Sunday, October 27, 2013

Miriam in the Madhouse

Travis took me to the asylum the other day. Luckily it was only a visit, he didn't leave me there. It was actually pretty fun; a fairly creepy maze of a haunted house in fact. Though it is named the Fairbanks Asylum, you actually have to drive to North Pole to find it. Travis humors my great love affair with Halloween and all things creepy quite well but he did laugh at me after the haunted house for repeatedly telling him to walk ahead of me but then screaming and running in front of him, dragging him along behind me before again yelling at him for not going first. I am still trying to think up couple's costumes he might tolerate. Perhaps Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. Naturally, I would be Marshall.  Or maybe the Doctor and one of his companions from Doctor Who.  I dyed my hair red recently so we could always go ultra nerdy and be Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. Or a Big Bang Theory couple. The possibilities are pretty endless. And it would be even better if I could find a way to incorporate Roxi. 

While I spent some evenings watching scary movies, Travis spends some evenings sitting next to me, playing phone games. At least he is staying true to the Halloween spirit and playing a zombie game called the Organ Trail. Apparently when he got it, he thought it was the Oregon Trail. However instead of the awesome childhood game of traveling across the country with a group trying to avoid starvation and disease to settle in the west, this game involves trying to transport a group across the US while avoiding infection and death by zombie hordes. Naturally, Travis names members of his group after me and Roxi. So I often hear commentary like, "You wandered away and were bitten by a zombie. You need to stop that, I had to use up a bullet to shoot you because the game won't let me beat your head in with a shovel."  Or "Stupid Roxi, the game says she ate too much candy and has a tummy ache."
Or, my favorite, this little gem of a conversation:
Travis: "Someone offered to buy Roxi, they wanted to eat her.  But you should be proud, I refused to sell her and fought them instead."
Me: "Oh how sweet of you to save her life. I'm so proud"
Travis: "I didn't. They still took her and ate her. And all I got was a lousy battery. I should have sold her, they offered a good deal."

When Travis wasn't fighting zombie hordes or arguing with Roxi about who gets to stand in front of the heater, we went to the local university to watch a hockey game.  It was a fairly high scoring game (5-4, the Fairbanks team won) but no fighting, which was a bit sad. Because that's why hockey is fun to watch. While we had trouble finding the correct ice arena (At one point we found ourselves headed through a guarded gate and had to get out our ID's because we had apparently stumbled onto the military base.) we ended up getting in for free because they had extra tickets. Then they had Hoodoo beer from the local brewery and we were right by the goal next to the ice with an up close view. All in all, a good hockey game. 

About a week ago, I posted a conversation between Travis and I concerning if we could get a live goose on Facebook.  While my dream of owning a pet goose called Silly McGoosen has not become a reality, Travis' coworker did send some goose and duck meat home with him.  In fact, I will be making orange duck and sesame noodles tonight. Or at the very least, attempting. I plan on something like goose gumbo tomorrow. Should be an interesting experience with fowl.

Duck, duck, duck, goose!

On the rest of this hitch off, my plan is alternating between marathon watching scary movies and tv shows on Netflix, and cleaning/organizing because we will be moving to Washington for a year and a half. Starting right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Because that just seems like the least stressful and complicated time to plan a move. We leave later this week for a house finding visit, I will definitely be sharing some Washington adventures soon!

This is what the cranberries look like just behind our house.

Roxi likes to be read bedtime stories about Sasquatch. Note the rather unfeminine mustache, one of our favorite Roxi features.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

