"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Up, Up and Away

And I'm off, flying south to warmer climes.

What?  Cold there?

But, I have it on good authority that's it's summer in Antarctica.

See you this Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Writing Prompt from Ann Linquist (follow up)

My previous post was an entirely fictional story written subsequent to a [rompt from online instructor Ann Linquist.

These are photos of Amchitka Island taken in 1988 when I worked there on a construction project.
The shambles of the Officer's Club, with the "tree" at far right end of building.

Gun mount.
No trees on Amchitka, but an abundance of wildflowers.

Stellar sea lion
Sea lions basking

The concrete plug over the 6000 foot deep Cannikin shaft, site of the world's largest underground nuclear test.

Plaque over the Cannikin site, the third and largest of underground nuclear tests.

Sea lions

The Cannikin plaque reads:

Nov. 6, 1971



(Warnings against drilling and mining nearby follows.)

Note from Gullible:  The Japanese did occupy Attu and Kiska islands in the Aleutian Chain during World War II, but not Amchitka.    This island was the site of the furthermost US military post, from which military campaigns to re-take American oil were launched.  The military believes the Aleutian attacks were to divert attention from Japanese preparations to attack Midway.  The US had cracked Japanese codes and were not fooled, but knew that a foothold in the Aleutian Islands would enable the Japanese to further attack US lands.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleutian_Islands_Campaign

On 11 May 1943, the operation to recapture Attu began. Included with the invasion force were scouts recruited from Alaska, nicknamed Castner's Cutthroats. A shortage of landing craft, unsuitable beaches, and equipment that failed to operate in the appalling weather made it difficult to bring any force against the Japanese. Soldiers suffered from frostbite because essential supplies could not be landed, or could not be moved to where needed because vehicles would not work on the tundra. Led by Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki, the Japanese defenders did not contest the landings, instead digging in on high ground far from the shore. This resulted in fierce combat, with a total of 3,929 U.S. casualties; 580 men were killed, 1,148 were wounded, and another 1,200 had severe cold injuries. In addition, 614 died of disease, and 318 from miscellaneous causes, mainly Japanese booby traps or friendly fire.

On 29 May, the last of the Japanese forces attacked without warning near Massacre Bay in one of the largest banzai charges of the Pacific campaign. Led by Colonel Yamasaki, the attack penetrated U.S. lines so deeply that it encountered rear-echelon units of the American force. After furious, brutal, often hand-to-hand combat, the Japanese force was virtually exterminated. Only 28 had been willing to be taken prisoner, none of them officers. American burial teams counted 2,351 Japanese dead, but it was thought that hundreds more bodies had been buried by bombardments during the battle

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another Writing Prompt from Ann Linquist

 Once in a while, on-line writing instructor Ann Linquist sets before us a buffet of words.  We fill our plate with three choices and retire to our computers to work those choices into a story. 
Her words this time:  

Aunt Alice’s necklace.  The tree’s shadow.   Road construction.  Hand to the forehead.   Index.  Leather recliner.  Holes in the page.   Root beer spilled on the carpet.

My choices were The tree's shadow, road construction, and index.

Time Warp

If there were any trees on this barren, wind-scoured, uninhabited island, trust me, I’d be hiding in their shadows instead of where I am now.  Yeah, there’s a “tree” the GIs planted back in ’43, down by the derelict Officer’s Club, but it’s not much more than a half-dead shrub and couldn’t hide even one of the zillions of rats running around here.

I never should have come out here.  I never would have if I’d known about him.  No one said a word.  Maybe no one else has seen him.

This part of the island isn’t off limits, not like the south end of the island where they say there’s unexploded ordnance.  I walked all over out there and didn’t find anything but baby sea gulls.

A little ways from here, over beyond the road by the construction site, I found a belt of .50 cal machine gun cartridges.  The fabric was rotted away but the metal clips that held the ammo was still there.  Dangerous, unstable after four decades exposed to the unrelenting rains and winds, it just lies there, waiting for some idiot to pick it up.  Like me.

And they supposedly searched that area.  No wonder they never saw him.  He can hide; ammo can’t. 

That’s what I was doing when I saw him.  I was down in the foxhole, examining the belt of ammo that was no longer a belt, just a bunch of lethal, weathered cartridges longer that my index finger with metal clips lying on the rotted fabric.. 

My truck was parked down in a swale, so I guess he didn’t see it.   Anyway, I saw him first.  I thought he was a bear but there aren’t any bears here on Amchitka Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Chain, just rats.  Lots of rats. 

I got my binoculars and looked again.  All I could make out were two round brown things with a thin strip of white separating them.  The light wasn’t good with the rain and all, so I kept staring, trying to get some perspective.  Then he stood up and I still didn’t believe what I was looking at.

I’d been looking at his butt as he knelt on the tundra.  He was naked but for a loin cloth.  His skin was a deep brown color and his shaggy black hair hung down to his shoulders.  The strip of white was the thong that cleaves a man’s butt cheeks, part of the Japanese fundoshi men’s underwear.  God, those went out after World War II and the Japanese men started wearing briefs.  He was carrying something in his hand, something like a sword, long and slightly curved.  I couldn’t see if he was wearing shoes.

Naked in this weather?   How on earth was he not hypothermic?

He turned towards me.

I ducked down into the foxhole.  Had he sensed me watching him?   From 200 yards away?  I raised up, carefully separating the long grass on the edge of the foxhole so I could see him without raising my head high enough for him to see me.

There was something about him that didn’t look quite right, something abnormal for a human.  If he was what I think he was, he’d be almost 70 years old.  So how come his hair is still black?

But that wasn’t what was wrong with this picture.  There was something wrong with his eyes.  They looked like they were on fire.

I crawled out of the foxhole through a muddy trench and slipped over the cliff by the ocean, then made my way to a small drainage where I’d be below the horizon and could get inland without being seen.  I was hoping to get to the construction site.  Some place safe.

I made as far as the lake.  That’s when I glanced back and saw him coming over the rise about a quarter mile away—in between me and the dirt gang and safety.  That’s why I’m hid out under this muddy bank along the lake shore, water dripping down my neck, mud smeared all over me, disguising the color of my skin.

There he is.  Across the lake.  Over on the concrete plug.   What the heck is he doing?  He looks like he’s doing yoga on top of that plug.  Like he owns it.  My eyes slip to his right, to a dark hole under the far bank.  I watch as he walks in that direction and enters the hole.

Now it makes sense.  That’s why no one’s ever seen him before.  He lives here—here at Cannikin lake, a lake formed when this area subsided after the world’s largest underground nuclear blast.  Cannikin.  Three megatons.  1971.

And that strange man across the lake?  A Japanese warrior from WWII, hid out all these years after the Imperial Forces invaded and occupied US soil during the war.

I heard about those warriors who hid down in the South Pacific.  They never gave up.  They continued fighting, fanatical in their devotion to Emperor Hirohito, long after the war ended.  He’s been trapped here since the US Army took back the islands the Japanese occupied.

He's armed with a sword;  I'm armed with binoculars.  

Now I’m trapped, too. 

(Next:  Some photos and facts about Amchitka, and the islands really occupied by the Imperial Forces.)


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Bad, the Ugly, and the Even Worse: All the stuff you don't want to happen a week before you go to the other end of the world

So, I'm leaving in a week for Antarctica.  Where else would an Alaskan go in the winter?  Some place where it's summer, of course.

I was  well on the way to stress-free preparedness and organization in Packing Central, which is what I call the spare bedroom where I hide these preparations from Pablo's view.  No sense putting up with an angry parrot in the days preceding my departure.  I prefer to spring it on him when I haul the suitcase down to the garage.  Makes for a better trip.  For me, anyway.

So here's how my last weekend went:

Bad Kindle. Bad broken Kindle.

Loaded with several new books for my voyage, the selector broke and I cannot access anything.  I made it worse trying to glue it.

 Bad heating system.  Bad broken heating system.

Broken pump on boiler = insufficient hot water for the in floor heat.   Can't leave a house sitter with a cold house.  Note there's no impeller on the pump shaft.  It disappeared.

 Bad mixing valve.  Bad broken mixing valve.     Just means scalding hot water going to my shower.

 Bad truck.  Bad broken truck.

 Bad, bad battery.   I can't leave my truck in Anchorage and have it dead when I return late Thanksgiving eve.  I'd be stuck in Anchorage until shops open again on Monday morning.


Bad alarm clock.  Bad broken alarm clock.  The minute hand won't advance so I can set the correct time.  I might miss my plane.

Bad Mother Nature.  It's not fair to have 5 degrees in October.

All of that in two days.



 Well, hello there new Kindle.   Goodbye $179.00.

Well, hello new battery and fresh oil in the engine,   Goodbye $196 and gas for a 72  mile round trip.

Well, hello new pump,

and hello new mixing valve,

 and hello new air bleeder. 

Hello decent temperatures in the heating system again.   Goodbye somewhere around $2000.00 because plumbers cost $165 an hour when they are called out on weekends, and he was here a long, long time, plus two 150 mile round trips, plus parts.

So that's how my pre-trip days went.  Nothing like a bit of stress added to my concerns that the travel company made my reservations from Los Angeles to Buenos Aries, Argentine, on American Airlines--that airline of the flying seats, sick pilots, and bankruptcy.

The alarm clock is still broken.  Who gives a damn about alarm clocks?  I'll go into Anchorage the night before my flight.

Two good things happened today on my trip to Seward for truck repairs, though:

1.)  The trooper didn't stop me for going close to 70 in a 55 zone while I was distracted by the new Kindle on the seat beside me.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Writing Prompt from Ann Linquist

My online writing instructor's latest prompt was to write about how we think we might die.  Nothing gloomy, was her caveat.  Be creative, have fun.   So I did.

Case No. 2012/4414

I arrived at the scene, 3489 Turnagain Road, at 0500 hours.  Trooper L. J. Patterson, Badge 546, answered a 911 call from a neighbor about an explosion and had secured the scene by the time of my arrival.  The Trooper advised me the home was owned and occupied by Gullible.  He gave me a brief summary of the scene, warning me it was a bad one.  I placed a dab of Vicks Vapo-Rub under my nose, donned booties and gloves, and entered the cabin.

The trooper was right.  It was one of the worst scenes of this type I’d ever seen.  At first glance, I thought it was a burglary because of the chaos, furniture and books tossed all over the room.  But there were human remains all over the keyboard and monitor, and numerous unidentified small black objects scattered around theroom.

On further investigation, I realized that the destruction was confined to one room only, that being the home office or study.

By the time the Medical Examiner arrived with the CSI team, I was pretty sure what the autopsy result would be.  After a cursory exam, the ME said, “My god, not another one.  Did you find a note?”

“No, but I did find something interesting in all the papers scattered around.  This one is readable.  It says ‘Eddie and I were discussing all the horrible ways we might die.  We went through them all—drowning, fire, disease.   Then I said, “I’ll be ready when I get all these words out of me.’’”

“That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?” said the ME.

“Yeah, that and those black things all over.  Just like the last case.”

The ME bent over and picked up one of the black objects and placed it in a plastic bag.

“What is it?”

He turned the bag over until the object made sense:  “Lilliputian.”

I found “susurrant” and placed it in a bag.  “Think they’ll ever learn?”  I asked the ME.

“Doubt it.  These writers, they just don’t realize how dangerous it is to be so full of words that they can explode.  Why can’t they just get them all out and reduce the pressure?”

S/Inv. Jack O’Reilly, Badge 1473

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fair Match?

No, this post isn't about last night's presidential debate.  It's about parrots and cats.

Some years ago, my husband and I left our parrot at a friend's house while we went out of town.  The friend commented that she hoped her cat wouldn't hurt Pablo.

"Don't worry about Pablo," said my husband.  "Worry about your cat!"  Well and truly said.

Think that's a bunch of malarky?

Watch the video below.  It isn't Pablo in action, but you'll see what parrots think of cats.  Obviously it's the parrot's domain.  Note the triangular bite marks in the map on the wall at the right end of the couch.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Perils of Delivering the Mail

If you follow along here, you know I am a substitute mail carrier on a rural route.  The dangers I encounter are mostly weather-related as I drive 130 miles through the Chugach Mountains.  There are few year-'round residents along this area because the roads run through Chugach National Forest.

The scenery is distracting, to say the least.

Moose stepping onto the road in front of me, swans flying past at windshield height, and a turkey guarding its domain are the worst dangers I face.  I don't have to worry about any of the dogs on the route because the contract carrier (for whom I substitute) has them spoiled rotten.  They all run up to my vehicle expecting doggie salmon treats.

But another mail carrier had to deal with quite another things.  Here's a link to a video.  Note the mail delivery truck at the left side of the video in the very beginning.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the Fog

Carl Sandburg said it best:

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

It also makes for some pretty cool lighting when it begins to move on.

Along Trail Lake

Trail Lake

Trail Lake

Trail Lake

Cottonwood in its glory.

Bald eagle against ridge on mountain just becoming visible.

Two swans, two cygnets.

One swan, two cygnets.

Swan stretching its wings, cygnet behiind it.