Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Eek! A Bear!

It was just an ordinary day. The kids were at school and I went for a walk on the trail along the river. I was listening to NPR podcasts on my iPod. Then I looked into the eyes of a bear. It was upright in the bushes, trying to see what I was and if I was a threat. I stopped. I walked backwards. We looked at each other. Then it dropped down and the rustling bushes indicated it was moving away from the path. I headed home, walking fast. I looked back to see it crossing the track and disappearing again into the brush.

It looked young and strong and healthy. Shiny jet black fur. Dark eyes. It did nothing aggressive but it scared me. The next day I walked in the wetlands by the airport where all I saw for wildlife were birds, a springer spaniel and a squirrel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Motorcycle Geezers

While we were in Mexico, Dave got this irresistable urge to buy a motorcycle. I tried to beat it out of him but it was no use. I should talk to the wives of men who I have heard say "My wife wouldn't let me." I am ignorant of some key technique.

Dave He rode the bike up from Reno in May, and has ridden it around Juneau this summer. He also washes it a lot and takes pictures, kind of like those knit bloggers with their sock photos - here is my sock in front of the glacier, now my sock in front of a cool jet parked at the airport, etc.

Now he is off on a tour with two other BMW bikers, exploring the Yukon Territory and Alaska. They are camping and having a good time. Cute, aren't they?

Jim and John

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I made a pirate hat for Ray a couple of Christmases ago (above) and Katherine has always liked it. She wanted her own and is savvy enough to design it. Hers is below, unblocked, because it HAD to be worn to the football game the night it was finished.

The pattern for Katherine's hat can be found here. I changed the chart a little bit.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I lived in Zambia for over a year beginning in January 1994. On Wednesday, I heard a radio program recorded in Lusaka, the capital city where I worked, and I was instantly transported back to sunny Africa. I was listening to NPR podcasts as I walked in the rainy woods and heard, spookily, animated Bemba and accented English in silky voices, speaking seriously about high rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Yesterday there was an article in the NY Times about child labor in Zambia. You can read it here and from there you can click on a narrated slide show about a boy named Alone. The photographs are excellent.

I loved the names in Zambia. It is an Anglophone country, meaning the official language is English but dozens of tribal languages are spoken and most people speak at least two. I worked with a woman named Tebby who had a son called King. Other co-workers were named Boniface, John, Moses, Steven, Friday and Chabala. A hotel clerk in Zimbabwe wore his name badge on his chest; it read Telephone. Motomoke was a consultant. Timbu cleaned the office.

I went to a dinner party at the home of some American Embassy types. The name of the man who served the food was Tuesday. A woman asked the hostess "Tuesday is fabulous! Where did you get him? Can I have him when you move?" I left right after dessert.

I don't know very much about what happened with the people I knew in Zambia. I get an occasional e-mail. I know Hellen, a village girl who married a Peace Corps Volunteer, now lives with him and their three beautiful children in Massachusetts. I heard Moses and John both died of AIDS. Moto returned to Zaire. Boniface got fired for stealing $10. Chabala's daughter, Mofya, is a medical student in Pennsylvania.


Several years later, we had a son and we named him Raymond for two grandfathers, for my sister, Alicia Rae and my brother, Carlos Ray. But Ray and I like the Spanish translation, Reymundo, which to us means king of the world. I suspect Tebby was thinking the same thing about her son when she named him King.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Goodbye to Luna

Cousin Luna went home this week and our kids went back to school. Dave left this morning for a 10 day motorcycle trip with 3 friends. The house has been full of people for a couple of weeks and now it is delightfully empty. I have a lot to catch up on and the luxury of time. Lucky me.


I'm still walking every day. Since I am not working, I really do have time for exercise and walking is my default activity. There is a riverside path near our house which is pleasant rain or shine. It is a lush time of year - buds and berries burst into bloom, mushrooms erupt, foliage doubles in size in a week.

Ray and his six year old cousin accompanied me on my walk last week which slowed the pace. I took some pictures and they looked for fairies and threw rocks in the river. Luna found a large jingle bell that must have fallen from a dog collar or a backpack. Bells are thought to warn bears of the presence of others. That little prize may have been the highlight of her trip to Alaska, though she also seemed to really like driving her grandfather's boat.

The kids went back to school today. Everyone was up early and excited about the day. Good way to start out.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Totem Pole

Totem Pole
My image for Eye Candy Friday is one day late. For the last few days I have had trouble posting pictures. Clicking on the same buttons over and over didn't seem to work. After reading some advice on Blogger Help, I got the cache emptied which appeared to be the solution. Who knew?
But, alas, more trouble today, despite the cache status. What's the deal?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trellis Scarf

Pattern: Trellis Scarf
Interweave Knits, Spring 2006
I finished this scarf a week or two ago and threw away the ball bands from the yarn. Now I can't remember what kind it was, Plymouth Alpaca, I believe, of some fingering weight gauge. I started out with the recommended yarn (Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud) but it just seemed too lightweight for my hands. The lace chart was not really difficult but complicated enough. The needles I had just didn't seem to go with the gyrations required for that 7-into-5 special stitch that is hard to do but looks so fine when finished. I am planning to block the scarf when the kids go back to school and Dave takes off on his motorcycle trip. Why it has to wait, I don't know. I will take some better pictures then too.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Risk Reduction

Thinking about a plane crash is no fun. In fact, it is really too horrible to imagine. But gravity remains a fact of life and Juneau is a town without a road. Getting out of town and staying on the Earth's surface means riding on the infrequent, middle of the night ferry system. We happen to have a pilot and a small plane in the family, so usually we fly.