M Means Miriam Misses Mines

It has recently come to my attention that I might have mild form of Stockholm's syndrome. It makes me cringe to admit it, but I miss Mines. Sometimes I think about going back. I have researched these feelings of mine thoroughly to come to the conclusion that it must be a psychological problem. And I quote:
"These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness." (I used Google and clicked the first link. Just so I properly document my very scientific research.)
This disorder is described as follows, "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other."
I feel this is an adequate description of my time there. I vividly recall sixteen hour days in front of dual screens in the Coady lab researching the chemical composition of cow manure one one screen while working on bioprocess homework on the other. I also recall dragging myself uphill in the sweltering summer heat to go to lab at 7 in the morning even after being up late working on the last one. Climbing the four flights of rig stairs is nothing compared to the eight sets of staircases in Alderson hall. My memories of listening to professor Ely lecture and thinking, "You speak at a level of smart that I just cannot comprehend," are still fresh. The panic I felt at the mere mention of kinetics class may never fade. I still feel sick with apprehension those last five minutes before any test I take. While I might not have appreciated Mines while I was eating a diet consisting mainly of ramen noodles, hot sauce, and bulk containers of peanut butter over tear stained engineering paper, I have some awesome memories that probably fueled this random desire to return.
Nothing may ever make me feel the same sort of accomplishment as that A I got in Thermodynamics after the first time I failed the class spectacularly. Coors is never as delicious as it was when it was free, fresh, and slammed down at Coors lab in the hour long gap between classes. I still use the Buchtel correlation, the process of taking the average of the averages because your data is a mess. And I still sometimes think of Josh Buchtel and how he called me emotionally unstable and screamed at me to calm down countless times during our distillation column experiment until I was laughing hysterically. I also proudly remember lying to my senior design team about our project due date to ensure it's completion in time. I remember babysitting my "unrelated children" after class and debating whose homework was more difficult. I fondly recall Steve, the microbiology professor with a fondness for argyle ties who once brought us cookies AND milk. Steve, who was so ridiculous he inspired me to write poetry and keep detailed logs of Steve quotes rather than take notes. There was fluids class, where breast pumps and balloons were brought in to demonstrate how pumps function. In the end, I was so comfortable at Mines that I spent my late nights in the computer lab, blaring music from the main sound system, shoes off, wearing my pajamas.
I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that my specialties will be in the fields I most struggled with and claimed to hate. Fluids will never let me go. Thermo just makes me happy in this twisted way and I still ponder it's mysteries many an evening. While I have not yet caved and gone back for a petroleum engineering degree or a metallurgy degree (I can hear Travis and other Travis gleefully mocking me already), I may give in yet. For now I am content with pestering everyone with my new found infatuation with the second law of thermodynamics. (Really though, google it and you'll find all sorts of fascinating subtopics with names like "Maxwell's demon" and "the arrow of time.") I miss my not safety approved paint covered blue hardhat.

**Photography credit goes to my future father in    law. Way to go spotting Blaster esque piece of artwork.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Worst Movie I've Ever Seen and Fall Camping

