Friday, September 18, 2009

Blog Moving...


This blog has moved to the following address:

Hope you follow along!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

And So It Begins....

I was sound asleep when the cries of a calf elk rang in my ears. "Oh great," I thought, "I know what I'm doing on rove: baby-sitting elk!" And then I heard it. A terrible, gutteral noise. The worse sound I have heard all summer (except for a little girl getting a splinter pulled out of her hand - yikes). The sound of.... could it be? A juvenile bull elk just trying to get his bugle on? Hm..... The sound was such a terrible bugle, I thought for sure it must only be a young bull just trying to call. I rolled over and out of bed and stumbled downstairs. Standing at the coffee maker, eyes half closed from sleep, I suddenly realized the terrible premonition, that horrid sound, was NOT a juvenile, but a full-fledged six-point MASSIVE BULL ELK! OH NO!

The bull had his head low to the ground, his antlers long and paralleled against his back. Any easy 800+ pound bull. He was chasing the cows and calves, attacking the poor spike bull, and acting like he owned the town. A bush stuck out from his antlers. With no one else to fight, what other choice did he have but to attack inanimate objects. He let out another rasping gutteral bugle. SERIOUSLY! UGH! What a TERRIBLE bugle! I could hear him panting as he trotted around rounding up his harem. What a disgrace... at least his rack was, well, pretty good, but the last point wasn't very pronounced.

Since then he's been acting like the head honcho of Mammoth, scaring the cows and calves into submission. What a bully. At least his bugle has gotten more dignified sounding. Just wait until the other bulls come to show him what a big old mean bull looks like. They'll put him to shame.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Founder's Day

Happy 93rd birthday to the National Park Service!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pretty Rangers

A pot-bellied bus driver walked up to me yesterday on the pretense of discussing elk. After he told his story, he looked at me and said, "The Park Service sure is hiring pretty rangers these days. There sure are some pretty rangers here, easy to look at." I'm okay with that, I think. Maybe it helps people listen to me when I tell them not to approach the elk.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Snow on Washburn

Yesterday we drove from Canyon across Dunraven Pass back to Mammoth. In Canyon it was 52 degrees. It dropped steadily as we rose up Dunraven Pass to 40 degrees and finally warmed up to a whopping 55 degrees in Mammoth. On the heights of Mt Washburn, I looked up and saw a fine dusting of snow. Last night it froze at 7,000 feet. It might freeze in Mammoth tonight! Welcome, fall.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Elk Alert!

The elk were everywhere in Mammoth today! There were about 60 of them - a combination of cows, calves, and spikes. Holy elk! Just imagine in 2 weeks when the big old bulls roll into town! Jeebes! It's going to be nuts around here. I can't wait for the bugling though. That's always a good time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nancy!

I had a really nice birthday dinner party last night! Leigh Anne made yellow fin tuna, cole slaw, and fruit salad, Shari brought a green salad, Heidi brought a cake covered in rose petals, Chris brought limeaide, and Matt brought himself! Yummy food and good company! It was lots of fun to visit and enjoy a pleasant birthday party! I even got a pretty sweet Smokey Bear happy birthday hat! Whoop!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Still Hot

We could really use a thunderstorm here. It's freaking hot. And people still want to go soak in Boiling River. They're nuts. Everyone is a bit dazed, confused, and cranky (meaning the visitors, although some of the rangers are those adjectives as well. I'm mostly dazed and hot.) Maybe I'll go swimming in the Yellowstone.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Owlets Have Fledged!

Like sentinals, the great grey owl parents monitored the progress of their owlets. The owlets lived near the visitor center. They quickly grew and before we knew it reached independence and fledged! They are off in the great wild expanses exploring the world around them! Best of luck owlets!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wildlife Watching

I audited a wildlife watching tour this morning. We left Mammoth at 6 am and drove out to Lamar Valley. What a tour! We saw beautiful sandhill cranes and many mammals, including two grizzly bears, one black bear, seven mountain goats, two coyotes, and lots of bison. One of the grizzlies forded the Lamar River as we watched. The coyotes took chunks out of a carcass and then played with each other. They ran and leaped all over the place! The mountain goats were perched high on a cliff side - three babies! Wow! What fun!

