Monday, November 28, 2011

Next Stop - Antarctica

Many months before this chilly adventure began, I made a decision that may have been overly ambitious: I wanted to visit the Arctic and the Antarctic in the same week. In my mind I imagined a direct flight from Barrow, Alaska all the way down to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. This mythical flight would serve lobster tail instead of peanuts. The flight attendants would be Swedish bikini models and the pilots would be the guys from Daft Punk.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The crying babies you ask? Well they would still be long as their mom's were also Swedish bikini models. Tough but fair, I know.

In reality, the flights down from the Arctic to Antarctica were slightly less edgy or sexy. But only final image from Alaska was this:

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The Northern lights, which I had only seen twice in over 2 months in the arctic, decided to show off in all its psychedelic green glory, just one last time.

By necessity, my stay in Tucson was short lived. In just 3 days of arriving home from the arctic, I once again found myself at the airport, this time with a one way ticket to Christchurch, New Zealand. I left LAX airport on October 30th. When I landed in Aukland, NZ 13 hours later, it was November 1st. We had flown over the International Date Line on Halloween, making it officially the shortest day of my life, about 2 total hours. I hope on my flight back I can have Christmas for 2 days straight in compensation. And yes that requires double presents!

Christchurch was our one-stop-shop for all things Antarctica. Upon landing at an airport that was literally nestled amongst fields of roaming sheep (way to live up to your stereotype New Zealand), we were shuttled immediately to the Clothes Distribution Center (CDC). I had heard rumors of this magical place. Apparently you could show up to the CDC with nothing but a pair of boxer shorts and you'd leave decked in outlandishly warm winter gear. I obliged them by wearing a shirt of some kind AND pants. I'm happy to report that they lived up to their reputation. I was given 2 orange bags when I arrived at the CDC. They were filled with my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear: snow pants, sweaters, hats, mittens, long underwear, neck warmers, moon boots, ski goggles, and a huge, red down jacket which from here on out will be called Big Red.

A night on the town in Christchurch proved surprising. Last February, Christchurch was rattled by an earthquake which ravaged the city. Everywhere you looked there were buildings supported by anything from shipping containers to ratchet straps. It was a beautiful city in ruins. The biggest surprise of all was randomly bumping into a NASA friend I hadn't seen in years. I had always imagined that I'd bump into someone I knew in some far off place at some point in my life. On November 1st, 2011, here comes Jon Rask just walking along in Christchurch, NZ. It's a very small world.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The following day was the day of reckoning: the flight to the chilly continent. Everyone crossed their fingers as they boarded the C17 that would take us to the Antarctic continent. Occasionally flights will "boomerang", which means that as the plane gets close to McMurdo, it's forced to turn around due to poor weather which moved in during the flight. It's a harsh continent. Decked in snow pants, my moon boots, and Big Red, I boarded our C17. In the past week I had flown through Barrow, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seattle, Tucson, Los Angeles, Aukland, and Christchurch. The final leg of my week of travel was about to begin. Next stop...Antarctica.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stay cool Alaska: bidding farewell to the great white north

Today marks the final post regarding my time in the final frontier. After over 2 months in the last 2 years up in arctic Alaska, I've come to appreciate its wildness, its unique culture, and its slow internet connections. The food was expensive but delicious and except for the man eating polar bears and rabid foxes, the local wildlife was beautiful and non-threatening. While in Alaska, I also rekindled my love for Spam, in all of its mysterious meat(??)y glory. It was now time to put the north behind me and look southward. Past Seattle with its hipsters. Past Los Angeles with its highways and thick air. And even past New Zealand, which since the Lord of the Rings films, I now refer to as Middle Earth. My sights were now set on the great chilly continent of Antarctica.

As a final tribute to Alaska, I present one last testament to its beauty: an Alaska video compilation set to British electropop. I shot this in August 2010 while flying aerial surveys over glaciers in southern Alaska.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Polar Bears and the Whale Graveyard

My experience in Barrow draws near conclusion. We travel now beyond the native wildlife of northern Alaska, beyond the incredibly expensive groceries, and beyond the whaling traditions in Barrow. What remains is merely a matter of machismo...climbing the tallest peak, driving the fastest car, that sort of thing. The goal was to go as far north in the US as is humanely possible.