We started off this weekend with a great date night to an awful movie, Pacific Rim. Possibly the worst movie I have watched all the way until the end. Luckily, we were at the Blue Loon and therefore had enough beer to make watching this movie bearable.  Also, the bartender was hysterical. As soon as we walked in, she  started calling Travis,"Michael Cera."  (He also often is told he looks like Jesse Eisenberg or "that facebook movie guy" or "that Zombieland guy.") She was impressed with his ability to eat our entire pizza (minus the slice I had) in about ten minutes. I think Travis and my brother could go into a competitive speed eating contest. But back to the story, when I came out of the movie to grab a couple beers, she gave us a free round just because I brought Michael Cera to the movies.  I very patiently waited for the movie to get better but at some point, I realized it just wasn't going to happen. About halfway through, I became that disruptive movie going patron, giggling and whispering jokes about the movie to Travis.
If you haven't seen Pacific Rim, I wouldn't recommend it. The basic story is that aliens appeared out of the pacific rim from an interdimensional crack. And that is as far as that is ever explained. We were also confused about a previous failed invasion that is briefly mentioned.  I am under the impression that the aliens first tried to invade and killed off the dinosaurs. Travis thinks the dinosaurs were actually the aliens. But I guess we will never know the truth. These aliens characters are giant creatures with tron like light stripes on them. They do have a dinosaur like quality to them though. While the movie is only set in 2020, humans have somehow managed to technologically advance to the point of inventing and building giant metal ironman type robots run by pairs of people that mind link by a process called "drifting" to fight the aliens. The best part wasn't the character that Travis called "white Morpheus" because he was a weird and white version of the Matrix character. The best part wasn't even the character I called "Igor" because he was a creeping little assistant guy with a funny voice. A close contender for best moment was when one of the giant machine people decided to beat an alien with a tanker ship.  Not surprisingly, the alien was not phased by the pathetic tanker ship weapon.  But don't worry, turns out the giant metal human had a sword the whole time. The very best part of the movie was the fact that the giant metal human controlled robots are called "Jaegers." I absolutely could not deal with the heroes of the movie having the same name as an alcohol that caused me to not make it to my kinetics final. Another character that I disliked immensely was really irritating science man. You know how some movies manage to construct a scientific explanation for make-believe things that sounds mildly plausible if you let yourself appreciate the movie?  That's why I really liked World War Z. Spoiler alert, the moive "cure" for the zombies in the movie was that they didn't attack terminally ill individuals because they are predators who want healthy prey and have developed senses to ignore healthy individuals. Thus allowing curable deadly diseases to be injected into healthy people who can then kill all the zombies without fear of attack before injecting a cure to aforementioned deadly disease. In the book, the zombies freeze solid in winter so whereever it is cold, people can go around bashing in the heads of zombie popsicles. That all sounds unique and mildly plausible if you don't think too hard. I appreciate that kind of illusion in a movie or book. This was not the kind of faux science used in Pacific Rim. Travis and I both tried to listen for information that would make all this nonsense tie together in some sort of plausible way. But sadly, the other science we got was really irritating scientist man screaming element names interspersed with incoherent mumbling. "The carbon!...mumble mumble....interacts with oxygen structure and therefore...mumble mumble...aliens...NITROGEN!" The interdimensional portal was eventually closed by Igor and really irritating scientist man.  This was only after they shared a special bonding experience together while they"drifted" with one of (almost dead? Half dead? I'm not really clear on the mechanics...) alien brains. An alien brain they got a hold of from a baby alien jumped out of a dead alien that really irritating scientist man was trying to study. But luckily baby alien strangled itself on it's own umbilical cord so they could use it's fresh brain to connect to. Or something. Oh and somewhere in that mess, white Morpheus was eaten rather unceremoniously, leaving behind a single shiny metal shoe.

After that grand adventure to start off the weekend, we headed to a cabin where we spent the bulk of the weekend.  Roxi had a blast. While we stopped and had sushi for lunch before leaving, she took advantage of  being left alone in the car and ate an entire box of treats she found stashed in the door pocket. So no more treats for her for a while. She was sooooo excited to go exploring in the woods. It worried me slightly when she showed no fear standing at a drop off above a fast part of the river despite the dirt begging to crumble underneath her while Travis and I frantically tried calling her back. She spent lots of time muddying her paws, for a bit it looked like she was wearing boots.  She is small enough and fast enough to loose track of easily. Usually we just listened for the characteristic Roxi snort and the white tip of her tail wagging above the tall grass and bushes she was exploring, a tail that has earned her the nickname, Beacon. In addition to her treat feast, she also feasted on our trail mix.  We had left her alone in the cabin while we went to the hot springs for an evening. Upon our return, just as we were unlocking the door to come back inside, we heard a weird screeching noise that sounded like furniture moving. Travis' immediate response was, "Sounds like Roxi is climbing on something that she shouldn't be climbing on." And in fact she was leaping off the table where she was chowing on trail mix. Luckily she is a hearty dog and doesn't seem to have had trouble digesting the raisins and chocolate (and who knows what other awful things dogs shouldn't eat) that were in the trail mix. In typical Roxi fashion, she spent a lot of time standing perfectly still, staring at the woodpile, convinced it was the origin of the strange crackling noises that were actually just normal noises from the fire. And a final Roxi update, she is deathly afraid of smoke detectors. The cabin we stayed in had a working smoke detector that we accidentally set off while cooking. Ferocious Roxi hid in a corner under some shelves and quivered uncontrollably for ten minutes.

