The Moose of March

The end of the winter of 2017-2018 has been full of surprises in terms of snowfall and as the spring begins to take hold yet another surprise has bloomed.  After seeing few moose during the fall and winter across the past two weeks this area is suddenly awash in the magnificent mammals!  Never have I seen so many moose in such a short period of time and their sudden appearance has made for some ‘interesting’ times.

One of the things I love about Alaska, in general, and this area in particular is the abundance of large mammals.  By far and away moose are the most common large mammals although we do see the infrequent grizzly, black bear, fox and wolverine.  Moose are common enough that I have developed some habits related to their presence such as ‘jiggling’ the front door knob before opening the door when it is dark outside to give forewarning to the large critters that we are coming out.  Even so, I’ve spooked a few moose whom were close to the front porch and decided to freeze rather than move off.  The kidz are fascinated by the moose and have largely learned to steer clear of these huge ungulates but will watch them intently.  Anana, my Alaskan malamute companion, has even tried very hard to encourage some moose to play.  Bless her heart, at times she’s given almost every canine body language signal for play but remains befuddled when the moose do not respond.  Sadly, she just doesn’t ‘cog’ to the fact moose have different body language…

Because of their presence I’ve been able to collect a lot of images of these superbly adapted mammals on the local roads and on my property.  I can only guess the reason for their sudden appearance is based upon the voluminous snow events of latter February into early March which had given this area a 60” (152.4 cm) snow pack.  With the ‘moose of March’ came a string of sunny days with high temps above freezing although overnight lows dropped into the low teens to single digits.  This dramatically decreased the snow pack and, in so doing, saturated the remaining snow.  With the cool overnight temps the snow will freeze and becoming difficult to walk through although not frozen solid enough to support the weight of a moose.  Because of the difficulty in navigating these conditions the moose, being the opportunists they are, have taken to the nicely plowed back roads to travel.  This, of course, makes them a lot more visible to we humans.

I’ve amassed a number of images from my recent encounters with these amazing animals; the following are but a few of said images:

Friendly Moose From Escape

I photographed the almost ‘friendly’ moose on East Birch Creek Road while returning from a post office run.

Maybe Anana Hasn't Learned Her Lesson

My Alaskan malamute companion (Anana) was a bit too close to this moose just outside my driveway; it let her know it was time to ‘back off!’

Driveway Moose 032318

I saw this moose from the SE bedroom on the second floor while doing my morning stepping. It napped in this spot for over three hours.

Driveway Moose WA 032318

Wide angle image of the same moose as seen from my second floor spare bedroom

EBD Moose CU

A close up of the moose on East Barge Drive almost at my driveway

Moose Traffic on East Birch

Almost a moose ‘traffic jam’ on East Birch Creek Road!

 

To TV or Not To TV..?

Living in semi-rural south central Alaska over the winters can get a bit tiresome especially when we see a lack of snow and cooler temps.  Those ‘on the grid’ often resort to television in one form or another to help pass the time although up here your choices are basically satellite transmissions or broadband based.  The mountainous terrain pretty much insures ‘over the air’ signals never reach this far north from the Anchorage bowl and the same is true regarding such broadcasts from Fairbanks.  Within a month of moving up here I tried to get DirecTV service but was told by one of the only sat TV installers covering this area – ‘Valley Satellite’ who apparently is no longer in business (no surprise!) – I wouldn’t be able to get the service because their birds (satellites) were too close to the horizon at these higher latitudes.  It made sense; with most of your customers in the lower 48 you would position your birds to best serve them.  I was then offered Dish Network and finally set up with a single dish picking up a bare minimum of standard definition (SD) sat broadcasts.  I futzed with this situation for more than a year and finally found a local service that installed two more dishes and gave me the full Dish package with high definition (HD) service on most channels.

