Airplane Hacks, or “Come Fly With Me”

I don’t fly as much as some people, or even as much as I’d like for myself.  But I have crossed both the oceans a couple of times, and I’ve learned enough to increase my comfort level.


1.) Amenities.  Good amenities make air travel seem luxurious, instead of like a chore.  I have an AmEx Platinum and the AmEx Priority Lounge Pass.  This is key.  Get one, or suck it up and pay to access lounges.  I get all the free snacks and coffees I desire (or booze, depending on my goals), and sometimes showers.  And sometimes spas.  In the U.S., I rely on USOs and military lounges heavily, but these aren’t options overseas.  Embrace the #loungelife.

2.) Audio.  I fly with two pairs of headphones: (1) my regular old Apple earbuds (the kind that come with an iPhone or iPod; and (2) my Bose QuietComfort 35.  Both are important for different reasons.

The Apple earbuds are for airlines that ban over-the-ear headphones.  This infuriates me, but I run into it more and more frequently.  I have no idea what regulation prevents them from being used on takeoff and landing, but it’s stupid (it’s probably safety-related, but I still don’t like it).

The Bose are my *favorite*.  They’re Bluetooth-enabled, but they have a cord in case you’re watching a non-Bluetooth device or trying to save battery.  They cancel crying babies while enhancing sound quality, and the battery lasts forever.  It’s basically like magic.  They also come with a jack adapter and their own hard case.  I sometimes wear them without turning them on because they make things quieter even without the ANC technology, and they prevent my neighbors from talking to me.

3.)  Entertainment.  I keep lots of options on hand since I don’t sleep well on planes; a 9-hour flight requires 9 hours of entertainment.  I do NOT understand people who board the plane with nothing and twiddle their thumbs the whole time.

I download podcasts.  I haven’t explored much, but I can recommend “What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law,” “The West Wing Weekly,” and “Wellfed Women.”  Each has lots of content already, so there’s significant backlog.

I always bring my iPod, but it’s old, and I’m terrible at putting new music on it.  It’s a Plan C or D, reserved for when I’m feeling a bit emo.

I travel with my iPad, and I use library apps to download a wide variety of books before I leave.  Like, between 4 and 6.  It’s hard to guess what kind of mood I’ll be in.  And they’re free!  And you can have 6 books for the weight of 1!

Make sure you check to see what, if any, apps the airline itself might have.  Lots of international flights provide free in-flight wifi, or at least a media player app.  For example, I downloaded United’s app on my iPad, and I could watch their whole array of TV shows and movies on my own device.

^Apparently I’m obsessed with Apple, Inc.  #buystock

4.) Wardrobe.  This is probably my most opinionated part.  I have the same traveling uniform almost every time (exception: I’ll dress fashionably for short hops in Europe).  I wear (1) compression tights, (2) my heaviest shoes/boots, (3) light base layer, (4) cashmere drape front cardigan, (5) huge Banana Republic blanket scarf, and (6) a jacket with zipper pockets.  Also: everything I wear is black.  I match.  It’s as chic as I’m going to feel after an oceanic flight + customs.

The top layer is either a North Face soft shell jacket, or a North Face puffy.  Having zippered pockets is VITAL  because I keep my phone(s), passport, and boarding pass on my person.  I don’t leave them in bags when I travel.  And I zip them, so I can’t lose them.  This isn’t rocket science, but it’s key.

Also, it may sound like I’m preparing for an arctic expedition with base layer + cashmere wrap + outer layer.  But I freeze on airplanes, you guys.  Freeze.  And it saves me space in the carry-ons I packed, since I almost never check bags.

5.)  Products.  Makeup remover wipes + serum/oil.  I use Kiehls’ Midnight Recovery Serum.  I keep lip balm, hand sanitizer, and body lotion my person for moisturizing.  Holy Grail: Emergency bottle of contact solution.  These are for in-flight use.

6.) Snacks.  This is tricky because I’m a keto person now, and lots of easy keto snacks aren’t welcome over certain borders.  Lots of countries don’t like meat / cheese / produce crossing boundaries.  One option is to eat everything you bring.  I do a lot of nuts, but realistically, that’s not very satisfying.  I try to scrounge snacks in lounges and pick out the lunch meat in the on-board meals.

7.) Hydration.  Bring your own water bottle (Camelback makes handy-dandy collapsible ones), refill, and drink constantly.  Just make sure it’s empty before security or you’ll end up chugging the contents in front of an agent trying to prove it’s not a harmful substance (maybe this happened to me in Frankfurt…).