Since it was fall, we had lots of daylight and wonderful weather. We actually were far too warm the first night and slept the second night with a fire that we just let die completely. The first night we had dinner in a little lodge near burned areas from one of the forest fires this year.  It was crazy to see how everything around the lodge burned but somehow just skipped right around the actual lodge building. I'm sure the owners were very nervous watching the fire progress. On the way in to dinner we passed a sled dog team pulling a four-wheeler. On the way back we saw them headed home, headlights on and everything. Likely just someone with a team out for a fall ride but we did pass a sled dog tour sign and happen to know that Ally Zirkle (2nd in the Iditarod the past two years) and her husband, Allen Moore (who won the Yukon quest last year with the team that Ally raced in the Iditarod a few weeks later) live in the area. So I'd like to believe it was them I saw because that would be so cool. The second evening we made a stop at the Chena hot springs. We have been to a couple times but this is the first time we have been in the daylight when temperatures were not well into the negative region. It was nice to not instantly freeze to the handrails or accidentally freeze your eyelids shut. After the hot springs, we decided to stick around, be exciting, and have dessert and drinks before dinner.  We eventually got out cheesecake and hot coffee dessert drinks but were held up a bit by several power outages, during which we were entertained by several amusing slightly drunk patrons at the bar. The rest of our time camping was spent drinking beer or hot whiskey with cider and playing board games, all ideal fall activities in my opinion. I am desperately hoping fall hangs around for at least a few more weeks as I am headed back to a wintery north slope tomorrow morning. But I get at least one more fall afternoon picking cranberries.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Thirty-Six Dollar Honeymoon

"I can book our honeymoon flights for the morning after the wedding, it will cost us $36 dollars. And we get to fly first class, so we are talking free drinks, extra leg space, and nice headphones."  We are talking about flights to Puerto Rico. Frequent flier miles are worth it.  Granted, we will have to buy our flights to the wedding as well as home from the honeymoon, but still, that's a big chunk right there.  I should say, Travis gets a lot of credit for this wedding. He answers all the emails, (usually emails addressed with "Our brides usually like...") and sets up all the meetings in which questions are usually directed at me and everyone treats Travis like he's just being dragged along for the whole process. Good thing he knows how to ride those points and good karma for the next five years.  But other than that exciting news, nothing much is happening here this week.

Travis just returned from a trip to North Dakota for a work trip.  He brought back lots of stories for me about bonding with his coworkers and three whole pictures of Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Crazy Horse model.  He also returned with a bottle of wine from the Naked Winery.  I think he had far too much fun texting me to tell me he was bringing home a Vixen (the name for the Syrah wine he bought) and that his fellow coworkers were taking home a Booty Call.  Travis also got to go to his favorite "We can't get that up here" restaurants. Namely, Qdoba and Buffalo Wild Wings. I think I won a few points in the romance department when he returned.  I got him a Nintendo Wii.  We had been talking about it so I snuck out and got one while he was away.  It also makes up for my other attempted date night. I planned on taking him out for a nice dinner at a restaurant we have always discussed going to and got a board game to play afterwards. Sadly, the restaurant was closed for renovations when we arrived and the game was missing pieces when we opened it. This is why I rarely plan in advance.

Roxi is being more cuddly then usual.  The first two days when I was home, she HAD to be touching me.  As in, if we were not sitting next to each other or if she was not sitting on me, she was whimpering.  I woke up the other morning to a puppy face looking down on me as she stood on top of me.  She is generally desperately hungry. When it is about dinnertime, you have to stop making sudden movement or risk overexciting Roxi.  Sometimes this starts as early as two in the afternoon. And in the mornings while I make coffee (before feeding Roxi because coffee is priority number one)  she hops around me in desperate circles, occasionally jumping up to beat me with her front paws, all the while making pathetic hoarse whining cries. It really is something else. If you didn't know her, you might think we hadn't remembered to feed her for days.

While Travis is at work this week, my goal is some serious cranberry picking time.  He wants more for making wine, I want more for making jelly. As long as the weather holds out. It is quite pretty out right now, we took some great pictures.  Including the shot featuring the view up Roxi's nose and half of my face, with Travis in the background. While he appears to be inspecting a berry he just picked, he is apparently taking aim to throw said berry at me. Typical.

We do have some adventures in line for the next weekend before I head back to work.  We are planning on some cabin style camping.  As well as a run to a nice restaurant we have not yet tried (that list is about empty when it comes to Fairbanks these days) and an evening at the hot spring. Hopefully I'll have some good stories after that.