Monday, July 13, 2009

National Anthem

At the end of the Fort Walk, as we lowered the flag and folded it, one of the people on my tour started belting the National Anthem. It was quite patriotic.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


It was the first truly hot day today - over 80 degrees. Oh boy! It's a good day for limeaide and tonic. Yesterday we had a good hike up Sepulcher Mountain. It's a 3600 ft elevation gain from Mammoth to the Summit. Great views of the Tetons, Mt. Sheridan, Mt. Washburn, and the Absaroka mountains.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coyote and Big Horns

A coyote trotted along the stone wall by Roosevelt Arch, then hopped behind it into the park. It move quickly and quietly before disappearing. Big Horn sheep perched on the Gardner Canyon walls. It's amazing how steep of slopes they can climb. The mama and its baby acted casually as they hung out on the steep face.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Flowers Blooming

Lots of flowers are blooming in Mammoth. The spring flowers are dying and summer flowers taking over. Bitterroot, that beautiful plant, is blooming. Lupine, heartleafed arnica, and prickly pear are all blooming too. Pretty!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Graduation Day!

Tomorrow is the big day! I will officially complete my M.S. degree and cruise across the UI graduation stage! Yay! This week has been full of packing, cleaning, and.... oddly enough... relaxing! I've had little school stuff to do, so I've been able to enjoy life in Moscow. What joy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Master of Science

I passed my thesis defense and am now a Master of Science of Conservation Social Sciences with an emphasis in environmental communication. Graduation is in three weeks!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Several days of sun have just the right power to cheer everyone up. This weekend we had two beautiful days of warm, sunny weather. It was perfect for taking Ms. Muffet out on a walk, checking out the crocuses in bloom, and enjoying a refreshing beverage outside. I can't wait for summer (and graduation!!) when I'll be able to hang out in beautiful Yellowstone and enjoy the fine weather.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Snow and Crocuses

The crocuses have been coming up and the snow has been falling down. I guess our new mantra should be "April snow showers hopefully bring May flowers." I've mostly been chanting,"This is good for the water table, water table, water table!"

Monday, March 23, 2009


Well, I have turned in a complete draft of the thesis. It's edits from here on out. Only one more month to go until the defense date and seven weeks until Yellowstone!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The End of the K Bar As We Know It

Thursday was a momentous day, a day for mourning, a day for hope. It was the last day the K Bar, in Gardiner, Montana, was open in the state it has been in for at least 20 years. All places need a face lift at some point, but the K Bar was such a classic Gardiner pizza parlor/bar that it is sad to think of it changing.

Its rustic, western decor of beer sign mirrors, low lighting, loud jukebox, and prominent pool table, bar, and pizza oven are going (or getting hidden). The K Bar is becoming tourist friendly, apparently. Does that mean no more river rats and interp rangers allowed to buy pitchers and pizza? I hope not. Does it mean brighter lighting, cleaner bathrooms, and lower jukebox music? Maybe. The cleaner bathroom would be nice. Does it mean the same rustic, comforting feel as the original bar? Probably not.

Supposedly there will still be pizza, and other "tourist friendly" food. Hopefully there will still be Alaskan on tap, pool to play, locals to talk to, and quarters to put in the jukebox. I've been waiting all winter to play "Chattahoochee" on the K Bar jukebox, darn it!

But, all this is speculation. Matthew worked on closing night when the lights went dim in the K Bar. Until the return to Yellowstone in May, we'll have to rely on his updates about the end of the K Bar as we know it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Binoculars and a 10X Zoom

This year we really got hooked up with the Jazz Fest. Kami gave us tickets to Latin Grooves on Wednesday, and Erik gave us 6th row tickets to the Big Band night on Saturday! Both shows were amazing and full of energy. It was great to have close seats and watch the musicians. They were so stoked to jam with each other and play awesome jazz!

Other people also liked watching the artists, namely Mr. Binoculars and Mr. 10x Zoom.

On Wednesday night, a "big band" Latin band played some pretty pumping salsa music. And, as a special treat for the audience (the theme was "everybody dance" for the Jazz Fest...), the band brought along two dancers to show us how to move it, move it, to the Latin Grooves. Out walked the dancers in full spangled glory! The male dancer was fully dressed in a gold shirt and beige pants. But the woman, oh my, she was dressed in tight, tight, gold hot pants and a gold spangled halter top with no back. She had gold leggings on and gold heels. WOW! As soon as those two got on stage and started shaking their booties, the crowd went wild.

