Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mom's visit, part 2

So, after we got saved by two random guys, I told mom we owed the karma gods. We saw a lot of cars stuck that day, for the record, but almost everyone was well on their way to freedom.  Except for this one guy one the way home from dinner.  We just walked across the street to Henry's (one of 5 restaurants in all of Kodiak), and on our way back we could hear this guy most definitely stuck in the ice.  I open my car, grab my new shovel, some ice melt, and get to work.  Hey, I've gotten stuck twice now, I know what to do!  After a bit of shoveling, a bit of sprinkling, and a little pushing later, voila!  The car was free.  The karma gods had been repaid.

Honestly though, I wish they had remembered that when everything just iced over and stayed that way for the rest of the week.  Because then we got the joy of moving me into my new place (YAY!) on the ice.  Which sucks because you have to talk down a hill to get to my door.  My poor mom. At least she stayed upright.  I told her we just needed a sled then we could slide the stuff down.  I thought it was a great idea personally.  She vetoed it, but I think she just didn't want to be stuck on top of Ice Mountain all by herself.

Ice Mountain is the new name I have given the hill I live on.  It fits.  It's been above freezing for almost two weeks and Ice Mountain is the only thing still frozen solid.  Yeah, try getting out of a car onto that.  It's unfun.

The movers came on Friday and I was so excited to have my bed and all the rest of my stuff back!  It's been around 18 months, which is a long time to have not slept on your own bed.  But the best part of the whole day was when the moving truck got stuck on the ice.  No snow shovel in the world or amount of ice melt was going to save them.  Ooops.  I felt bad for laughing, but I felt much better about getting stuck in the snow!

Sunday I had to put my mom back on a plane.  I really hated that part.  I feel like half my life is putting loved ones on planes and saying goodbye.  If there was one thing I could change about military life, that would be it.

But this time it was almost worth it.  Because watching my mom live through an Alaska winter, even if it was only a week, was priceless.  Now I know how looked to everyone else here.  "Look LOOK!  The mail truck has snow chains!  I've never seen snow chains!"  "Is that a snow plow?"  Yes mom.  "Oh that's so cool!  I've never seen a snow plow."  Yep, everyone should witness this at least once.

Included are some pictures from that week. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mom's visit, part 1

So, as I mentioned, my mom was here last week!  It was awesome, I was so glad to so her.  I was also really glad she just happened to be here when I had to move into my apartment and out of the barracks!  She says I planned this, but I assure you I did not.  But who am I to pass up the opportunity to get free labor in the form of Mom?

Anyway, my mom is also a Florida native.  She's seen snow twice before in her life, so coming to Alaska in the middle of winter we knew would be entertaining.  My mom was lucky enough to fly in just hours before another major winter storm, probably the worst one since I've been here.  It wasn't really snowing, it was just sleet and freezing fog and all other sorts of ugliness.  In the hopes of trying to keep my mom from being outside as much as possible, we spent her first whole day here in the hotel or driving around.  We did, however, walk across the street for coffee.  I walked ahead, making sure everything was ok for mom so she wasn't surprised by ice.  My reward was getting hit in the back of the head with a snowball.  I get even, don't worry.  But now I can cross "Have a snowball fight" off my list of things to do!

I thought a bit later it would be a great idea to show mom my new apartment (at least, the house it was attached to).  It snowed almost a foot over night, but it was afternoon already and I was sure that the plows had gotten to work and everything would be fine.

It wasn't.

You saw that coming didn't you?

As I went to make the final turn, there was a snow bank.  Now, every one here keeps telling me I can just drive over snow, I'll be just fine.  And sure enough I had been.  18 inches?  Whatever, I can totally plow right over that.  If the snow is powder.  Apparently, that is a key factor.

Guess what kind of snow this was not?

