Let the sun shine in…

I’d love to have some sunshine right about now. It was a monochromatic day of white/gray today. Nothing like the sun we had same time two years ago…

Of course, I shouldn’t complain because today it is -13 degrees while two years ago, we were in the -50s.

So that’s global warming, right? Of course, next week, it could be colder. And last night was -38 so we’re not in the clear yet.

In these parts, around this time, we stop saying “MINUS thirty eight degrees” and instead simply say “thirty eight degrees” because everyone here knows that means BELOW ZERO.

So what kind of weather are you having now?

It is getting…cold again

No need for an explanation here. This is Tok, Alaska.

The Dangers of Low Humidity

Last year I blogged about how dry winters could be in these parts. I even had a doctor in Fairbanks compare the humidity levels in Interior Alaska, particularly in winter, to what astronauts experience in space.

Lately, I’ve been getting headaches, blurry vision and having trouble concentrating. I was concerned it was low levels of carbon monoxide (I’ve had my own CO scare several years back – you can read about the terrible ordeal here).

I did what any person with an Internet connection would do. I Googled. What I found was some pretty clear evidence that the low humidity level is obscenely low and most likely the cause of some pretty significant health issues.

I learned the the optimal relative humidity level for human comfort and health is anywhere from 30% to 50%.

A relative humidity level for an arid desert is 25%.

The humidity level in my home? 2%. Yes – TWO PERCENT.

Here are some of the results of low humidity:

1. Severe static electricity resulting in powerful shocks. CHECK. The static is so bad that I get shocks when I touch my computer, and it often causes my computer to freeze up.

2. Furniture dries out and cracks. CHECK.

3. Severe dry, itchy, red, flaky skin and cracked lips. CHECK.

4. Dry hair, split ends. CHECK.

5. Dry, itchy eyes. CHECK.

6. Sinus irritation, bloody noses, and respiratory problems. CHECK

7. Affects the human body’s ability to get oxygen and can cause headaches, migraines and lethargy. CHECK

8. Affects pets with all of the above.

The cure? A humidifier can do wonders. Even a vaporizer could help relieve some of these irritating symptoms. And the irony is that this house is a rental and came with an enormous humidifier in one of the closets, but we’ve never thought to use it. It’s coming out of the closet  now.

Additional reading: Humidifiers – Mayo Clinic

Have you been affected by extreme climates? What happened and what did you do?

Another Head Lice Outbreak at Tok School

It is an epidemic and only gets worse each year. Lice infestation of our children at the Tok School.

What can be done about it?

Here’s a fact sheet that can be helpful: http://www.nuvoforheadlice.com/method_explained.htm

You can find a head lice removal kit online here: http://www.fairytaleshaircare.com/

What are some of your best head lice prevention and removal tips?

As Summer Warms Our Bones…

Let us not forget the winters. Makes our summers that much sweeter…

How is your summer going so far?

Passing Through Tok: Raimo Laosma

I was headed to Three Bears for some groceries and saw a bicyclist in front of the store who seemed like he had been traveling quite a ways.

“Where are you coming from or going?” I asked.

“Estonia,” he replied.

Turns out, Raimo Laosma has been on the road since September 20, 2010. He drove from Estonia through Europe to Lisbon, Portugal, then came across to the States on the East Coast. After going North into Canada and then back down through New York City, he headed south then west through Texas, up the West Coast into Canada. And today he was passing through Tok on his way to Anchorage.

Raimo aka Fujimees (Fuji Man) has a blog called Fujimees and a Facebook Page where you can keep up with his travels (you can use Google Translate to translate from Estonian). He uses his AT&T connection on his Nokia N97 to navigate as he travels and to update his blog and Facebook page.

We chatted a few minutes, and he let me take a few photographs before we both went on our way. Before he headed to Youngs Chevron, he looked down at his odometer.

“22326 kilometers,” he said.

After Anchorage, he is flying to Siberia and riding home from there.

Here is Raimo’s ROUGHLY translated Facebook post from today (he refers to the Migratory Bird Festival that I told him about – I sure hope they have food as I mentioned to him. Otherwise, I’ll probably buy him lunch!):

I sincerely hope that it is 13, and Friday was my last winter trip day! 2x yesterday managed to see a bear and two riders in the morning a young man from Canada, Japan, and after one more child. And to my great joy turned to the favorable winds in the afternoon. There is Tok-opening of the festival and look forward to! (Provided free meals)

Over 260,000 people pass through Tok each summer.