Just in front of us sat an older couple. The woman looked very refined and professional. The man looked pretty refined and had a big, grey beard. But he had some powerful binoculars with him (even though we were in row 17 or something. As soon as that female dancer started shaking her gold spangled body, he slowly raised the binoculars up to his eyes. It was like slow motion but like he was thinking, "Oh my goodness, hot young babe shaking her booty, I gotta check this out!" And his wife just went on watching....

On Saturday night, Gretchen Parlato, an amazing, beautiful, etherial vocalist sang. She was really beautiful, dressed in an elegant, playful black dress and pumps - a look straight out of New York City. Well, she started singing, and Brian poked me in the side saying, "This guy doesn't have binoculars, but he has a 10x zoom on his camera!" And sure enough, another older couple sitting in front of us (row 6 this time) were watching the concert. The man was very excited about capturing shots of the whole show, but whenever Gretchen Parlato was on stage, that 10x zoom shot up in front of his eyes and he was snapping away.

I think Mr. Binocular and Mr. 10x Zoom really enjoyed Jazz Fest this year.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Oh, what a wonderful place Moscow is! This week is the week of jazz in Moscow with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest - 4 days of big name jazz artists, high school students coming to toot their horns, and college students learning to kick back and improvise. There's always a thrill of excitement in Moscow during jazz fest. People walking around, filling the coffee shops, music floating out of everywhere! What joy! It brings a little culture to town in both musical melodies and artistic displays.

Brian is a "downtown rat," which doesn't mean he's a rat, but means he's always downtown, working at the bike shop. So, he knows all the events happening downtown. This week, in celebration of the Jazz Fest, there was an art opening at the "Above the Rim" Gallery, which is in Paradise Creek Bicycles where Brian works. And when there is an opening at the Gallery, there is an opening at the Prichard Art Gallery across the street!

So, we had an impromptu date! We went to the Prichard to check out their new display and eat their yummy hors d'oeurves. And, wow! What a display! There were two featured artists, but I immediately fell in love with Lanny Bergner's art. He makes scuptures from wire and fills them with balls, wire, colors, shapes.... I walked and felt surrounded by the physical transformation of energy incaptured in his artwork! Little balls of light and energy everywhere. It made me so HAPPY to be in that environment. Wow kazow! A jazz band played in the background and beautiful people were everywhere hobnobbing and enjoying the art. And of course, the food was
amazing! I was blown away by the bacon wrapped scallops - a delicious combo of salty-squishy deliciousness! And pineapple! And sushi! And beef kebobs! And coffee! YUM!

After we had our fill of art and food, we went back to the Above the Rim Gallery to check out their display of local women artists' work of the Palouse. Beautiful home! But the real treat was that Kami gave us two free tickets to the Jazz Fest concert that evening, Latin Rhythms meet Dizzy Gillespie. So, we went home, got spiffed up, and went to the Kibbie to enjoy some Latin Jazz. What a show! It was so fun! Jackie Ryan sang amazingly beautiful versions of songs like Red Top and Besame Mucho. So gorgeous was her voice that chills went down my spine. An All Star Trumpet Group jammed to Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton tunes. They had amazing solos where each blended into the other perfectly. A quartet, including Benny Green, jammed out to latin jazz beats. And finally, Jose Rizo's "Jazz on the Latin Side All Star Band" played great Latin Jazz fusion. We got to salsa! Oh, what fun and joy to live in a little community with so much culture! Thank you, Moscow!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Sink Erator Part II

Well, the following morning the "In Sink Erator" still had the stomach bug. When Brian tried to wash the dishes the sink backed up. He proceeded to plunge it to no avail.... So, we called Mr. Fixit the Maintenance Man. And low and behold! The "In Sink Erator" is feeling oh so much better now that Mr. Fixit fixed it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If Only....

Imagine if this had been assigned reading way back during the Big 3, Fall Semester 2006:

"We...urge researchers to carefully estimate the time, expense, and complexity involved in using coded interviews before making a commitment to this research method. Because of the tremendous investment required, we advocate exploring other options before undertaking an interview study" (Bartholomew, Henderson, & Marcia, 2000).