8.)  The Neck Pillow.  I have an inflatable one.  I bought it at an airport store, paying three times its actual value.  Except not, because it’s amazing.  If there’s any chance at all of me sleeping on a plane, it’s because of this baby.  The inflatable nature is key, because I can easily squeeze it into my handbag.  Mine also has its own cover, so I can take it off and wash it because #airplanegerms.

Bonus Round – Helpful travel apps:

The State Dept’s travel website (register before you go),

Sit or Squat (find public restrooms anywhere),

Park-o-pedia (find parking and prices),

OpenTable (research restaurants and menus + make reservations),

HostelWorld (a wide range of accommodations),

Air BnB (even more accommodations), and

Google Maps (self-explanatory).





New Year’s Resolutions

**Edit from Jan 17, 2018 – I wrote this draft on December 29, 2011.  Just for fun, I’m publishing it now.

1.) Drink more water.


2.) Learn to run and enjoy the silence without my iPod.


3.) 3 miles in 21 minutes


4.) Pull-ups


5.) Swim a mile every morning (This is just wishful thinking – there will be plenty of mornings when I don’t have time for this . . . but I’d really love it)


6.) Take my vitamins


7.) Learn to be happy with progress

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, 2018

This is a post without photos.  This is a vomit post.  By way of justification, I find that I enjoy other bloggers’ daily flotsam and jetsam, which makes me feel comfortable following suit.

On my mind is EGO.  Mine, and how it gets in the way.  I get insulted when I don’t get the treatment I feel I deserve.  This is directly related to my (apparently) overinflated sense of self-importance.

For example, if someone asks me to do something I believe is beneath me, or not within the scope of my program/responsibilities, I get very offended.  And this irritation sticks with me and taints my day.

I wonder why?  Hardly anyone is deliberately malicious, so I expect that the real reason for a misdirected request or whatever must fall into one of the following categories: (1) they need help, and can’t figure out where to get it; (2) ignorance.  And when someone does something shitty, I should assume it’s 90% incomplete information or misunderstanding, and 10% that person being an asshole.  So, someone else’s genuine need or lack of understanding totally derail my day?  It’s nonsensical.

Also, I’m sure that EGO prevents me from putting my head down and grinding.  I don’t like doing tasks I feel are beneath me, even if they need to be done.

I don’t like that about myself.

I’m reading “Fighter Pilot,” by Robin Olds.  In it, he shares some advice he received at the end of WWII.  Gen Carl A. ‘Tooey’ Spaatz told him, “There are the ‘me-firsters,’ the ‘me-tooers,’ the ‘deadwood,’ and the ‘dedicated.’  Stick with them (the dedicated), search them out, and work hard to be worthy of their company.”

Robin Olds is deservedly lauded as a true hero and warrior, and it’s because he rolled up his sleeves and got shit done.  I’d like to be the same, despite the red tape, the bureaucracy, the nonsense, the ignorant, and the people who are truly bad at their jobs and fuck shit up on the regular.  Step one: get over yourself, get over others’ problems, and get to work.

And Then…

The last year (or two, if we’re being honest) have brought a lot of changes, and there haven’t been many opportunities for introspection.  But that seems like too much to tackle, and so today I write about “Flotsam and Jetsam,” running down Nostalgia Lane to revive an old Profanation series.

I’ve been saying that I need a hobby for awhile, and I think I’ve found one: I think I’m going to participate in Novel in November this year.  No topic, no theme, no characters in mind – but I crave a long slog and big project all for me.

I’ve been branching out on my reading, and I just finished “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern.  It was enchanting, and I immediately began re-reading it.  No spoilers, but the book jumps around in time every chapter.  I’m getting more out of my second read.  Am I the only one who does this?  I think more people should re-read books.  Or I should slow down when I read.  When I’m really engaged in a new book, I basically inhale the words through osmosis, rather than forming each word in my mind, or picturing the scenes, or trying to hear the dialogue in my mind.  Without having any way to prove my suspicions, I think I imagine everything at warp speed, too.

I have finally chosen my pre-workout mix of choice.  I don’t know if I even need it, but for some reason, it makes me look forward to my 0500 alarm.  So I’m keeping Cellular C4 (in either Strawberry Margarita or Pink Lemonade) in my line-up.

Also added to my morning line-up: Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Peptides and GNC’s CLAs.  The first because these law-school-induced stress lines are starting to get deeper as 30 looms closer and closer, the second because, duh, fat-burning.  I can’t say that my stress lines are being reduced, but my nails and hair are already substantial stronger.  I think my Kiehls obsession has more to do with my improved skin tone than the collagen, to be honest.

We (more on the plural later) spent last weekend in the Talladega National Forest.  We planned during my lunch hour on Friday, and we launched after a leisurely, nonscheduled Saturday morning.  It took us four hours to get there and two hours to get back (why are we so bad at navigating?), but we did get to drive through a lot of historic Alabama as well as the national forest.  Just one night outdoors, but we slept under the full moon without the rainfly on – talk about rejuvenating.  Sligo was the only thing missing.

Talladega Natl Forest.jpg^I bought a new Macbook Pro (!!) yesterday, and I even downloaded darktable…but I haven’t learned how to edit my photos yet.  More to come.




Waiting out Winter

Lately, I’ve been a little stir crazy here in the Interior. I’ve never wanted spring to come so badly before. I’ve got a serious case of heliophilia, and Sligo and I have been walking lots and lots trying to soak up the sunlight. 

^This sunset made my frozen heart so happy. 

But there are still fun things to do here before winter is over. For example, somebody let me run wild in a used bookstore having a 50% off sale. 

Greed doesn’t begin to cover it. The bag I brought for my haul broke, and they had to give me a box. 

It wasn’t as embarrassing as it sounds because I was surrounded by my own neurotic people. (All those books for $32!!!!) 

Look at all those new authors I’ve never heard of before! And think of all poems by Frost and plays by Yeats I should read. And that neat anathology of Fairbanks authors. 

Every time I move, I swear I’ll never procure more books. It’s always a lie. By the end of my 27th year, I’ve decided to acknowledge that I’m a reader. Some people run marathons, some people garden…I like to sit on my bum and ruin my eyesight for hours and hours. 

I also got a fantastic belated Christmas gift. 

We went Skijoring to celebrate the Iditarod. 

Check out Sligo’s snow beard. 

The Iditarod started yesterday in Anchorage.  But for the first time in awhile, the restart is in Fairbanks tomorrow. Apparently there wasn’t enough snow down south. 

The Iditarod, also known as the Last Great Race on Earth, is approximately 1,000 miles of trail between Anchorage and Nome, tracing the Bering Sea coast. Originally the route of a mail-supply trail, it tracks the path that antitoxin took to diphtheria-stricken Nome in 1925. Dogsled teams ran the valuable medicine to sick children because all other modes of transit were unavailable due to Arctic conditions. A team including a dog named Balto seems to be most memorable in popular culture, but that team didn’t actually run the longest leg of the route. Balto simply led the last leg of the race, but a dog named Togo actually ran the longest and most treacherous part of the trail. The race was first run in 1973. 

We had Baileys hot chocolate to finish our weekend. 

Call of the Wild

There’s something to be said about the places in the world where one can walk alone, pinned between the earth and the sky.


In those places, nothing hampers your view. No man-made objects exist to clutter your path from the snow at your feet to the clouds scudding overhead. The sun is brighter and stronger because it’s unfiltered and unfettered. The trees are more green because the snow is more pristine. You can see for miles, and there’s no distinction between up and down.


In any direction, your vista is the same. Maybe the whole world looks like this, and your memories of other places come from dreams.


And the call of the wild is strong.


“But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.” -Jack London




“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is something mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


~Robert Frost



This is a photo of what my dog looks like at the end of a skijoring harness. Skijoring is like dog mushing without a sled. The human is on cross country skis, and he or she is pulled by a small team of dogs.

I share this because it’s a new sport for me. Recently, I was discussing with an old friend how I find it strange that young people have asked me for advice – and they seem to truly believe I’m in a position to bestow wisdom!

It’s ok. You can laugh, too.

But I’ve also been trying to think of something useful to tell those who ask my opinion about jobs or law school or whatever. Here’s the best advice I have to give (the root of the root and the bud of the bud):

Have as many experiences as you can.

That’s it. That’s the sum of everything I’ve learned in 27.5 years. It sums up living, loving, crying, sleeping, traveling, writing, jumping, eating, being embarrassed, being proud, becoming well-rounded, learning, and just about every bumper sticker.

Do as much as you can. Gather experiences like people collect flowers. Be uncomfortable.

Be inelegant and ungrateful on skis as your dog drags you across the tundra.

Questions of Travel

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.

–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?


Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.