Who have you met so far coming through Tok?

-44 Degrees Again in Tok

Enough said…

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

The Rumor Mills of Small Communities

I’ve been thinking about the destructive nature of gossip lately, particularly as I keep hearing things about other people I know in town from people who somehow think it is okay to talk about others in negative ways. The next time this happens, I’m going to say something about “glass houses.” You know the saying.

My exasperation with gossip here led me to post this to my Facebook profile:

The rumor mill in this town is cruel & out of control. Even me – the gal who is a total outsider – is told things about others that I don’t believe & even if I did, I really don’t need to know. If you start with “I heard that” or “Did you know ” then are about to mention a person other than yourself, shut up.

Personally, I’m fairly untouched by the gossip about me. Yes, I’ve heard some of the things that people say about me here, but I know none of it is true, and the people who actually matter don’t believe or care what is said and are smart enough to consider the source.

None of the gossip really sticks anyway because I know the people who are privy to the truth about me, my family and my life are good and trusted friends. Nobody else has access to anything other than what I tell them personally or publish online. I have nothing to hide really – I’ve blogged about everything before so am pretty immune. Others who aren’t used to living so publicly aren’t as inured.

There are several reasons why people gossip about others – and this is true in any community and even in industries or any environment where there are people:

  1. Insecurity. People who feel good about their own lives don’t gossip hurtfully about others.
  2. Envy. This ties in with #1. If a person is insecure, they see someone else’s good life or good fortune as something to envy so they look for ways to hurt or reduce that other person so they aren’t reminded of what they don’t have.
  3. Ignorance. Some people just aren’t smart enough to realize the damage they are doing – not just to others but to themselves – by gossiping.
  4. Boredom. When someone is bored with their life, they spend far too much time concerned about what others are doing.
  5. Cruelty. There are some people who are angry and bitter so they lash out by saying hurtful things about others thinking it will make them feel better.
  6. Sickness. There are some people for whom gossiping is a sign of a greater psychological disorder. I met one of those people when I first arrived here and got inadvertently sucked in for a brief time. Luckily, I learned what was going on, cut ties immediately and unequivocally, and worked to make amends to those who were affected.

No matter what the cause, gossip is just wrong. It doesn’t even matter if what is being spread around is true – it is none of our damn business unless it directly affects our own – or our family’s – safety or well being. Nine times out of 10, the gossip you are hearing is not true – so why would you ever want to repeat it – it just makes you look like a liar.

More than anything, remember that each time you talk about someone else in a negative way, you are painting yourself as a bad person who cannot be trusted. Even your so-called “friends” who seem to relish the gossip you spread know good and well that you aren’t a person who can be trusted. Deep down inside they are wondering “What are they saying about me when I’m not around?” And those who seem to love the gossip you share are the kind of people who won’t think twice about saying something negative about you. And trust me, they are.

Next time someone starts to tell you salacious things about someone else, just look them in the eye and make it clear that you JUST. DON’T. CARE. And next time you feel the urge to say something negative about someone else, JUST. SHUT. UP.

What are your thoughts on gossip?

stock xchng image by jlburgess

10 Things People Don’t Believe About Tok Alaska Winters

When I travel the country and tell people where I live, jaws drop, both out of awe and incredulity. “You live THERE?! Why in the world?? Boy, I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska!!” I explain that my husband’s job brought us here, first to Anchorage and almost two years ago to Tok.  It’s beautiful here in the summers, cold as all get out in the winters.

My first winter here was the coldest, with our home thermometer capping off at -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Last summer was mild with many more minus 30s and 40s  than past the minus 60 mark. Here are some of the things that happened to us, especially the first winter, that still cause friends’ eyes to pop open:

1. Temperatures can get below -60 degrees Fahrenheit for long stretches of time and most thermometers just don’t go any further.

2. We put cardboard or leather inside the grill on our vehicles to keep the cold air from freezing the radiator.

3. We get what’s called the “Tok Package” to insulate our vehicle engines – not just an engine block heater which is common in colder states but also an oil pan heater and battery blanket.

