Firsts for May 1st

I’ve been meaning to get this brief piece finished and posted since the first couple of days in May but ‘Mr. Murphy’ and outside commitments conspired to make that a pipe dream.  Given I now have a bit of free time after completing my last 1,355 steps – I try to put down at least 1,150 steps at the top of each hour from 05:00 to 11:00 with a current target of 10,000 plus daily steps – I decided to get this piece done and posted.  My blogging has kinda fallen off across the past four to six months; not sure why other than to observe my creativity just hasn’t been flowing.  Of course, dedicating almost a quarter of each hour during the mornings to stepping does eat into my available time and the fact that I am a morning person and hence do my best work before noon only exacerbates this situation.

Anyway, as we rolled into May I was struck by some ‘firsts’ which I’d observed during this time.  Some are reoccurring while some are just new activities/observations.  One of the former variety involved observing my first American Robin of 2017 on April 24th in the early morning while walking with my Alaskan malamute (Anana) and my German Shepherd Dog (Qanuk).  Actually I heard him – I’m pretty sure it was a male as it was well up in a birch and singing loudly so probably marking territory – first and then was able to visually locate him.  There may well have been other robins around earlier but this was the first I’d heard and then seen in 2017.  For those of us who observe birds in this area the arrival of robins from the lower 48 signals spring is definitely here.

Another reoccurring observation was awakening in the wee hours of the morning of April 27th to the ‘tap-tapping’ sound of rain on my metal roof.  I love that sound but in a normal year one doesn’t hear it from mid-October to mid-November until April because most precipitation that falls during that time period is snow and the roof has a coating of ice and snow.  I look forward to many more upcoming rainy nights as I love to lie in bed and listen to that sound.  It also fascinates me to listen to the ebb and flow of the rain rate; in this area we don’t usually get a steady rain but rather experience rain bands of varying density.  This can produce what is almost a melody if the bands are spaced in a continual pattern which is repetitive.

As to some firsts that are truly ‘firsts’ on April 30th I completed 35 consecutive days of 5,000+ steps per day.  More than half of said 35 days involved putting down more than 8,000 steps and have helped me push my daily steps to their current 10,612 steps/day average.  I’m fighting hypertension and obesity so I had to find some form of exercise which I could, and most importantly ‘would’, do at least six days a week.  As of this writing I’m working on 44 consecutive days of at least 5,000 steps a day.  Much of the daily morning muscle/joint pain and stiffness is now just a distant memory and I just realized I haven’t had a bout of depression since I began this regime.  I saw no weight loss until I reached 9,500 steps per day; now the weight is very slowly beginning to disappear.  My goal is to push myself to 12,500 steps per day; given 10,000 steps is the equivalent of around 4.9 miles for me such a goal would see me putting down at least six miles a day.  I intend to continue walking at least 1,150 steps at the top of each hour between 05:00 and 11:00 in an effort to keep my system ‘energized’.  I’m aware stepping as I do it is not a true aerobic activity but it does ramp up my system and it forces me away from the monitor and into motion once an hour.  With luck as I drop more weight I’ll be able to start bicycling which will help my overall condition.  Of course, my canine companions love my lifestyle change and are now completely expectant of at least one long walk every day.  For anyone interested I use a Garmin Vivofit 2 wrist fitness monitor; the ‘Garmin Connect’ web-page is wonderful for tracking steps, calories burned, hours sleeping and similar!

A final ‘one time first’ for me occurred on April 14th when I sat in with my good friend Randy during his Friday evening classic rock music show at KTNA.  Anyone following this blog knows I spent almost three years doing both newscasts and music shows at KTNA but I decided I’d come to philosophically based parting of the ways with the station at the end of December, 2016.  While I’d done shows with other folks sitting in this was the first time the roles were reversed.  It felt great to be back behind a mic and during Randy’s two hour show we received three calls complimenting us and our performance.  All told it was a lot of fun although given it was a two hour show running until 23:00 it was a bit past my bedtime!

I put together this blog as a kind of celebration of life; not just my own but that of Nature and other folks as well.  I’ve been so blessed to experience a two decade dream of living in semi-rural Alaska but coming up on my fourth full year of such an existence I’ve noticed I’m becoming a bit blasé regarding this situation and that both angers and saddens me.  I know it is human nature to become ‘used’ to situations but I do not ever want to become ‘used’ to the majesty and splendor of my Alaskan home.  If writing this helps me re-energize the awe and wonder I feel almost daily when I walk outside and immerse myself in Alaska’s magic then it has served its purpose.  If it does so for others, regardless of where/how they live, then so much the better!

