Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Week to Alaska

So, I move to Alaska next Thursday, one week from today. I've noticed a few thoughts since making preparations for the trip, among them the possibility of a bear attack. However, some more pressing concerns include the following:

1. Getting to and from Alaska is a pain in the ass. The 3 hour time difference makes scheduling difficult, and the fluctuations in travel conditions due to the recent volcano activity certainly doesn't help anything.

2. Getting around in Alaska is also apparently a pain in the ass. I have to take a flight from Anchorage to Kenai due to the limited bus availability, and once I land, I have to rent a car to get around, since my apartment isn't at the airport.

3. Once I turn the car in, I'm not going to have a way to get around, meaning I'll either have to rely on someone in the office to take me to and from work until the other guys get there, or just take the Shoelace Express until they get there. Which means

4. I will have one shot at the grocery store for a week, meaning I have to plan my meals very carefully to make sure I have an adequate food supply. Or build some hare traps and find some edible mushrooms nearby. However, since I'm convinced that every wild animal or plant in Alaska can and will kill me, I'll try to stick to the meal planning thing for now.

5. I really have no idea what I'm in for. I've never been to Kenai, the information online is pretty limited, and I've prepared a map of the area based on the information I've been able to gather from Google Maps. Even still, I am prepared to be pretty surprised when I get up there. Hopefully I'll find the cord for my camera so I can take plenty of pictures throughout the entire experience.

All that accounted for, I'm pretty excited about the trip, and I look forward to documenting the experience here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Arctophobia


Finals have rolled around once again; fun fact: finals are every other week at Baylor University. In about a week and a half, I'll be moving to Kenai, Alaska to start a summer internship in the Alaska Public Defender Agency. Also, my sister is about to have a baby. So, with final exams, packing, travel arrangements, and a new family member on the way, what's on my mind?

Bear attacks, of course.

I plan on doing a lot of camping this summer in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, so I've been doing research on bear encounters in order to prepare myself mentally for the possibility of running into one of nature's killing machines. The fear of bears is known as Arctophobia. (Side note: phobias are supposed to be irrational fears, and I don't really think that being afraid of something that can crush your skull with its teeth and razor sharp claws qualifies as being "irrational") While I don't necessarily think I have a fear of bears, I definitely don't want to be the guy who gets attacked by a bear during his summer internship. That would just be embarrassing. So I've been reading up on bear attacks in the area, as well as how to deal with a situation where you encounter a bear. Most of the advice involves making the bear aware of your presence, not doing anything to surprise the bear, and storing your things away so the bear isn't attracted to your campsite. My strategy is different. My strategy involves (a) bringing a gun, (b) greco-roman wrestling, and (c) a type of hug that I understand bears can relate to. If that doesn't work, I guess you'll read about me in the paper, either as the guy who got eaten by a bear while taking a crap in the woods (I understand bears can relate to this as well), or the guy who got arrested for shooting a park ranger that he mistook for a bear. Only time will tell.


I am coming for you, bear.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eight Crazy Nights...of Laundry

So I was doing laundry yesterday, and I happened to notice something. I use an off-brand concentrated laundry detergent with no dyes or perfumes, and I noticed that it's made by Brooks. Now you might be wondering what this means. Well, Brooks is sort of like the CVS or Walgreens chain in the Northeast. I moved from New Hampshire to Texas at the end of November 2007. This means that I've been using the same 100 oz. bottle of laundry detergent for A YEAR AND A HALF. WTF?! I do a fair amount of laundry, at least 2-3 loads a week. And I always use the recommended amount for each load, sometimes more if it's an especially large or dirty load. How has my laundry detergent lasted for a year and a half (and there's still at least a month or two left in the bottle as well)? I think it's sort of like Hanukkah. We should create a holiday to celebrate this miraculous event. Only this holiday will last a year and a half, and will be celebrated with the giving of a gift to me every day of the holiday. And booze. Let's get on this. L'CHAIM!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Blog

In addition to this blog, I decided to start another blog based on my love for The Simpsons. It's available at http://welcometoevergreenterrace.blogspot.com, aptly titled 742 Evergreen Terrace. More to come.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grocery Shopping

I really enjoy grocery shopping. Most people that I know don't really like it and try to avoid it as much as possible, usually by eating out. I enjoy the experience as a whole. Often I'll wear my headphones to drown out the crowds. (Sidenote: this has resulted several times in people bumping into my cart while not looking, then assuming it was my fault simply because I happen to be wearing headphones, as if it causes me to pay less attention.) The reason I enjoy grocery shopping is because it allows me to spend a lot of time thinking about food, nutrition, and lifestyle, which I think is something that a lot of people could stand to spend a little more time thinking about (yes, I am being a judgmental snob here). I spend a lot of time in the grocery store observing what other people are buying and how they're making their decisions. Normally I'm not a huge fan of people watching but food is something that's common to us all and I find it interesting to see what people choose to put in their bodies.

Sometimes it also disgusts me. I suppose this has been on my mind lately because I've been reading a lot of articles about food and nutrition, and it's made me realize how little I actually knew before. This week marks the 2-year anniversary of my decision to become a vegetarian. When I first decided to go vegetarian, it was based on a combination of moral and ethical issues I had, along with the promise of a healthier lifestyle that it offered. For a while, I stuck with it well and ate healthier. I lost some weight and everything seemed to be working well. Eventually, however, I learned how to eat the stuff I used to eat without including the meat, and it was right back to the highly-processed, low effort lifestyle that I had sought to get away from. Then last fall, I decided that I was tired of being obese, out of shape, and generally apathetic towards my health. I started paying close attention to what I ate, choosing healthy, whole foods over processed foods. I gave up fast food and most carbonated drinks. And it worked- I lost 40 lbs, gained a bunch of strength from the weight training program I also started, and today I feel better than I ever have. I guess it took a drastic change in lifestyle to realize just how much diet affects my mood, health, mental acuity and well-being.

Today, I don't really eat processed food, or even eat at restaurants very much. I prefer to cook all my meals, and I'm able to eat very healthy for relatively cheap (I spend around $40-50 a week on food). Sometimes it's more, depending on what's in season and whether an organic selection is available. I'm not on board that organic is the answer to all of America's farm and food woes, but if it's available I'll generally buy it because I like knowing that my food doesn't have pesticide or fertilizer residue. My decision to remain vegetarian today has largely to do with my objection to the industrialized complex in which most meat is produced in America. I have seen factory farms, I have been to meat processing plants, including our own Pilgrim's Pride processing factory here in Waco, and frankly I want nothing to do with it. In preparation for my trip to Alaska this summer, I've begun to eat a little bit of salmon, but it's only temporary and I doubt I'll continue it once the summer is over. For the most part, I enjoy vegetarianism because it requires me to pay close attention to my diet, and that's almost always a good thing. Running your routines through with a fine-toothed comb allows you to see where improvements can be made and helps you fix things that don't work and encourage things that do. It also helps to diversify your diet; at least it did for me. Before I gave up meat, I found that I was eating pretty much the same things week in and week out. Nowadays, I try to eat a wide variety of foods, and prepare them in different ways so they don't get boring. There are some staples that I still eat a lot of, like the 2 lbs. of broccoli a week that I tend to go through, but for the most part I try to eat a wide variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to keep it interesting.

I don't really know what the point of all this was, and I may end up going back and revising it into a more coherent structure in the future, but ultimately I think food and nutrition is really interesting and I encourage you to read more about it. Here is an article that I think is worth reading to get started:

Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan