Thursday, January 29, 2009

Survive Alaskan Winters? How About Iowan Winters?

Iowa Winters, Alaska Winters, and eHow

As a veteran of three Alaskan winters, you'd think coming back to an Iowan winter wouldn't be that big a thing, and yet...2008-2009 in Iowa is giving me a run for my money. This has been part of my reflection which has already led to one eHow article on How to Survive an Alaskan Winter, and will probably lead to several more winter based articles on eHow, one of my favorite places to write online.

This does bring up an interesting question, however. Why is an Iowa winter rough after being through so many Alaskan winters? Well this one is fairly easy. For one, it's a slanted question because I did spend 15 months in Austin, TX, between my Alaska winters and my reunion with Iowa's December (and January) cold.

And when it's not windy, I actually do pretty well at 10 degrees and above. This is important since my brother still hasn't found my winter coat and hat, so I'm walking around in a fall jacket and four layers. Fairbanks consistently saw -30 and -40, but there was also NEVER any wind, so no wind chill. I thought about writing about all the strange little things about winter in Alaska, but someone already wrote "The Frozen Toe Guide to Surviving Winter in Alaska." So I'll let him share his wisdom.

The wind here is worse, sucking the air right out of the lungs, and part of it is just the good old fashioned human ability to adapt. What's -20 F when it's usually -40 F? When -10 is unusually cold in Iowa, then 15 will be cold, too. And you can't adapt to wind. Not in the winter. But I digress.

I've always been a winter person, and after almost two years of not seeing snow, it is nice. And more snow. And more snow again. But as my timing is always amazing, this winter has seen some of the lowest temperatures in recorded Iowa history. Imagine my surprise one morning and seeing on the news -25. Imagine how more surprised I was when that wasn't the wind chill, because the next screen had that at -66. Both shattered the previous records.

Welcome home, Shane, LOL.

I'll mention more on eHow later. For those of you who don't know me or haven't figured it out, I'm a write who has a wandering mind. This blog will never be monetized with Adsense, so this is the one where I get to wander where I see fit. Which will be rambling any and everywhere, lol.

But what would a post about an alaska winter be without an actual picture or two? So, let's see if I can figure out the add photo stuff:

So I don't see it in preview mode, so hopefully that shows up. Okay, it did, but not where I wanted it in the post. So the frozen crystals in my old outhouse will have to wait until I get better with placing photos.

Although I'm thinking a spring trip to Tampa Bay might be in order, I admit that I love the winter - though it is harder when everyone I'm staying with has a really cold house, especially waking up in the morning and not being warm, and making it harder to warm up.

Still beats the hell out of summer.

Anyway, I'll write more about ehow and Hubpages later, because I'm big on both places as being great places to write online about a wide variety of subjects. The making money on the side is nice, but I especially appreciate Hubpages as a place where I can write about whatever's on my mind. And when I get some good feedback and even made a touch of coin on the side, well even better.

Well until next time: I'm working on my James Bond as a Reniassance Man argument as well as several other unusual odds and ends. Later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making Home Made Root Beer

Learning to Make Root Beer from Home

As the economy gets worse and people brace themselves for a long recession, more and more people are looking back on the examples of our parents and grandparents to figure out how to become more self sufficient. While this is a good idea, and while I applaud it, it's hard not to notice that more and more people also seem to think that this means giving up every little gift to yourself, or every single "treat" to live bare bones for as long as it takes for things to fix themselves.

Um, no. While there are no doubt millions of people who have to cut back, and while this nation as a whole really needs to change its attitudes about money and credit, it's not like our grandparents didn't have fun or didn't occasionally treat themselves. One small way to do this could be learning how to make root beer. Making homemade root beer isn't nearly as difficult as many people have made it out to be, and it can be a quick and easy way to have a great sweet treat while saving money. An initial root beer brewing kit often only costs around $14, and after that it's sugar, water, and extract. If you get good, you can even replace most of the sugar with honey, molasses, ginger, or something similar.

A single batch tends to make 5-6 gallons, and it's hard to argue with that. In addition, you might just find a way of brewing root beer that makes a better flavor than you can buy in stores. It just really goes to show that while a lot of people are cutting back, being creative can help you learn brilliant new skills, have fun even in rough times, and get a little bit extra for yourself.

So whether you're a MUG or A&W or Barq's fan, try your hand a few times and you may learn to love brewing homemade root beer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Alaskan Home Sick

So it's a new year and thank God for that much, at least. 2009 sees me unemployed, but I'm already getting back into the swing of freelance writing once again, I have plenty of side projects to keep me busy and enough severance pay and tax return money to get me thinking once again. I miss having a lot of friends around, and being a wanderlust sort of fellow, Iowa just isn't quite doing it for me. Been there/done that for 19 years and change, and it's time to be moving on again.

Alaska is one of the few places that really made me feel at home, and I still have plenty of good friends there. Since all my work is online, a major question comes to mind: what am I doing here?

Part of it I'm sure is just getting a little time to settle. Seems like yesterday I was moving from Alaska to Texas to take a new job, and then a little more than a year later it's pink slip time like it is for so many others, and so I'm left to looking for greener pastures. This brings up some really good questions, including the types of questions that a lot of people maybe should ask in general, unemployed or not:

Why am I here?
What am I doing?
Is this what I want in life?
Am I happy where I am?
If not, why not and how do I fix it?

I've written about living each day to the fullest, one of many small philosphies I believe in, and that's one of the reasons that taking long walks is so important to me: it gets me out of wherever I'm staying and out where I can meet people, see changing scenery, or just have some time to think about things. And for me, even the prospect of having to survive another Alaska winter isn't enough to prevent me from heading back. In all honesty, in a strange way the winters are part of the fun.

All of us are different, but too many people just go through a rut and make life an unhappy prison from which they dupe themselves into believing there's no escape. I suppose I could be depressed about the economy, about losing my dream job, about moving yet again or about how time passes and the confusion that follows with growing up, but what's the point? I'd rather stay relatively happy and look forward to what's coming up next.

So for someone like me whom technology has given the ability to work anywhere, anytime, as long as I have a reasonable Internet connection and a laptop, the decision is easy. Go back to the place where I have the greatest concentration of friends still hanging out in one area, asking me to come back. I'll be heading back to Sweet Home Alaska, to keep working on my projects and to see what's next for me, to see if I'm half as good as I think I am, and to do what's right for myself until it's time to move again.

Best of luck to everyone this new year, and let's hope we all end up having a great year of happiness and hope.