I lived with this setup for another three plus years but was never happy with the lack of signal strength; almost any precipitation between here and roughly the Anchorage bowl would either degrade my HD service back to SD or block many channels all together.  This wasn’t unexpected as I had to shoot the HD bird at an angle of just 11.5° above the horizon.  Given I live within the boreal forest surrounded by trees between twenty and thirty five feet in height finding a location with line of sight to a point just 11.5° off the horizon was almost impossible.  If memory serves the ‘best’ angle for a Dish bird was 18° above the horizon which is still very low.  But I continued on with the service although seeing my bill increase almost every third month really irritated me especially given the lack of solid signal.  I’d been thinking about dropping the service entirely and trying broadband streaming – I hate that euphemism “cutting the cord” because the signal still uses cables to either get into your dwelling or to a Wi-Fi repeater/source – using a Roku and possibly some other provider options.  I already had a ‘Netflix’ subscription and was contemplating another service like ‘Sling TV’ or ‘Hulu Plus’.  When my bills increased by another $5/month to $119 (this was for Dish’s ‘Top 250’ package alone with a Joey and a Hopper) in early 2018 I decided I’d had enough.  While said package might offer 250 channels I watched maybe ten with any regularity and created my own list of perhaps 30 channels which I utilized.  So I cancelled my service on Friday, March 2nd.  Dish tried to get me to stay by offering me all kinds of savings – like a 40% discount on my current package good for a year – but I was resolute.  If they want to keep members why don’t they offer such discounts to ‘members in good standing’ before said members threaten to discontinue service?  Simple fact is money; they are fine with raping their subscriber base for as long as they can do so.  Even with such a discount at the end of a year the fees would return to their standard amount and given the intervening year’s duration they would probably be higher.

It was impressive how Dish can need days to get one’s new service up and running but can deactivate it when you discontinue service within five minutes!  So I began my journey away from television in general.  I had plans to get to know my Roku a lot better and add additional services but I found myself watching mainly ‘Netflix’ offerings and DVDs.  I assumed this would last for maybe a week and then I’d become dissatisfied with lack of channels and really dig into other options.  But, to my surprise, I remained perfectly content with just a few free Roku channels, my Netflix subscription and my DVDs!  I have become more familiar with the whole ‘Roku’ world and have started dabbling in the free channels a bit more but mainly I stay with just Netflix and my DVDs.  Now I grew up in the ‘TV generation’ beginning with just four broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) which then slowly expanded to include some ‘local’ UHF stations.  When I moved to Greenville, Illinois for a new job I found I had to try to pull signals from St. Louis which was seventy plus miles to the WSW; I could barely get a couple.  But right then – this was 1981 – cable TV was just being added in the neighborhood and I signed up.  I continued with cable until 1992 when I moved to an unincorporated western suburb of Chicago; the cable lines stopped within 100 feet of my place but there were no plans to extend them.  I could pick up local broadcast channels but after cable this was unacceptable.  So I signed up for the fledgling ‘RCA Sat TV’ which soon became ‘DirecTV’; from that point forward I always had sat TV.

My viewing habits varied greatly based upon where I lived and the job I was working but I’d guess I averaged maybe three to four hours a day while ‘gainfully employed’ with this increasing to maybe six to eight hours a day after retirement.  I had all but given up on ‘broadcast channels’ in favor of the more specialized channels on sat TV like ‘Science Channel’, The History Channel’, The Military Channel, Nat Geo, The Discovery Channel and similar.  Over time these channels changed names and content and I’d drift from one to another and sometimes to ‘new’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’.  Given all this I always figured I’d need a steady source of sat TV or, if unavailable, its cable counterpart.  So imagine my current astonishment when I discovered I really don’t miss Dish sat TV at all!!  I sure do not miss the $119/month outlay for the lousy reception and highly questionable channel line-up!  But now it has been a bit more than two weeks without the service and I’ve discovered something else totally unexpected…

My overall demeanor is much more relaxed and my perspective on life in general has become so much more upbeat and positive.  I began to notice this with a few days of discontinuing the service and these effects have continued to grow and develop across the last week.  I’m just so much more centered and able to see so much of the ‘good’ in my everyday life.  I can only attribute this to the lack of exposure to the endless drumbeat of negativity and ‘over the top’ cacophony spewing forth from the TV.  I had largely given up on TV for news as every channel eschewed true journalism for their own agendas; I have a cadre of on-line websites I employ to stay informed.  But I would leave the tube tuned to Fox Business Channel in the early morning while doing my initial steps and on and off during the day I might catch some Headline News or similar.  Given this I’ve come to understand it wasn’t just the ‘news’ that was degrading my attitude and perspective but all the nonsense that makes up the vast wasteland of broadcast services.  Sadly, even ‘good’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’ and similar still have annoying commercials which can be minimized by the mute button but not completely dismissed.

TV Head

A merciful death..?

Across the past week I’ve come to surmise my slowly increasing negativity regarding life in general was being driven by the drivel on the tube; I just never realized its impact and influence upon me until it was gone!  Given what I now understand I suspect I will not branch out much regarding my video sources and will continue to decrease the amount of time I spend in front of the tube on any given day.  However, I cannot help but be reminded of a song by “Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention” written in 1973 named “I Am the Slime”; it was part of their groundbreaking album “Over-Nite Sensation”.  I believe Mr. Zappa fully understood the negative influence of broadcast TV way back then when he penned these lyrics:

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t got for help…no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks..
Don’t touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go”

No TV Today

The very best channel selection!!

