't be able to make a frequent practice of this hobby. It's really unfortunate that ammunition suppliers won't ship to Alaska. Surplus Hungarian ammunition is available in 440 round tins for $110. That's 25 cents per round. They won't mail it here, though.

I mention all of that by way of saying that it's a real shame, because I really had a good time shooting today. It was very nice weather--about 51 degrees, and sunny. I wore a hoodie, and spent a nice hour outside. Considering that the shooting range itself is free, it'd be a great hobby to take up.

Oh well. That's my range report. I hope someone enjoyed reading it.