Yeah, so I drove head-on into a bank of wet, icky snow.  And now it started to rain.  I was totally stuck.  I tried everything.  I shoveled, I used the cat litter my fiance told me to get, I used salt, I tried driving forward, backwards, turning the wheel.  Nadda.  Someone finally stopped with a snow shovel (I only had a little survival shovel).  He started digging.  Then someone stopped with toe straps.  Amen for these two gentlemen! I was out in no time.  But I looked like a drowned rat.  Oh well.  I was out and that was good enough for me!  Apparently, my mom thought this whole ordeal was hysterical.  I suppose it was.  I retold the story to my fiance.  His response?

"I told you to get a snow shovel for your car."

Dear, I believe you left out the snow part, because I did have a shovel. *sigh*  So mom bought me one for next time, just in case.  I just had no idea "next time" would be 6 hours later.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Current Events part 3, CGC Healy

One final news item on the agenda (for now).  The Cutter Healy.

Oh come on, you saw that coming didn't you?  I mean, how could I, a Coastie in Alaska, not write about my shipmates who made sure a city in Alaska got gas?  Not the kind you get after eating beans either, but I'm sure after Mexican night on the cutter that's what happens.

Anywho, in case you lived under some giant rock, the Cutter Healy broke through a lot of ice to get the tanker Renda to Nome, AK.  Because they were running out of gasoline.  I mean, in a town were gas is $7 a gallon, who would want it, anyway?  In case you missed it, that's how we get heat up here.  And in case you are completely clueless, Alaska is freakin' cold. I would know.

That's here, last week.  Nome is hovering around -40 right now.  Sucks to be them.  Yeah, I'd want my damned gas too.

The Healy is also the USCGs only working icebreaker.  Which, for some reason the government has seen as exceptable.  But now, America wants to drill for oil in Artic Circle.  I would just like to ask- how are you going to get there, since, uh, you know, there's only 1 working icebreaker?  And uh, who is going to save you when another BP oil spill happens?  Oh, you didn't think that far ahead did you?  Well, I'm glad Admiral Papp did, and he's been telling you this for a while, but no one listens to the Coast Guard.  We don't exist.  Most people don't even know we are military.  And we go to war too.  And we get shot at.  And we've died.  But hey, we just sit around and look cool for Al Roker on TV right?

Alright, enough of that rant. My mom comes up here tomorrow! I am so excited.  Thing is, she's seen snow twice in her life.  Oh, I am sure I will have some funny stories to tell after this week.  Should be entertaining to say the least!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Current events part 2, Solar storms

So I was going to review the Healy, but that will wait.  I saw the Northern Lights!!! Holy crap, what a thing to see!  Reports were that this was the biggest solar storm in 6 years, so I had to go. I left at 10pm, knowing the couple hours around midnight are best.  I saw a slight green glow around 11:30.  It took till 1am for much to happen.  Even then, the storm was mostly over and we were on the edge of the "auroral oval".    Here are some (rather bad) photos.

Reflected over the water

If you were lucky enough to live in Scandanavia, you got view like this:

Wow.  I feel a little disappointed in comparison.  But I know just how lucky I am!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Year Anniversary

So Wednesday was my one year anniversary of joining the USCG!  How did I spend it, you ask?  Stuck in Anchorage, where the temperature was a whopping -24 degrees.  Oh yeah.  It seemed oddly appropriate knowing that day last year I was leaving my nice, warm home in Florida for this.  Sitting in an airport terminal, eating cold pizza from the night before, wondering if we would get back to base or not.  Because, you know, after being stuck for a couple of days, I was wanting some clean clothes and some basic toiletries.

I did take some things away from my experience in Anchorage though.  -24, when it isn't windy, isn't that bad.  It feels like it does when it's in the teens here.  I think after a certain point, cold is just cold.  But, your breath freezes in your nose instantly, as well as the back of your throat.  It's an unusual feeling, that's for sure, but nothing some coffee won't fix.  Do you remember that experiment you probably did in grade school, the one where you put your hand in cold water, then in hot water?  That tingling, HOLY CRAP MY HAND IS ON FIRE feeling, even though it was just lukewarm?  Well, that's what happens to your fingers and toes when you come inside after being outside for a while.