Contemplating Depression…And Beyond

Once again I’ve emerged from the dark miasma of depression and am finding all those things I enjoyed in the past are once again sources of joy and stimulation.  I’m no stranger to this situation having ‘been there, done that’ more times than I care to remember.  But this time is different because I finally sought medical assistance for the condition and am continuing to take 50 mg. of Sertraline (Zoloft) on a daily basis.  The med is helping as did the counseling but I’m left wondering if I would’ve once again found my free  of the desperate darkness of emptiness without such assistance?  If the past is any indication then the answer is an unqualified ‘Yes’.  But this latest bout was stronger than most and it showed no signs of dissipating after ravaging my emotional well-being for more than a month.  Sure, I remember times when I struggled for a year or more but that was also before I recognized the depression for what it was…a chronic condition that was robbing me of my joy, my balance and my caring.  And while I ultimately am just pleased it is no longer a factor in my day to day existence I still wonder…

Of course part of my concern is based upon the fear it will eventually once more sweep into my life and drag me down into the dark depths of despair.  However, if I continue taking the Sertraline this most likely will not occur.  However, I really am not a ‘pill person’ and hence I have real issues with taking meds especially if I feel they are having minimal to no immediate benefit so I remain a bit conflicted.  I’m working on becoming more sanguine regarding taking the daily dose of Sertraline – my doctor tells me it is about the minimum dose prescribed nowadays – and am viewing it like I do insurance.  It is an investment in maintaining my well-being should the worst occur.  In this sense I view the daily med as I do insurance in general – a ‘necessary evil’.  I guess if I didn’t already take daily doses of HCTZ, Amlodipine and Losartan Potassium for the hypertension and Metformin for the late onset Type 2 diabetes swallowing my daily tablet of Sertraline wouldn’t be such a big deal..?

So I’m heading towards a place whereby I just need to remember how bad this last bout of depression had become and how much the Sertraline appeared to help in dispelling the condition.  As I look back at this latest event I remain confounded by how this condition functions.  How does an apparent biochemical imbalance have the ability to literally wipe away the joy and enthusiasm one holds for life and replace it with a complete lack of motivation and an overpowering numbness which makes even the most beloved activities empty and without value?  In contemplating this question I am struck by the awareness that if depression is ‘just’ a biochemical imbalance with such power over our thoughts and perceptions what does that say regarding the basis for our reality?  Is our very existence nothing but a complex series of biochemical and bio-electrical reactions?  Are the emotions which are so ‘human’ such as love, compassion, fear and loathing predicated only upon a proper balance of molecules, electricity, neurons and synapses?

In a way this description of human beings seems almost derogatory but there’s no denying the direction our race’s ‘voyages of discovery’ are heading regarding the biological sciences.  However, if one looks beyond just the mechanical/chemical reactions there’s something I find truly fascinating.  If all life exists based upon these same fundamental interactions then is not all life related?  Some may find the concept of a human being’s life force being identical to that of a microorganism to be insulting but I do believe this feeling is valid.  In this sense, all life is inter-related and, hence, all life is precious.  Think on this concept!  On an energy level all life is related and most likely interconnected as well.  This ‘connectedness’ is probably on a quantum level but being part of the very small doesn’t diminish its importance.  What a profound concept!!

We human beings have seemed driven to place ourselves at the apex of the ‘web of life’ on this planet and, in many respects, this is an accurate measurement.  But we should never have allowed this concept to morph into a feeling of being superior to all other life!  If we do, indeed, share such basic commonalities with all other life on this planet perhaps we should look deep within ourselves and begin to realize as a race with so many distinct cultures we honestly need to stop celebrating our differences and begin to embrace our commonalities.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ about being different or distinct unless we allow these perceptions to divide us or set us apart from other.  So perhaps we should begin to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities..?  While doing so, perhaps the time has come to enlarge our acceptance of all life around us and understand that the myriad of life forms is but the Universe’s way of celebrating life?  If we could all come to honestly embrace this fundamentally  amazing ‘sameness’ our lives would be so much richer and we might better understand the value of diversity.

Neuron

Is this the sum total of a human being..??

