Friday, March 20, 2009

The Arctic Springs Back!

As I suspected it might, the first day of Spring turned out to be a sunny, blue-sky day and the village was literally bustling with activity.  Snow machines and four wheelers zipped and darted all around, their riders obviously unbothered by a windchill in the negative forties.

And snow removal, which happens year-round to some extent, gets a huge boost this time of year.  Hauling tons and tons of snow from point A to point B is a fairly big job that requires fairly big machinery.

Two slightly out-of-focus ravens supervised today's progress from a distance...

...while two little guys busied themselves with big machinery of their own.

Yep, it's finally Spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cold-Hard-Fact # 3

Anything that can freeze, will freeze...regardless of sunlight.

Could that be Murphy's Law of the Arctic?  

If it's not, I think it should be.

The sun has returned with amazing swiftness and magnitude.  In spite of quite a few blizzardy days, we have seen more blue sky in the last week or so than we've seen since fall.  There is every reason to believe that tomorrow's Vernal Equinox will arrive as a white, eye-squinting splash across the snow-covered tundra, though warmth probably won't be a part of the equation.

In spite of increasing sunlight, temperatures have remained in the negative twenties to forties for, well, weeks and weeks.  And that has presented some problems in the housing department.  It comes as no great surprise to anyone, I'm sure, that plumbing and prolonged cold just don't mix well.

Last night, unfortunately, the system froze up again.  Ugh!

This is the second winter that this particular section of pipe has frozen and last night, for the second time this winter, we were faced with it again.  Needless to say, this pipe is developing a rather nasty reputation.  After all, having your own sewer back up into your house is bad enough, but having other people's sewer overflow your toilet and gurgle up into your bathtub?

That kicks the disgust factor up a notch!  Don't you think?

Now, these pipes are not regular, run-of-the-mill sewer pipes.  They are a part of a specialized system that works on a vacuum controlled by a station centrally located in the village.  The pipes are completely encased in about six inches of heavy foam insulation and have electrical heat traces running through them to prevent ice from forming.  They're designed for the challenging conditions of this region and most of the time they work very well (insert Tim-the-Toolman's grunt of approval here).

(These are the components of the vacuum system that can be seen from outside our building.  The monitor indicates whether or not the heat trace is working properly, etc.)

It's something of a mystery that this particular section of pipe continues to freeze and it's a mystery that will not be solved until summer when the snow is gone, allowing maintenance workers to gain access beneath the building.   

Until then, we try to prevent ice from building up by using hot water and not sparingly so.  Hot water is used for washing all clothes and we are encouraged to wash often to keep a flow of warmth in the system.  I even use hot water when brushing my teeth which probably doesn't make much difference, but I'm not taking any chances!  

Thankfully, we have a great maintenance crew that knows how to handle this recurring problem.  Yes, the coffee creamer can is standard equipment 
(I asked).

They work in collaboration with maintenance guys from the city and use a nifty little machine that snakes down the pipes and shoots hot water into the plugged area, clearing the ice.  

Let me tell you, after breathing the aroma of sewer for a day or two... 

...maintenance guys are my heroes!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sorta Outta Sorts

Captain's Log:  Stardate 31620.09

Even when the ship is running smoothly, the magnitude of busyness in everyday life can feel like an all-encompassing mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before" (and might not want to).

I do try to be bold.

But sometimes I hear Scotty's voice frantically pleading from the engine room of my life, "She's breaking up, Captain!  I don't think I can hold her together much longer!"  

Good 'ole Scotty, ever the optimist.

Being out of town for five days, two weeks of battling the flu, and a seemingly endless barrage of school activities with accompanying demands has sent my ship into a tailspin and drained all energy resources.  It's like being held hostage in the continuous loop of a transporter malfunction.  Not completely here, not completely there, everything sketchy and vague.  

That's the power of over-the-counter drugs.

Thankfully, the tailspin is winding down.  I hear Scotty chuckling proudly from the engine room that he's creatively renewed energy reserves and the ship appears to be zipping boldly through uncharted territory once again.  I could probably even take on a Klingon or two.

That's the power of sleep.

So, after too many weeks away, (I think) I'm back on track.  I want to thank everyone who has continued to check in and say hello in spite of my severe neglect of this space.

And for those who may be wondering...

I can't really account for the Star Trek theme except that during my five days at the ASTE conference my mind was basically bombarded with a plethora of technological ideas and vocabulary that felt more Trekkie than Techie, at times.  

I guess it just seemed to fit.