–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”

~Elizabeth Bishop (emphasis added)

Summer in Alaska

Dear Faithful Readers (aka Ellen and Jesse),

I bet you think that a blog entitled “Summer in Alaska” will have lots of photos like this:

2014-07-07 17.31.59-1

and this:

 2014-07-04 19.56.26

and this:

2013-07-13 19.32.03 

Or maybe you’re hoping it will be beautifully introspective like my northern lights post. In a way, you’re right because I am chronicling another of my Alaskan adventures, one that can only happen in the summer. I took this job and moved to a distant land to experience new places and new faces and have big adventures. I wanted to be challenged.

But of course reality has a way of looking different than one’s dreams. My biggest adventures have been doing new things and solving stupid problems by myself, like learning how to use a lawnmower (someone had to come show me), troubleshooting a water softener (apparently they work better if they’re plugged in), and using power tools (I called my dad and only made one accidental hole). I haven’t lived alone in a long time, and I’m accustomed to a support system. So my big adventure in rural Alaska has really been more of a social experiment than the cinematic experience I imagined.

Today’s post is about another Alaskan issue I’m trying to solve. Today I will write about what has happened in the 4.5 hours since I woke up.

I thought it was going to be a good day. I woke up, thought it was Tuesday, but then realized it was Saturday! I was delightfully sore from Friday’s workout, and Sligo was snuggled into my side. What a nice Saturday. There was a mosquito buzzing in my room, though, so I got up, turned on the lights, shoved my glasses up my nose, and went to swat it. I got one, but I could still hear buzzing. I killed 3 more mosquitoes in my room.

Then I went into the bathroom. Killed 2 more in the shower stall. At this point, I’m starting to feel like 6 mosquitoes in 3 minutes is unusual because I’m inside a house, and I don’t open my window (they’re so small they come in through the screens). I walked into my living room, and one corner of the room was covered in them. 8 mosquitoes all at once. Now I’m crabby, and I’m starting to think there’s a biblical apocalypse happening just in North Pole.

I stalk through the rest of my house, cursing, leaping, squatting, swatting, clapping, and grunting. All of this is made more difficult as my legs are essentially dead to me and worthless because of lunges and squats. Stairs are torturous. Sligo, bemused, follows me, but seems unperturbed at the infestation. I give up counting at 70 mosquitoes. They’re everywhere, and I’m upset. I check all the windows and doors, but none are open. At last, I make a final sweep through the house and don’t see anymore. So I decide to make some breakfast and regroup after the battle.

But mosquitoes that must have been hiding become attracted to the heat of the stove burner where I’m scrambling my eggs, and I end up burning my breakfast as I run around like a loon, clapping my hands and banging into walls. So I go through the house one more time, squishing errant mosquitoes as I go. I notice a spider this time, and I yell at him that he’s a bastard for not catching any of these mosquitoes. Sligo thinks I’m yelling at her and runs under the bed.

But by now (hours later), my wits have awakened, and I realize there must be a way to stop them at the source. They’re not coming in from outside, so they must be breeding in the house. Ew. Mosquitoes breed in water, so I dutifully check all the toilets, drains, bowls, glasses, and houseplant pots. It rained heavily for about three weeks, so I go into the crawl space under the house to see if there are any puddles. I can’t see anything that looks like evidence of mosquitoes, but I’ll admit I’m not sure what that looks like. At any rate, I move all the houseplants outside, I wash all the dishes (including Sligo’s water bowl), and I get the tape.

So now, as I sit here writing, all of my drains, toilet bowls, and the door to the crawl space have been covered over with packaging tape. I’ve killed 2 mosquitoes that came up here into the office with me. I hear a constant screaming whine in my ears, but I think that’s just psychological. At any rate, I believe I’ve killed the majority of the mosquitoes that have hatched, and I’ve narrowed down the places they could be living. In a few minutes, I’ll finally go buy propane for the mosquito magnet somebody lent me.

Tonight, if the problem seems unabated, I will erect my tent inside the house and sleep in that. It will be much easier to patrol a two-person tent than an entire house, and anyway, then I can learn if Sligo is good at camping.

Welcome to summer in Alaska. I’m going outside where there are fewer bugs.

Bonus material:

  • There are 35 species of mosquitoes in Alaska. 
  • Alaskan mosquitoes do not carry diseases.
  • Caribou have thrown themselves off cliffs to avoid biting insects (though I can’t find a source for this, so it might be an urban legend).
  • One etymologist estimates that the number of migratory birds that nest in the tundra would drop by as much as 50% if mosquitoes were eradicated.