So what happens north of Barrow, already the northernmost city in the US? A fascinating part of the world deserves an equally fascinating end...and believe me, it does.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Seen above is the city of Barrow and a bit further in the distance is literally the northernmost point of the US, Point Barrow. It is here where we are met with an incredible confluence of tradition and gritty survival. It is here, at Point Barrow, where the polar bear enters our story.

A symbol of our changing planet and environmental conservation elsewhere, the polar bear is both a fascination as well as a nuisance in Barrow. Though spending 99.99% of their time out at sea or foraging along the coasts, occasionally a bear will wander into town. A series of precautions have been taken as a result. In Barrow, it is illegal to lock your cars or doors of your home. Apparently the fear of theft is trumped by fear of bears. If you see a bear in town, the first thing you are supposed to do is hop into the nearest car or home, hence the unlocked door policy. There is also a Bear Patrol which drives around town regularly. Their job is simple: either scare the bear out of town or kill it if its presence is a threat to anyone's life. Though rare, there are stories of polar bears breaking into homes and attacking and sometimes killing humans. There was even a story of a bear that walked into the lobby of a local hotel. In Barrow, the presence and threat of polar bears is very real.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The changing climate in Barrow has undoubtedly had an impact on the polar bear. Sea ice is often too far from shore or too thin to support their weight. As a result, their eating habits have changed and they are spending more of their time foraging onshore. Remember those huge whales that were recently butchered? And remember when I said that almost all of the whale is harvested and eaten? What are the useless parts for a human are an absolute treasure for a bear. The purpose of Point Barrow thus becomes two-fold: a place to keep the remains of the whales which have been butchered as well as a place far enough from town to keep the hungry polar bears away.

My first thought when I arrived at Point Barrow was something really deep and thoughtful along the lines of "Holy Lord that smell is going to make me vomit". I approached the pile of whale remains from downwind. As I walked closer and began examining the pile, it reminded me of the Elephant Graveyard from the Lion King: a dark and unpleasant place of death. The pile was quite large, maybe 30 yards to a side. Amongst it were jawbones, chunks of baleen, ribs, spinal cords, and even the occasional caribou skull. It was a morbid, yet totally fascinating place. It was clear why the bears liked it here. Everything was coated with a frozen glaze of blood. This pile could sustain a dozen bears at its peak.

I wanted more than anything to see a polar bear out there, despite my infamous history with large, angry bears. Apparently today was not my day: there wasn't a bear in sight. What was left was the occasional polar bear footprint, which was terrifyingly huge (polar bears are the largest land mammals in North America). Maybe it was for the best that we forego introductions...there was still the opposite side the planet left to see...

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Joys of Eating Whale

A few guys from the New York times appeared in town shortly before the first whale of the season was taken: 2 photographers and a journalist. They showed up with piles of camera gear at the hotel our whale survey team was staying in. When the first whale was taken, they were very busy shooting the event and talking to people. You could tell that they did this for a living. Needless to say I was excited to see what they would come up with when their article was published (partly because I was sure I'd be in the background of some of their pictures! (I totally was :))). One of the photographers told me that he would be able to publish very little from the event because it was so bloody. Their article, which was published a few days after the hunt, got a real stir out of the community:

The article's immediately sarcastic tone rubbed some people the wrong way. The journalist jested about how a "traditional loader" and a "traditional forklift" were used to move the whale. He went on to discuss how the whale was killed, which truly is far from traditional. Motorboats are used to bring the whalers within harpoon striking distance. Rather than being thrown, harpoons are now explosive and are fired from bronze harpoon guns. The explosion is intended to kill the whale quickly and humanely. Though I didn't like the tone of the New York Times article, they were right about the fact that it isn't particularly traditional anymore.