The calamities that can kill you in a plane crash around here are trauma, fire, drowning, hypothermia and exposure. Gawd, that is a horrible list. I really don't think too much about the risk, though, rather like getting in a car and hurling down a freeway surrounded by huge trucks going 70 mph. But we do prepare.

Seatbelts are standard, of course. We all have headsets to protect our ears from the noise and also to communicate with each other. Dave or I could remind each other or the kids what to do if a rough landing was expected. Choosing the best place to land would help reduce the trauma of a crash quite a bit. Bracing and padding might help, too. We would try to surround the kids with jackets or duffle bags if we had time. A mid-air collision killed a bunch of people up north earlier this year. Prevention would be the only strategy there. Good pilots report their position frequently so everybody in the area should know where other planes are.

Getting out of the plane is the next immediate step. Surviving the trauma of a bad landing puts you in a wrecked plane in icy cold water or on a mountain side or rocky beach. Wrecked planes on wheels sink like a stone. Seatbelts need to stay on until after impact but then need to come off instantly. Doors or windows need to be opened and people need to get out of the plane. Back seat passengers may need help. We all wear life jackets all the time. Some are inflatable so once out of the plane, we would need to pull the cords to inflate the life jackets. Hopefully, everyone is uninjured and out of the plane quickly, before it sinks. We would always try to land near a beach but who knows? The next step is getting rescued before the cold water kills you.

Crashing on land with wings full of fuel means a fire is possible. Again, the strategy is to quickly get out of the plane and get away. Clothing strategies for fire and cold water exposure are actually opposites so we tend toward the middle ground. In the water, cotton and natural fibers are dumb as they do nothing to keep you warm when you get out, but in a fire, synthetics melt on your skin and greatly increase the injury. We usually wear jeans and fleece jackets.

To initiate a rescue, the first step would be announcing that there are people in trouble. The plane is equipped with a radio and GPS, so an SOS could be called with a situation and position report before landing. If we were in the water, we could signal searching planes with mirrors, dye packets or strobe lights that we have in our pockets whenever we are in the plane. On land, it would be easier to be found and less urgent. We could make a fire or some sort of signal on a beach. We always file a flight plan so the FAA knows when we take off, where we are going and when we expect to land. If Dave didn't call in to close the flight plan, a search would be launched.

The most important risk reduction strategies, however, are taking good care of the plane and choosing when to fly. Dave checks the plane carefully before each flight and has it looked over by a mechanic every year or whenever there is some hint of a problem. Once he discovered a bird's nest under the "hood". If a porcupine has chewed on one of the tires, taking off or landing isn't going to go smoothly. The engine has to keep turning the prop and the wings have to stay on. Everything has to work well on the plane.

The weather is a huge factor. We never really have to get in the plane and go. We can always wait for better weather. If we are expected back at work or for some reason, we have to be somewhere, well, actually we don't. It is better to miss work even if you can't call in then to fly into a cloud. Finding out what the weather is like is getting better every year. We can look on the Internet at webcams that show real time conditions and pilot reports are posted on the FAA's website. We always have enough fuel so if it looks good to go and then it isn't good enough, we can turn around and go back to our starting point. We have done just that more than once and we will do it again. Dave is due to fly home today, but the weather is bad and he can't call me from the cabin. I'll just wait. He can always come home tomorrow.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


You never know what you will discover on the Costco book table. A strong desire for Indian food has surfaced recently and a few dishes have resulted, thanks to recipes from my friend, Patty, and everybody's friend, the Internet. Yesterday ten dollars got me a beautifully photographed cookbook with recipes for a full range of regional dishes. How fun is that?

It is interesting to contemplate where the interest comes from. Most likely it is from the fiction that I choose to read. Some of my favorite books of the last two years were set in India or were written by Indian immigrants. Books I really liked include A Fine Balance, Family Matters, The Namesake, The Life of Pi, and Interpreter of Maladies. And just to round out the theme, we recently rented the video, Bend It Like Beckham, which is much more than a soccer movie. I'll be watching Monsoon Wedding again soon, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cabin Time, Home Time

We have been out of town and have had serious slowdowns on the internet highway here at home. Therefore, there has been way less computer screen time for this family and no blog entries.

Instead, we installed a cabinet (the last one!) at the cabin and visited with old friends, at the lake and in Juneau, still catching up from our year away. I rode around in a empty parking lot while a 17 yr old practiced with a clutch and a stick shift, cooked Indian food, finished knitting Trellis Scarf, hosted a dinner party for eight, read Best American Short Stories of 2000, ruined high quality watercolor paper learning to paint and walked in the woods in the pouring rain. I don't have any great photos to illustrate all of this activity so I will post a picture of one of life's great pleasures - Grandma's rhubarb pie.

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Nice Shot

A woman crocheting in TurkeyIt is a day early for Eye Candy Friday but we are leaving today for a few days at the cabin. Katherine took this picture while traveling in Turkey. She didn't find out anything about the woman so the photograph must speak for itself.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Shrugs are pretty specialized garments and I sure don't have much use for one. But wanting to make something is different than wanting to have something. I saw a picture of a six year old ballerina on Bluestocking and a vision of my niece popped into my head. Why, we have a six year old ballerina in our family!

I was playing around with beaded knitting at the time so I changed a lot about the pattern used in the photo I saw. I read the pattern then made up my own, using a sleeve stitch adapted from Odessa and an edging from a scarf by Annie Modesitt in Scarf Style. The edging doesn't show and I think the shrug barely fit Luna but it was fun to make and it will get passed on to another little darling some day. That is good enough for me.