Bartholomew, K., Henderson, A. J. Z., & Marcia, J. E. (2000). Coded semi-structured interviews in social psychological research. In H. T. Reis & C. M. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 286-312). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Sink Erator Spit Up

Our apartment came equipped with an "In Sink Erator" that grinds up and distributes food particles into the gray water system in the drains. I always imagine that little bits of potato peels and egg shells go whizzing away to Moscow's waste water treatment plant where some minion has the depressing job of sieving the minuscule particles out of the water. A noble job for imagine the commotion if someone turned on their tap and out came "In Sink Erator" scuzz! Ugh.

Well, today, I was thinking about the minion while doing the dishes and little particles of onion, garlic, and carrot were floating around in the dish water. When I was finished, I pulled the plug and watched the gray-particle-food-sudsy water sink down the drain. Except that, unlike normal when the drain just sucks down the dirty water, this time the water just kind of acted like a swamp and sat there. I could picture the breeding ground for mosquitos in the sludgey water.

Sometimes, when the "In Sink Erator" is full, it needs to be "burbed" so the water will properly go down the drain. Thinking this was the problem and cause of the sludge-water swamp, I casually turned on the faucet and fliped the "In Sink Erator" switch. Oh my goodness! The "In Sink Erator" didn't just need to be burbed! It positively had the FLU! Grey Water came voming out of the drain, swooshing up onto the clean dishes and spewed all over me! Yuck! I turned off the switch before the device could continue up-chucking. But, the swamp water still remained! What to do!?

Well, I did what all brave men and women must do at some point in their lives. I flipped the switch and awaited the purge. Again, the grey water swilled out of the drain, swished around the sink, and spit up spectacularly on the counter! I turned off the switch and watched as the water slowly circled round the drain. It was a half-inch less this time! So, I did it again. And out came the gray water throwing up its "In Sink Erator" contents all over the sink. Little bits of carrot, onion, and potato floated around in the In Sink Erator spit up.

But, there was some success. The water was slowly sinking down the drain and out of sight. Had the "In Sink Erator" finally de-bugged? I decided to leave it at that and hope (and pray!) that all the peels, shells, and vegetable gunk had successfully decided to float down the tunnel and off to the land of the gray water treatment plant. But, the real test will come tomorrow. Will there be another episode? Will the "In Sink Erator" be feeling like its normal garbage gut self? Will the flu persist? I sincerely hope so. And I will be there watching its every burping move.

Friday, February 13, 2009

End Note

I have the best research assistant (RA) position ever. Troy, my major professor, is a voracious reader. She reads at the gym, at home, at work. She reads, reads, reads. And she doesn't just read novels or cooking books, no, she reads scholarly journal articles. Her office is full of stacks of these articles.

Well, this fall, she gave me the best RA ever: End Note. End Note is an amazing piece of bibliographic software that allows you to enter in references, notes, full-text documents, key words, etc, for whatever you need to reference. Then, you open word, start typing away, and insert citations when needed. End Note inserts the citation and automatically creates a bibliography. Wow kazow! All the stress caused by citation anxiety when writing a paper instantly disappear! It's simple, easy, and you only ever have to enter the reference once. From then on it's hit and away you go! I loooooove End Note, which brings me back to the best RA ever.

Troy gives me stacks of articles she has labeled with key words (ways to look up an article) penciled on the top. I then take the articles and open up her master End Note library and the library I enter new citations into. Her master library has 12,060 references in it! I double check the master library to make sure articles haven't already been cited. If they have, I put them in the finished pile. If they haven't, I open up a new entry in the Troy library and enter in the new citation. End Note automatically formats it into APA. It's easy peesy and kind of fun!

The best parts about this RA are the following. The first is I get a glimpse at the amazing citations Troy has found, which often give me ideas of articles to read for my own research. But the best part about entering End Note is multi-tasking! I open up iTunes, direct it to "My Daily Phrase: Italian" podcast and plug in to listen Mark explain Italian in his Scottish accent! In Italian, I can now count to 100, ask what time breakfast will be served, and say, "I'm sorry, I only speak a little Italian. Could you speak more slowly?" Amazing! And all the time I am entering in scholarly articles with names like "Reframing ecotage as ecoterrorism: News and the discorse of fear" (Wagner, 2008) or "Evaluating theories of health behavior change: A hierarchy of criteria applied to the transtheoretical model" (Prochaska, Wright, & Velicer, 2008).

And with that, it is time for me to take myself to the world where scholarly documents and Italian intermingle. It's End Note RA time. E tutto per oggi. That's all for today!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Honky Tonk

This last summer, Leigh Anne asked me a perplexing question. The interp crew was gathered in the K Bar on the eve of my departure from the West to the Pacific Northwest. I was dancing in my seat to Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee" playing on the jukebox. The mountain air was steadily cooling outside but the K Bar stayed hot with the pizzas cranking out of the oven. We stayed cool by drinking pitchers of Alaskan Amber as we bit into spicy slices of the K-Bar Combo. And then the question came. Leigh Anne, while watching me shake it to "It's 5:00 Somewhere," asked, "Nancy, are you a honky tonk gal?"

I stopped mid song and glanced at her sheepishly. She looked at me and said, "Yup, you are a honky tonk gal." And that got me thinking.

There is nothing I love more than the cool air playing off Montana's mountains, the smell of sagebrush after it rains, crooning out the Dixie Chick's "Wide Open Spaces" as I drive through Big Sky Country, and watching cowboys rope and ride at the rodeo (or out in the open). I dream at night of owning a homestead by the Yellowstone River and dream during the day of returning to the frontier and watching the great bison herds on the Great Plains. And nothing fits the western places I love better than the music of the slide guitar, banjo, fiddle, and guitar (geeetar) playing some lonesome call of the wild.

My musical callings have long been oriented towards western songs and Americana. The first music I liked was country. The first tunes I learned on the piano (pianee?) were from early America. As I sit writing this, Dwight Yoakam, Yonder Mountain String Band, Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks, Sam Bush, Alan Jackson, Allison Kraus and, yes, Garth Brooks croon their place-based rythms into my ears. The best concerts I have seen were of Yonder Mountain and Willie Nelson. There's just nothing like singing along to Willie and girating to Yonder Mountain.

Ah, just thinking of honky tonk makes me long for the west! The diesel trucks with gun racks and menacing dogs in the back! The wide open plains that end spectacularly in a ragged range of mountains! The wilderness, frontier, the sublime beauty! The elk, bison, and bears! The way western, country, and bluegrass fit the physical and emotional senses of the place. Oh to be in wide open spaces! As Bilbo Baggins would say, "I want to see mountains, Gandalf, mountains!"

So, perhaps, honky tonk is the epitomy of my sense of place search. It has the power to connect me to place and helps to set my spirit free. Willie Nelson got it right when he said (covered), "give me land lots of land and the starry sky above. Don't fence me in!"

Moscow, you ain't got enough honky tonk for the both of us in this town. I'm heading west! It's time to head east to head west (aka Wyoming and Montana) into the heart of the honky tonk! There my senses awaken to place and my heart fills with the beautiful might of the western landscape. That is where the scent of sagebrush overwhelms my nose when the thunder rolls.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Demise of Number 6

My cell phone beeped, announcing a text message from Matthew. Expecting some continuation to the "anal RV" game, I opened the message and to my dismay read the following words, "Number 6 died on Sunday in town. Wah wah."

"WHAT!" I exclaimed and felt the air whoosh out of my lungs. How could Number 6, the valiant gorer of cars, chaser of humans, leader of the elk herd, be dead?! Dead!

Immediately, I called Matthew for the report on our Mammoth staple's death. He informed me that the ungulate biologist received a report and went out to identify the body. The red number 6 tag hung in the ear of the massive elk. It was affirmative. Number 6 had passed on to Elk Heaven.

No wounds lay on his huge form. His antlers sprawled across the snowy ground. His eyes glazed and gazing at the distant tunnel. I hope he died with dignity, fondly remembering the multitude of cars he had stabbed, tourists he had chased, and elk cows he had impregnated with little Number 6's. A good life's work.

Some people, I suppose, will blame the wolves for chasing, terrorizing, and scaring Number 6 to death. I think it must have simply been the final winter of his long and productive life. As he dreamed of his harem, he must have laid down his great, heavy head in the snowy plain, breathed a deep sigh of relief, and fallen into a wintery sleep.