The mood on the water is somber. The belief among the whalers is that there can be no celebration while the whale remains in the water. If the whalers remain respectful of the whale they have just taken, then the spirit of that whale will relay on to the other whales that it was treated well and respected. In turn, the other whales will give themselves to the whalers in the future. This is an important belief: that the whales give themselves to the Inupiat. They sacrifice themselves to sustain their hunters. It is in this belief that Inupiat whaling becomes less a brutal or commercial thing. For the whalers of northern Alaska, taking a whale is spiritual. The whale allows these people to live where they do. The whale is their giver of life.

As the first layers of blubber are removed from the whale, some of the women nearby fire up a portable camp stove in the back of a truck. They begin boiling water and the first fresh muktuk of the season is prepared.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Muktuk is nothing more than boiled whale blubber. Although I don't believe it's considered a delicacy among the Inupiat, it certainly is a staple of their diet. Once the muktuk has been boiled it's handed out to the whalers, then the native community, then lastly the tourists and out-of-towners like myself. I gratefully accepted a piece towards the end of the butchering. It was about the size of a tic-tac container. The top 1/3 was the black skin of the whale and the bottom 2/3 was the light colored blubber. I started eating just the fat, basically running under the safe-food assumption to not eat anything that is black in color (especially black licorice). The lady who gave me the piece said "just pop the whole thing in your mouth!" Bottoms up! This has totally backfired on me a number of times in my life: I'm a bit of a queasy eater. I basically braced for the worst. wasn't horrible. It was surprisingly mild flavored, not at all fishy. It reminded my of a nearly flavorless Spam. I continued to chew the small piece she had given me. The texture wasn't particularly pleasant. Your imagination doesn't need to work too hard to imagine the texture of a piece of fat. The longer I chewed the less appealing chewing fat became. I eventually just swallowed the rest of it down.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Distribution is the next phase of the process. Tradition says that the successful whaling Captain brings home a majority of the edible whale parts. Many of the prized parts are eaten by the Captain and his family. They also take their fair share of the meat and the blubber. The rest is given to the community. A flag bearing the captain's family name is flown above his house. People from town then visit the Captain personally and the various parts of the whale are distributed until it's all gone. I assume this is where my next whale treat came from...

A few days after the first whale was taken, I walked over to the Inupiat Heritage Center. I was buying a gift for my mom there, a scrimshawed (native carving) piece of polished whale baleen. While I was there, one of the artists offered me a taste of something I'd never tried before: whale meat. The meat of the whale is much different than the blubber. The meat is darker in color and firmer in texture. In another modern twist, the artist dipped his piece of whale meat in Heinz 57. I followed suit and was pleasantly surprised. It had both the flavor and texture of beef liver. I'm not huge on beef liver, but this beat the heck out of the muktuk from a few days prior! Just as I confidently swallowed, he busts out an even stranger snack: whale kidney! Eeeeeh, alright I"m all for trying new and interesting things, but this stuff looked horrible. It was pink and stringy and there were clearly large balls of something hard nestled within it. I was finally coaxed into trying it, hoping it wasn't as gross as it looked. I popped it into my mount and realized very quickly it was exactly as gross a it looked. Yep, those are hard mysterious spheres in there! I pretty much gagged and spit it out simultaneously. Never again....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Barrow Whalers and the First Whale of the Season

Barrow, Alaska is a place of surprising controversy. The effects of global warming are as evident here as nearly anywhere on the planet. Off the shore of Barrow, major oil companies like Shell are scouting for new oil reserves so they can begin drilling for profits. Sustenance whaling continues today as it has for thousands of years. Unlike my opinion about global warming and off-shore oil drilling, which are set firmly in stone, my opinions of sustenance whaling were surprisingly not. I'm very, very opposed to the illegal / immoral / disgusting whaling practices of the well publicized Japanese whaling fleets. I initially assumed that I could just extrapolate that feeling to the sustenance whaling of the Inupiat whalers up in Barrow. I was wrong.

If you haven't seen it yet, go back to my last entry and check out the video of the whale being pulled ashore. It's pretty stunning. It's also the first time in my life I've had any real perspective about how large a whale is. Call me a whale nerd, but I've been trying for the past few years to gain that perspective. The whale is pulled ashore already dead, blood pooling out of its enormous mouth as it's dragged. As it disappears from the scene, I took a moment of personal reflection. How did I feel about this?

