Sunday, November 21, 2010

There Goes the Sun

The sun set for the last time this year on Nov. 18, 2010. Now most of you probably think that means it's totally dark at this point. Actually, it's not...yet. This morning there was a patch of blue sky with a reflection of what looked quite like sunshine, we just don't see the sun over the horizon. In any case, I came up with a little entertainment for you in honor of this momentous occasion. The sun will rise again on or about Jan. 23, 2011. If you get this via email, the YouTube link is:


Sunday, November 14, 2010

A very, very, very, fine house

Husband and I are two of the nearly 4,000 people who live in Barrow. It's the largest village on the North Slope. Of the 7 other villages, I've spent some time in three of them. Recently, I went to Pt. Hope where the population is about 760. It's the second largest village on the Slope (just to give you some perspective). Though the purpose of the trip was to provide training for two days, we had some time to explore the village, particularly the old village. 
It never ceases to boggle my mind...that folks lived in this climate long before central heating and electricity was the norm. Some folks continued to live the traditional way even when these amenities were available. In the old village in Pt. Hope, you can see examples of some of the sod houses pretty much intact, which is unusual in Barrow. The wood-like frame pieces you see in these pictures are actually whalebones. I'm told a person occupied this house as recently as the 1970s. 
At the Winter Entrance

(From These houses had two entrances—one for the summer months and one for the winter months —and a window cover of whale or walrus stomach membrane, generally at the center of the roof. The summer entrance led directly into the house and was covered with sod during the winter. The winter entrance was an underground tunnel that acted as a cold trap—people coming into the house first went down three or four steps into the tunnel (or passageway) and then back up into the house. Sod houses were quite adequate to withstand the cold, harsh climate of western Alaska, but they had no heating system—so people kept warm inside by wearing adequate clothing.  
During the warmer months, water sometimes seeped up from the ground and collected inside the house. The people would say, "The water has blown up," and would dig a hole at the corner of the house so the water could collect there. As long as the houses were occupied, the water would dry up. But if no one was living in the house for a while, a lot of moisture and mildew would develop.
A lot of frost would develop on the ceiling of the house in the winter, as a result of people’s breathing. When the frost build-up became very thick, it was scraped off. In the coldest months of the year, ice bulbs formed on the floor and frost on the ceiling. 

Now let your imagination run wild as you think about living in these structures at -40 F for much of the winter!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Movies Part Deux

Since Husband isn't employed full time, he got to be an extra for the four days the crew was here. It's really a lot of sit around and wait in the movie biz. We did all have a rather eventful day on Saturday, though, when the whole family, Raven, McKinley, me and Husband got to be in the shots together.
Another windy day and cold. Our shot (along with 40+ others) was to walk the street. We were citizens with tools, on our way to save the whale (the movie is about saving a whale). We did this shot numerous times.
We did it with the camera this way several times, then that way several times. Toward the ice, away from the ice. Turn the corner, go straight. Stop, don't stop. Try it with sled dogs, now. You get the picture.
We did get a few breaks here and there, but we didn't get lunch until 3:30 p.m. that day. The only dog team in Barrow was there. While they were out, our dogs had to be inside or in the car. It seems the dog team as a pack is likely to kill a single dog by herself, so we elected to put the girls in the car. Seriously, how did those bad boys get cast, anyway? They also turned out of camera sight twice during the filming. Certainly not the stellar performance exhibited by one Border Collie the other day.

Next day, Husband was out again with the crew.
This time they were shooting right across the street from our house. That's our house on the left, and they shot
Husband walking down the hill to the beach from this house on the right. So both McKinley and Husband are likely to be in the movie with solo shot scenes. And to think all this stardom possible because we moved to Barrow! Go figure!

A Star is Born

Yes, I locked the keys in the car today while the engine was running. Locked my purse, cell phone, and gloves in there too. Started the car, then went to unplug it from the building. Bad move. Should never start the car and walk away, lest the mischievous wind close the door on you! Good news...I was at home. You would think we'd all have remote start so this wouldn't happen. Oh wait, we do. It must be a great feature when it works! We have this great online system with the company that you just report what isn't working and they (in theory) get the message and respond. Notice, I wrote "in theory".  I believe the key to this system is for the department to actually respond to it.

Just this time last week, big events were brewing. The movies came to Barrow! I know what you're thinking, whyever would they come to Barrow in late October when the wind is gusting 35 MPH and the temp is 7 degrees F.
But, come they did. I was particularly excited because
we had an opportunity to get the dogs in the movie. In fact, one of the dogs got a solo shot! First we thought it would be Raven because of the two, we thought she'd do best at the task, which was to sit on the hood of a car. Who thinks up this stuff? Really, think about it...when was the last time you saw a dog sitting on the hood of a car? Especially in a climate where it's below zero 5 months out of the year. Nonetheless, that was the task. Basically, it went like this, "Central casting called, they need a Border Collie." Enter McKinley, because she is the quintessential Border Collie.

It was a particularly blustery day, so when you look at these pictures and you think it looks cold, you are right! What a natural she was. The director gave her the direction, "look forlorn." Okay, that wasn't so hard to accomplish. How do you think the dog's going to look when she's sitting on a pile of snow on the hood of a pickup truck?
We got her shot in 6 takes. The first two takes, the truck went by too fast. The third take, McKinley "improvised" and raised her paw as she sat there. Cute, but not what the director wanted. I did think it was kinda funny when the director asked me if she could do the shot without raising her paw. Heck, she could do it standing on three legs, probably, if that's what she wanted to do. In the end, she did the shot like a pro. I gotta tell you, I was unbelievably proud of her. She never, not once, even thought about jumping off of that truck or breaking "character." I seriously did not have a thing to do with it. So, she'll get her 10 seconds of fame if she doesn't wind up on the cutting room floor.