I sincerely hope next year a Number 6 the Second will rise to the challenge Number 6 left us with. May he chill and thrill us with a high, long, romantic elk bugle. May this future bull amaze us with an enormous rack. May he keep his harem safe from harm. Most of all, may he become the future star that damages cars and chases people behind trees. May he ignite respect for the wild in the apathetic mind. May he thrill and excite us with his grace, power, and bravado.

To you, Number 6, I raise a toast, a cheer, and a thanks for your amazing life.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


"It is better to be wrong than simply to follow convention. If you are wrong, no matter, you have learned something and you grow stronger. If you are right, you have taken another step toward a fulfilling life.'"
-Bryce Courtenay, the Power of One

"Memories do indeed become sweet with the perspective of discovering that they were more significant to your prior experiences than you imagined at the time they passed before your eyes."
-Tim Sommer

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go.... This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future."
- Terry Tempest Williams, Testimony

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
-Aldo Leopold

"Big thoughts are born in big country. If we want to preserve the human imagination, we must preserve the wildlands that inspire us...."
-Terry Tempest Williams

"The power of one is above all the power to believe in yourself, often beyond any ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, etc. First with the head, then with the heart, more than mixing brains with guts, it means thinking beyond the powers of normal concentration and daring your courage to follow your thoughts."
-Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It's supposed to be a balmy 50 degrees today! It's sunny outside and the sun is coming up earlier and staying up later. Spring is on the way!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wish Come True

Well, my wish for snow or sunshine came true. We had both! Snow over the weekend, and yesterday a brilliant sunny day! Hip hip hooray! More snow is on the way today. It's chilly so a nice veggie lasagna will hit the spot tonight.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Freezing Fog

Moscow's weather always seems to be in flux. In a single winter day we can have sun, rain, sleet, snow, hail, fog, and sun again. It makes it hard to figure out what protective outerwear to tote around on a daily basis (should I bring the puffy, the hardshell, the softshell, the rain coat, or the fancy coat plus umbrella?).

But, one of the most predictable aspects of Moscow weather in the wintertime is an absence of sun. This is a result of two things normally. One, Moscow is located in a very northern latitude so the sun rises late and sets early (like we have sun from 8 am to 4 pm on the darkest days of the year). Two, the mountain affect just seems to make weather bog down here on the Palouse.

So, for the last week, we've had "freezing fog." The fog has just been stuck right on top of Moscow and it hasn't lifted for a week (give or take the occasional 30 minutes of sun). On top of just fog, it's been extremely damp fog that freezes onto the trees in unique crystalline patterns. It makes for beautiful decorations on the trees, grasses, and buildings.

But, the freezing fog is also down right cold! Not near the cold the Midwest has been having, but bone-chilling cold. The kind that sinks right through your coat, sweater, skin, and begins to make you shake in that bone-rattling way that only the damp, the fog, and the lack of sun can cause. I've been colder this week with temperatures ranging around freezing than I was in December when our highs were around zero degrees.

We've been making the most of it, though, by trying to go on little bike rides around Moscow. We managed to go on a surprisingly sunny Sunday morning. At first, our ride seemed pretty successful. We got out on the path and cycled around. But, after about 10 minutes out and maybe a half mile down, our toes, fingers, and ears started freezing. We made it a mile and a half before turning into a nearby coffee shop to thaw out with a cuppa.

Even though the frozen fog is pretty, I can tell my tolerance for it is shot. SEND ME SOME VITAMIN D, SUNSHINE, HAPPINESS, COME ON!! Maybe my plea will help. Then again, even a snow storm would be a nice change from the gloomy fog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Inauguration

The Kenworthy Theater proudly displayed their latest showing: The Obama Inauguration, Tuesday, 8 AM, FREE. At 8:00 their theater lights flashed on, blinking in excitement and hope as scores of people filed into the theater and took their seats.

It was soon standing room only as people reverently watched the pre-inauguration festivities coming in live from Washington. At 9:00 all listened intently as Aretha Franklin sang. My body went up in shivers and tears of joy filled my eyes. A new dawn for our nation. After Biden was sworn in, we all cheered. Then, the beautiful music honoring simplicity and enunciating hope created a calming, joyous entrance for the swearing in of our 44th president.