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The mood on shore set the tone. People were laughing and smiling. The sun was shining and a rainbow appeared in the distance. Shouts of joy rang through the crowd. This was no funeral, it was a party! I can't say that I ever fully embraced the spirit around me, but I harbored no ill feelings. As I lagged behind a bit, I watched as the whale was transferred to a huge forklift which drove off with the whale to where it would be butchered. There was a trail of blood amongst the tracks of the Caterpillar which dragged it ashore. I chased after the whale, which had just reached the butchering location.

When I arrived, the whale was surrounded by people. Folks were touching its skin and taking pictures of it. I watched as a father set his small daughter on the chin of the whale and snapped a few photos. A few children climbed onto the whale's back, standing on top of it as if they were playing king of the hill. I took off my glove and touched the inside of its mouth, the skin feeling smooth and rubbery but goosebumped. The whale biologists started taking measurements. The whale was a small, male Bowhead whale, between 2 and 3 years old and about 27' long. This was absolutely a baby. According to the Inupiat, the small whales taste better than the bigger, older ones. At the same time, by killing the young whales, the older, childbearing whales live on. To date, Bowheads are the oldest mammals on Earth. Occasionally when a whale is killed, very old spearheads are found embedded in the whale's blubber. Some of those spearheads have been dated back to over 200 years old! If the spearhead is that old, than the whale it was embedded in must be even older. This means that there are possibly whales alive today that were around when Thomas Jefferson was President!

The cutting began. A man with a large knife on the end of a pole stood atop the whale. He started with one long cut down the spine. His knife plunged deep, entirely disappearing within the whale. Next, a series of cuts were made perpendicular to the original cut. These cuts were made from the tail of the whale all the way to where its mouth started. Hooks appeared and started grabbing at the fat, which was being peeled off the body. The blubber was pink and thick, roughly 14 inches including the skin. The men with hooks dragged the slabs of fat away and started piles, each for specific families.

The hunters worked quickly. Once the blubber had been removed, the hunters began cutting the meat from the bones. The tongue was cut out. The intestines, lungs, and heart were removed. Everywhere there was blood. Boots waded through standing blood, over an inch deep in places. Within 2 hours, the whale was indistinguishable. Piles of meat swelled and some of the bigger bones were spread about, the jawbones in particular standing tall in the midst of all the commotion. My camera served as a quiet observer.

All that remained was the blood and the bones. Everything else was taken. The eyeballs were given to the successful whaling captain, serving as a trophy of the hunt. The blubber and the meat were distributed amongst the community. Even the intestines and internal organs were distributed and would be eaten. Little to nothing was wasted. The feast was about to begin.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Barrow and the Overly Ambitious Hunters

There's a lot to be said about finding food in times of hunger. In the recipe for propagating a successful species, this ability is the key ingredient. Throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth (and presumably elsewhere) the critters most capable of finding something, anything to eat are the ones that live to mate another day. Ever heard of the snobby Cave Eagle? He wouldn't eat anything that wasn't cooked medium rare and served with a palate cleansing, velvety red wine. Or the self cannibalizing Sycamore Lizard? Or the orangutan eating polar bear? Of course not, and it's not just because orangutan eating polar bears are invisible. It's the crafty species that live on through time. Like the dung beetle, turkey vultures, and garbage eating goats. This ability is what makes the Inupiat people and their story so incredible: they live in a climate too harsh to cultivate crops and there's little available to effectively forage. Hunting thus became their gateway to survival.

I wish I could have been there the first time somebody suggested hunting a whale. I imagine he was in a hungry craze, tired of eating snow and driftwood. And better yet, the first people who actually got out on the water and tried.

Lead hunter: "Alright, here's what we're gonna do. Steve, you jump in the water and try to look like a large tasty krill.
Steve: "No problem!" ::jumps in water and squirms around::
Lead hunter: "Then, when the whale comes to eat krill Steve, Carl here is going to jump on its back and go to town!"
Carl: "Alright! Wait, 'go to town'?"
Lead hunter: "Ya, you know, show 'em who's boss, take no prisoners, that kind of thing. You got this."
Carl: "I'm going to die aren't I?"
Lead hunter: "Most likely. Now jump on that whale."