We were delayed because of the snow storm on Kodiak. By the time we got back, my car was in knee deep snow.  Which, for the record, when it's powdery, you can just drive right over.  I looked really stupid asking for a shovel.  But it did lead me to take some really great pics though.  Enjoy!

Oh, and I finally found out why Kodiak-ians call bald eagles dumpster chickens.

Yes, that is our nations most majestic bird, in a landfill.  There were at least a hundred of them.  To be fair, there were some hawks too.  But I did have to laugh at the irony of the scene.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review of current events, part 1

So there have been a few Coast Guard related events lately, and I want to take the time to give my thoughts on them.  First up, the Italian cruise ship that sank.

W.T.F.  At first I thought this was photoshopped. But no.  So, here are some facts about this accident, according to news headlines throughout the weekend:
1: "Significant Human Error Possibly a Factor"
- Uh, no shit.  The Captain of the vessel said the rock wasn't on his chart.  You can't see it in that picture, but the rocks are part of a freakin' island not even 100 feet away.  

Ok, so in this picture you can see it.  You have an 80 foot draft on that thing, and you thought being that close was ok?  Are you on crack?! 

2:"Women and Children First"
- What century are you in? the 19th?  This doesn't happen anymore.  You know why? Because international maritime law requires you to have enough life rafts so this is never an issue.  As the get go, of any decent cruise, you are assigned a life boat.  With x number of other people.  There is no guessing which one because you are TOLD before the ship ever leaves port.  Which brings me to fact number 3...

3: "We Never Got Safety Training"
-Apparently, instead of the important stuff, like telling people how to put on a life jacket and where their assigned life raft is, it was a "BUY STUFF NOW!!!!!" show.  You know, like at the timeshares.

4: "No Mayday Was Made"
- This is what gets me.  I am a trained radio operator by trade for the Coast Guard.  I spend half of my waking hours listening to radio traffic for a distress call.  It's what I do.  You boat is listing (rolling over to one side) you have no power and you had a hard grounding but decided you didn't need actual help?  With 4,000 souls at stake?  What's more, BY LAW, you have to have a DSC alert system on that boat.  No one even had to pick up a radio.  They only had to push a button.  That's all.  No one even PUSHED A FUCKING BUTTON!  Ok, sorry, but this makes me so angry.  At least 5 people have died.  They want to get the Captain on manslaughter.  No, this is murder.  Call it what it was.  No one should have died.  The water was clearly a survivable temperature (since the crew apparently abandoned ship and swam to shore) so even if you fell in.  The only "understandable" death was the crew member who died in the collision.  That is squarely on the Captain.

Growing up in Florida, Carnival Cruiselines (The company that owns this Italian one) had a less than stellar reputation.  It will be a cold day in hell before I ever set foot on a Carnival boat, unless I am a Coastie inspecting the damned thing.

Ok, that's all I will say. I never wanted to make this a political blog, or anything other than me laughing at me busting my ass on the ice.  But sometimes, things just have to be said.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blizzard #2

Ok, ok, my bad.   I was gone for another week.  I have no real excuse other than I was exhausted and wanted to sleep a lot.  On Friday, we got another blizzard.  It dumped a couple feet of snow overnight, but it was very powdery, so the snow drifts could be quite high.  It was about 3 feet in a lot of places on base.  For a while, it was ok even though it snowed maybe another foot.  Then Tuesday it stopped snowing and started raining.  While it was nice and melted a lot of the snow, we now have a lot of ice everywhere.  Tuesday night when I left work it was like an ice rink everywhere.  It's still snowing, which is a blessing and a curse.  Things aren't as slippery now, but it's hard to see the ice and it can still take you by surprise.

This same storm system moved through Cordova.  In the past few weeks, they have gotten 18 feet of snow.  The National Guard has had to dig them out.  Here, the combination of snow and rain has sunk many boats in the harbor.  Oops.  Since I have no personal funny stories (yet) here are some pictures I've taken of the frozen bay.