Tek Robin

An American Robin atop a black pine at Teklanika campground in Denali NP&P

KTNA Studio – A Volunteer’s Perspective

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One of my current favorite places in Talkeetna!  This is the main studio in the KTNA building and is really a view of the desk area.  To the lower right you see one of the two manual turntables and underneath them is another cabinet of equipment.  Moving further to the right there’s an ancient cart machine with two single disc CD players beneath it and then a control panel for auxiliary inputs like iPods, MP3 players and similar; finally the telephone is beneath all that stuff.  Further right is the Mac which handles a myriad of duties including displaying the NWS weather reports, ADOT road condition reports, playing the sound bites that identify underwriters, sound clips of show promos, pre-recorded news stories from the KTNA news department local to the Talkeetna area and access to the KTNA.org website.  On the desk beneath the Mac is the sound board which controls what inputs are going to which outputs along with which pots are active, the gain on each pot and provides a pair of digital ‘Vu meters’; the board is fully programmable and along with the Mac forms the backbone of the newscasts.  A bit further to the right you can see the digital temp readout for the station’s exterior thermometer (silver square) and then two of the three studio microphones; the main mic is the pink one while the other two are used with in-studio guests.  All in all I’m still learning to use the gear and make regular and often painful mistakes but I’m finding I really do enjoy the work.

Just another one of those ‘stretches’ I seem to be enamored of since retiring..!  This is especially true as I had no experience with anything like this previously and as a child I stuttered to the point I had speech therapy and hence harbored an all-consuming fear of speaking to unknown people and especially in front of groups of people.  During some of my corporate time I handled field training at plants, sales offices and warehouses which often required giving one to two-hour classes on Microsoft OS’s and apps which were being rolled out across the firm.  Because I so wanted to make the move into IT from my current position in Food Manufacturing Technical Services I lobbied hard to get this opportunity knowing I would have to face my fear of standing solo in front of ten to thirty people and talking for hours.  I was terrified my stuttering would reassert itself but to my surprise I discovered I did enjoy acting as a trainer and based on feedback from sites around the country apparently I did fairly well.

Even so this is not the same thing and in some ways it’s not as bad yet in others its worse.  I’m not standing or sitting in front of physical beings like I did while providing the IT training so in this sense it’s probably a bit easier.  However, there’s still the pressure of knowing this is live and thus if you make a gaffe its out there for all to hear.  In addition ya have to make sure you fit in all the really important information like news, weather, underwriter IDs, Denali Echoes (a messaging service to local folks with poor to non-existent telephone service) and similar while also trying to get in all the announcements, classifieds and “Thank You’s” to individuals and businesses that provide monetary support for KTNA yet still fit this into your allotted time (25 to 30 minutes depending upon the newscast).  This also can be stretched by using music in specific places like between the news and classifieds/announcements but one can only watch the clock and try to estimate on the fly whether you’re going to run over or be short.  A large ‘no-no’, almost as big as the dropping of certain ‘colorful expletives’, is running long such that one must cut into a pre-recorded program; this is to be avoided at all costs.  The experienced folks just have a feel for how long everything will take and can pretty much guess how much music they may have to add or what items they may have to cut.  Newbies like yours truly have no such perception and hence we are ‘clock watchers’.  This presents its own challenges because its tough to be reading the announcements while keeping an eye on the clock and making sure a music CD is cued just in case you finish everything before time to switch to the network feed.  People in general and me in particular are not good at multitasking and more than once I’ve thought I was going to end up short only to have to abruptly finish in a most awkward fashion so as not to cut into the network feed.

Still and all I am finding I enjoy the challenges although every error I make, a lot that probably aren’t even recognized as such by the listeners, sounds loud and hideous through the headphones and I have a tough time not wincing.  I desperately need to learn that mindset that allows one to stumble over a name or a typo and just continue on as though nothing happened; right now just such a minor fumble can upset my rhythm for the next few minutes or sometimes for the remainder of the broadcast!  Because of this I’ve learned the true value in ‘pre-reading’ everything that I’ll be reading live; by doing this I generally detect any typos, names I’m not sure how to pronounce or similar such that I can get what info I need or at least make a mental note that in story ‘X’ there’s a pronoun inconsistency.

Today (Friday, December 6, 2013) is going to be a big day for me as I will be handling my good friend Holly’s noon newscast and her music show (The Patchwork Hour) which runs from 13:00 to 14:00 AKST.  Of course I’ll be back in for my newscast at 18:00 as well.  At least by the time of the evening newscast I’ll have been through the noon newscast so all I will really need to do is refresh the news tab, the announcements/classified and the weather; then I should be good to go.  I’m looking forward to doing the music show because there’s a lot more freedom to ad lib during such formats and I suspect I’m going to volunteer to fill one of the current three openings we have for a music show.  All in all I really do enjoy volunteering time to KTNA as the staff and volunteers are great folks and the station really does serve a vital purpose for this area.  It is the only reliably received radio station in the middle to upper Susitna River Valley and the only source of ‘real time’ local news, weather (the NOAA ‘All Hazards’ broadcast from the Anchorage bowl area does not reach this far north as its blocked by the Talkeetna Mountains) and announcements for the large area between Willow to the south and Cantwell to the north.  Without KTNA information would have to be passed via email, USPS or word of mouth which is much less timely and could cause issues in the event of true emergencies.  While I learned the joy of volunteering at an assisted living facility in SE Michigan its great that I can continue to do so via my efforts at KTNA.  Hope you can listen in on-line as KTNA streams their broadcasts; if interested just visit ‘ktna.org’ and select the ‘listen on-line’ option.  My weekly newscasts are every Thursday and Friday evening from 18:00 to 18:25 AKST.