Needless to say, there was a Carl at some point down the line that succeeded. Little is known about this Carl other than that he had eyes as cold as stone and that he would pummel the whale into submission using some kind of professional wrestling maneuver...possibly a stone cold stunner. And also that he liked the sound of crunching snow. But other than that, nothing is known about him. Except that he collected stones that he thought were pretty. But that's all we know.

This incredible feat of human achievement revolutionized the Inupiat culture. The whale became not only a major food source, but it provided bones that were used for building structures, and oils used to keep their homes warm. The hunted whale became their giver of life and a symbol of their survival. To this day, the whale continues to provide for the native people of northern Alaska. Though the methods have changed, the spirit of the hunt remains as it has been for thousands of years.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Barrow and the Lucky Aurora Babies

"Go north young man." A stranger once told me this long ago while giving me directions to the nearest White Castle. This idea somehow feels more romantic now, discussing my time on top of the world, closer to Santa himself than the nearest White Castle cheeseburger. In the United States, if you were to follow this good Samaritan's fast food advice to the extreme, you would end up in lovely Barrow, the northernmost point of Alaska / the entire US. Barrow: home of the state champion Barrow Whalers high school football team, the most expensive Ocean Spray cranberry juice in the country, and the furthest north Mexican restaurant in the world. It's time now for us to take off our steel toed shoes necessary in Deadhorse and slip on our most comfortable pair of seal skin boots (more proper footwear in Barrow). Go on, get your seal skin those are Crocs. Those are sandals. Those are mittens. Whatever, just keep reading little fashionistas. And keep those mittens buttoned to your jacket.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

From the moment I stepped foot in Barrow, it was totally covered in snow. Not a particularly stunning piece of information until I mention that I arrived at the end of September. Yes, Barrow is cold and yes Barrow is dark. In fact that movie 40 Days of Night, where all the vampires in the Arctic wait for the sun to set permanently and then go on a killing spree for 2 months, was based on life in Barrow. Besides the cold, the dark, and the vampires, Barrow is actually a beautiful place. It is a city of about 5000 people, 4000 of which are native Inupiat (which means the people in their language, Inupiaq). The culture is authentic and as vibrant as is reasonable for people who decided to turn left to reach even colder weather when they crossed the land bridge all those years ago. Thousands of years later, you can still hear murmurings of folks saying "we should have turned right".

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

So what's it like to live in Barrow, you ask? Well let me start by saying that the food is expensive. And I mean seriously expensive. Have you ever paid $40 for dinner at a Chinese restaurant? And P.F. Chang's totally doesn't count. That's Asian fusion, duh. Walking into a grocery store for the first time is an enlightening experience. You quickly realize why flying food out to remote places is a horrible idea. Things like this happen....

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

And it doesn't stop there. Ever paid a buck for one fresh strawberry? Or how about $8 for a gallon of milk? You'd be hunting whale for sustenance too if it cost you $15 for a pork chop.

Speaking of whales, they're everywhere up here! Well at least various pieces of whales are: a whale skull here, a pile of baleen there, a set of whale jawbones next to the local diner. It's strange really. When I first arrived here, these things were totally stunning. Justifiably so in my opinion. But after a while it became fairly casual. Before my visit to Barrow, I never thought I'd walk by a 12 foot whale skull on the side of the road and not scream like a 12 year old girl who just met the Jonas Brothers.

Though weather is often unforgiving in Barrow, once in a while you are gifted a gem. The clouds will part and the night sky appears in all its grandeur. And then you see it...the natural phenomenon that makes you wonder if that yogurt you just ate was expired...the northern lights. The only way I can describe it is as a rippling curtain of green light moving in slow motion. Anyone who grew up in the 60's will understand. Apparently, Chinese lore claims that if you conceive a child under the northern lights it will lived a blessed life. I don't know about that but it sure made me hungry. Hungry for more northern lights.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Tomorrow brings a new day, and a new Arctic experience. Keep your mittens close and your expired yogurt far, far away. Over and out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Arctic Animals Club:::NO PENGUINS ALLOWED!