In Moscow, Idaho, when the announcer asked everyone in D.C. to please stand for our new president, we rose as one and honored President Obama. Tears streamed down my eyes as I watched Obama get sworn into office. We cheered and clapped in joyful abandon, thundering our praise all the way to Washington.

Obama's speech filled me with hope, justice, balance, and inspiration. I have never been more proud of our nation, never felt as groundedly American in my life. This was a moment where I felt connected to our nation as we stood in face of difficulties and spread the words love, hope, bravery, justice, peace from sea to shining sea and around the world. What elation! What spirit! What hope in ourselves to see a better day and brighter future!

We stood in unison and sang the national anthem. All of us in Moscow echoing the sounds coming from Moscow. We stand with you! I covered my heart and sang our anthem, feeling my blessings, prayers, love, and hope spread from me around the room, and all the way to Washington D.C.

My love and hope has never been greater for our great nation and I pray that we may stand strong with love, bravery, and joy in our hearts to meet the new era.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Operation: Rattle

During the Light Up the Night Parade in December, Esther and Jon wandered into the Gem State Crystals store on Main Street. They walked out 15 minutes later exclaiming that a rattle snake lived in the gem store and it was, in fact, the store's guardian. Thus, Operation: Rattle began.

The plan was for Matthew or I to casually walk into the bike store, saunter up to Brian, and whisper "Operation: Rattle" into his ear. That was the signal to head out onto Main Street and into Gem State Crystals on a mission to spot the rattler.

As part of the not-quite-related-Operation: Moscow Brian and I wandered into Gem State Crystals the following week to check out the snake. A world of crystals opened to us as a tinkling bell signaled our arrival. Soft moss-green carpet covered the floor, decorative baskets and artwork covered the walls. Around the periphery of the room, cases with gems of all sizes, shapes, and colors beckoned us to examine their intricacies. But our mission was clear: find the snake. The gems, however, distracted us.

There were gems from Africa, Mexico, the USA, Australia, the world over. There were blues, greens, pearls, diamonds, purples, oranges, stalactites, crystals, rocks of every size, shape, and texture imaginable. A column of amethysts. Crystal book ends. Delicately carved stone roses. It was a sensory overload.

And finally, there was the Idaho Gem Case.

The Idaho Gem Case, named for Idaho's distinction of being the Gem State in the Union, was an ordinary wooden case filled with local gems. But that ordinary case became extraordinary as we gazed further into its depths and realized the "sculpture" of a rattle snake was in fact the rattle snake we had come to see!

Its flat triangular head was covered in thick diamond scales that ran down its length and ended in a massive rattle. I resisted the urge to tap the case and instead determinately stared into its beady eyes. It was pretty indifferent - bored, in fact. And in a semi-state of hibernation, it could care less about the mayhem outside its Idaho case. Never the less, it was the closest I have ever been to a rattle snake.

The Gem Store had a list of rattle facts above the case, where we learned that the rattle does not act as a way to age the snake, that rattle snakes can shed several times a year, and that this snake was about 20. Hm.

The shop owners asked if we had any questions, and so here it began.... I asked the snake's name and learned it was Buddy. Buddy, apparently, likes to eat mice that the owners get from the pet shop. And, on Saturday mornings from April until October, you can go watch them feed Buddy. There's nothing like a trip to the Farmer's Market culminating in hanging out with kids at the "Buddy the Snake Feed" activity! I know where I'll be this April.

Buddy was found as a wee tiny snake outside the gem store 20 years ago after the homecoming parade. The owners think he fell out of a hay bale from one of the floats. They suspect this origin because several more baby rattle snakes were found squished outside the Kibbie Dome where the parade concludes. They decided to save this little snake and he's been with them since.

Since Operation: Rattle 1, we have conducted this mission several times of the last few months. Each time, we gain new information about the snake, and gems. It's become a regular tourist attraction because what's better than looking at crystals and staring a rattle snake in the eyes?!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to Business

It's back to school here in Idaho. I had a great few weeks off, enjoyed time with family in New Jersey, went snow shoeing with friends in Moscow, and was amazed at all the snow we received in Moscow!

It's almost all melted now and the sun has been shining for the last few days. The beautiful weather has made it all the harder to return to the dark basement and analyze statistics. But, soon statistics will be passed and then I'll just focus on interview analysis! Oh boy!