“Walking In A Winter Wonderland…”

I’m seated in front of my system but staring out my second floor office window at the slow but steady snowfall; I’m reminded just how much I adore this area during the winter.  Granted, we hadn’t seen much in the way of the ‘typical’ winter across my first three years but the winter of 2016-2017 did produce some solid snow and cold and this year’s winter has finally come on strong.  We saw pretty seasonable temps across most of the winter but couldn’t buy precipitation across December, January and the first half of February.  That all changed during the last half of February as we received 36.5” of snow which is 31.7% of Talkeetna’s average annual snowfall.  And this latest snow event has produced 4.25” to this point (14:27) with light snow continuing to fall.  Our snow pack is 55.5” and looks to build a bit more before this latest event winds down this afternoon.

This winter has seen the birth of a new tradition; when I arise and see it is snowing I get ‘the kidz’ out first thing, prep their breakfasts, pull on my walking clothes, don my watch cap and headlamp, grab a walking staff and head out with the kidz to enjoy an early AM walk in the snow.  This generally takes place between 05:30 and 07:00 and my walks of late have been between 2.4 and 2.6 miles requiring fifty to fifty five minutes based on the accumulated snow.  I’ve walked in as much as 6.3” of snow – even though it was light and fluffy it was still a lot of work – and as little as 1.0” of new snow.  In so doing I’ve had a chance to enjoy the semi-rural south central Alaskan early mornings with my canine companions.  Even with the headlamp I still trust my dogs to scent out moose before I blunder into one.  With this said they are not infallible so I constantly sweep the beam from my headlamp back and forth along the roadside looking for the tell-tale glimmer of a set of eyes reflecting its light.  As it is winter the only large animal I’m likely to see is a moose so it isn’t necessary to actually see these large mammals; just the glowing eyes alerts me to the need to change our course to avoid the creature.

With all the snow of late the moose are being driven onto the plowed back roads as they are so much easier to walk although the road side berms of snow created by the plows makes it more difficult for moose on the roads to get back into the boreal forest to hide or to forage.  During our walks I regularly see their scat and hoof prints along with the ‘creases’ in the aforementioned snow berms created when these large mammals depart the road.  The kidz are fascinated by the scent the moose leave behind and frequently will attempt to follow the spoor into the boreal forest which is often hilarious as the berms are deep and the dogs will sink into them sometimes almost disappearing in the snow.  To this point I haven’t had to dig either out but I could see this happening at some point.

This morning’s walk was fun in that there was only 1.5” of new snow at 05:25 so the striding was easy.  As we walked I noticed I could tell which dog made which set of tracks.  My ‘little’ angel – Anana – is an eight and a half year old one hundred twelve pound Alaskan malamute struggling with advancing age and arthritis.  Qanuk (Ka-nuk) is an 88 pound six and a half year old male German Shepherd Dog who is still a puppy at heart and lives to run.  When I first exit the front door in my walking garb both dogs are excited and joyful; Qanuk will do his version of a ‘happy dance’ supplemented by sharp, excited barking.  Anana is much statelier but I can tell she is also happy and looking to go.  During our walks I’ve come to observe that Qanuk’s tracks are well defined and are composed of just his paw prints.  Anana’s tracks also show her paw prints but as she is older and lacking mobility her paws do not rise as high during her stride and hence leave ‘drag marks’ in the snow between her paw imprints.  It is also funny to note that once we’re a mile and a half to two miles into our walk I begin to see those same ‘drag marks’ in Qanuk’s strides.  This is an indication he is getting a bit more tired which is important as he needs lots of exercise.  If the snow is much above three inches in depth Anana will only do the first half to three quarters of a mile before returning to the house and collapsing just off the SE corner of the front porch.  By the time we return she is often mostly covered in snow but in her element.  Qanuk always makes the full walk with me and would gladly do more if I was game.

Without question I’m enjoying this wonderful winter weather as are my canine companions.  I relocated to this area because of its history of cold, snowy winters so it is great to finally see them materialize.  Our early AM walks in falling snow is something we all cherish; I just wish my little angel could accompany us the entire distance!  But as someone already seeing the limitations age places upon one’s body I can relate to Anana’s situation and I go out of my way to ‘baby’ her.  With my boy Qanuk, the sky’s the limit regarding vigorous exercise..!

Moderate AM Snow 022218

Wonderful walking weather; my back porch as seen during a recent snow event

March Moose CU

This youngster wasn’t bothered by me and the kidz one whit!

Qanuk Busting A Berm

My boy Qanuk busting a berm!

Qanuk Sinking In Snow

Qanuk almost disappearing into a snow berm

Snowy Office View

The snowy vista outside my office window…

Anana Loving Her Weather

My ‘little’ angel – Anana – in her element. She loves the cold and snow of her breed’s home!