What Deadhorse, Alaska lacks in culture, grocery stores, women, nightlife, and sunshine it makes up for in wildlife. I know, a nice trade off right?! I mean, who needs women when you've got these woolly beauties walking around?

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Well this one was a male, but you get the point. I'd like you to meet Mr. Musk Ox. He's hairy, territorial, and not particularly intelligent. The original Alaskan musk oxen were hunted to extinction by the native Alaskans within the last 10,000 years. These fellers were actually imported from Greenland. I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure musk oxen are the ONLY thing Greenland has ever exported. Speaking of Greenland economics, here's a poorly camouflaged Arctic Fox!

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Poor guy, do you think we should tell him? He blends in about as well as a male at a screening of Legally Blonde 2. As cute and cuddly looking as foxy brown here may look, most arctic foxes carry rabies. That being said, I had to settle for only about 10 minutes of fox cuddling.

Finally, an animal that has neither horns or rabies. This cute little seal only has RAZOR SHARP WHISKERS!!!!

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Alright fine, he doesn't have razor sharp whiskers. But he does eat FISH!!!! That's kind of scary I guess. Especially if you're a fish. And last but not least....

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

Looks like someone wore the same outfit as Arctic Fox today. Hmmm....that's kind of embarrassing. Must have been a sale at Target. Anyhooot, this beautiful bird is a Snowy Owl. And before you shout "get a job you lazy owl!", you'll be happy to know that this here is a stay at home mom, carefully guarding her nest. Dad is out hunting. Or bowling, I don't know, but he's nowhere in sight.

And just as the Inupiat people before us, we travel now to Ukpeagvik, or place where snowy owls are hunted. Ya, snowy owl, you might want to sit this one out. But the rest of us will journey to Ukpeagvik, or Barrow, Alaska starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whale Paparazzi

I must admit.  I'm a little behind in writing down my experiences right now.  In fact, my time in Alaska has come and gone, nothing but photos and memories now.  And chilling tales of whales, pipelines, musk ox, oh my!

So remember that "top of the world" thing I said last post?  Well that wasn't exactly accurate.  If the world was a human head, my location in Alaska would be somewhere near the receding hair line:  Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  I personally prefer it's other name:  Deadhorse, Alaska.  I think it describes the lovely culture there.  Deadhorse is located on the northern shore (called the North Slope) of the great state of Alaska.  You know that show Ice Road Truckers?  Deadhorse is the final stop of the "ice road".  End of the line, nothing more than an oiling city.  The Alaskan pipelines start in Deadhorse and are filled with arctic oil 24/7.  So what the hell was I doing there?

Well not working the oil fields, that's for sure.  I was brought to Alaska for the whales, walrus, and polar bears.  My job was to sit in the window of a small plane and spot marine mammals.  Yep, that's it.  As often as the weather allowed our small team of biologists / pilots / myself would fly flight lines over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.  The purpose?  Abundance know how many whales are where and when.  The data would then be used to determine the health of the mammal populations in that region as well as to support or forbid future oiling projects off the coast of Alaska.

In the past 2 years I've spent a total of 9 weeks flying around looking for marine mammals.  Some flee in terror.  Others float along blissfully.  Others just lie there, either pretending to be dead, or actually being dead.  I'd like to say that I've seen everything up there, but I still haven't seen a narwhal, giant squid, or Godzilla monster.  The slideshow below is my finest compilation of my view from the sky.  Arctic marine mammals beware....the whale paparazzi is always watching.....

The whale pictures in this were taken under permit #: 782-1719 and the walrus photos under permit #: MA212570-0

The Origins of Being Bi-Polar

So to be right up front, this blog has absolutely nothing to do with the state of my mental health.  Everything is right and orderly on that front:  multiple personalities running strong, voices telling me to start a religion, irrational fear of aliens.  Yes Bike Morden, I agree, I'm as healthy as can be.  Healthy as a clam.  Yep.  So.  That's it!  Nothing to see here.  No stories to tell.  Not a single...interesting...thing...has happened in the past few months.

Well...there was this one thing.  Ya, I remember now.  Everything was cold.  Very, very cold.  It all started at the top of the world....