4. We get “square tires.” When we start our vehicles and start driving in the colder temperatures, the tires clunk and thunk like a flat tire. The tires freeze flat and take a while for the air inside them to warm up and smooth out.

5. Your breath freezes on the inside of your car windshield. After a certain point, even your car heater can’t keep up, and your breath turns into a crust on the inside of your windshield. Helpful to have a little credit card-sized inside the windshield ice scraper. Yes, they make them in Alaska.

6. School buses run until -45 degrees. We don’t have snow days here where kids get out of going to school. We have cold days when the temperatures become impossible for the school bus to operate properly and safely.

7. Our walls are 12 inches thick. Not everyone has the same kind of walls, although the log houses do have thick walls for insulation. But our place looks like a regular house but with walls a foot thick to keep out the cold and keep in the heat.

8. Wine does freeze. I learned this hard way when I brought all the wine gifts from friends from Anchorage on our drive to Tok. Needless to say I let the bottles thaw out and drank it anyway.

9. Moisture in your nostrils crystalizes. When you go outside in the colder temps, you can literally hear the moisture in your nostrils crackling and freezing up. Needless to say breathing in the air at that point is not good for your lungs.

10. We did see a thermometer at minus 71 degrees. My husband took a photo of it and  it caused quite a ruckus across the Internet amongst weather geeks. Eventually, a representative from NOAA came by Tok to explain why it wasn’t an accurate reading. But we still have the picture! 😉

I haven’t experienced what happens when you throw a cup of hot water into the air outside. Everyone keeps telling me to try it, but I keep forgetting and going outside when it is cold enough to freeze midair isn’t my idea of fun!

Here’s a little video to give you a sense of winters at minus 60. Driving to General Store in Tok

– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.
Are you ready for winter?

Snow Scenes: Last Week in Tok

4 year old running in the leftover snow last week.

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Trying to Get a Package in Tok

Trying to get something to Tok, especially by FEDEX, is an ongoing struggle. Without a number on our house, it’s hard to get a package and most computer systems don’t want to accept our P.O. Box number. Most people I speak with can’t even believe our addresses are P.O. Boxes unless they live or have lived in a rural area.

Yes, we walk or drive to the Post Office every day to get our mail except Sunday.

I even had a hard time getting a credit card because the bank didn’t believe I was a U.S. Citizen because what American doesn’t have a number on their house!

Right now, I’m trying to have an empty box delivered from Apple for my broken Time Capsule so I can ship it back to get it repaired. I provided my fake address because Apple uses FEDEX and FEDEX won’t take P.O. Box numbers (using the mileage from the Alaska Highway along with the P.O. Box number as part of the address).

The box went to someone in Tok but they called Apple to say they didn’t ask for it and then returned it. I need to find out who the folks are who deliver FEDEX packages – they aren’t in FEDEX trucks or uniforms. It is usually a woman in a little hatchback. Anyone know how I can reach her?

I know getting things from sites like Amazon isn’t a problem because they ship UPS. It’s FEDEX that seems to be an issue in Tok. Once I have the package ready to go back to Apple via FEDEX, I think I actually have to go to the Post Office to send it, but I need to check on that.

Any other suggestions on how to get packages when systems spit out P.O. Box numbers?

Meet Tokite, Business Owner: Francine Lee

This is the first post of an ongoing series profiling people from Tok, Alaska. Gearing up for the summer so you know who everyone is in these parts!

Name: Francine Lee, Owner

Business: Tok General Store
Web Site: tokgeneralstore.com
Contact Info: po box 661   mp 1313.5 Ak Hwy  Tok, Ak.  99780

Phone: 907-883-8343,   fax 907-883-8344,   email tokgs@aptalaska.net

Q: What is your businesses?

A: Retail outlet majoring in Health foods and health and beauty items.  Some general merchandise such as camping gear, clothes, gifts and other items.  Also the AT&T dealer  for the area

Q: Why do you do what you do?

A: I primarily want to offer healthy food and beauty items to the community.

Q: Why do you do it in Tok?

I moved here 18 + years ago and much of our family lives here.

Q: What would you like folks passing through Tok this summer to know about your business?

A: If you are looking for  alternative health foods, Cell phone sales and service or gifts and supplies for your trip – come on in and see what is available.  You will be surprised at the choices available here.

Are you coming through Tok this year? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you!

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