Julia O'Malley

Before I wrote Monday's column about driving and cellphones, I called the Anchorage Police Department and asked spokeswoman Jennifer Castro whether it was illegal to update a Facebook status on a phone while sitting at a red light. Why? Let's just say I was curious.

Castro replied that the way that APD interprets the law, using an app like Facebook or anything else on your device in the car is illegal.

"The being stopped at a red light is not a 'green light' to texting or posting on FB or any of those other handheld devices/computerized behaviors," she said in an email. "Just because you're in park or stopped at a red light or stoplight ... you're still considered a motor vehicle in transport."...

Julia O'Malley

What was that mother doing at 8:15 on a Wednesday morning, in her car with a kid in the back, at a stop light? Updating her Facebook status. That's right. Typing with her thumbs, on her phone, while sitting in the driver's seat.

Judge her. Go for it. Use words like "self-control" and "personal responsibility." Or go all caps: I HOPE YOU GET ARRESTED! YOU COULD KILL SOMEONE. Point to your bumper sticker, the one that says, "Hang-up and drive." I'm sure that will help...

Julia O'Malley

Among the state's 13,000 furloughed federal workers, the people I talked to Wednesday were trying to make the best of their second day without work.

They were doing house projects, baking and spending more time with their kids. Anxiety hung over all of it, though, because there is no telling what will happen with the Republican members of Congress who are at the root of the government shutdown. Many worry the situation will go weeks, not days.

Every public employee was thinking about a plan for the worst case. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say that half my family income comes from a government paycheck. The conversations I heard about in interviews are happening at my house, too...

Julia O'Malley

While I was surfing the food blogs for this week's #AKfood, I was hungry. The award for the recipe I most wanted to stuff in my mouth immediately goes to Megan Lierman, for her game-day bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers . What is it about game-day food? So naughty. So satisfying. While you're at it, you might as well make her hot (vegan if you want) artichoke dip too...

Julia O'Malley

Something about the nip in the air stirs a desire inside me to buy enough Costco Pirate's Booty to fill a kiddie pool. This is not a confession. It is just a fact. I don't think I'm alone.

It's not because I want to eat it. (Though I will.) It's because I want to have it. Booty for my cache. For the winter. Like a vole stores up whatever it is that voles store in their vole holes...

Julia O'Malley

It was, of course, bound to happen. As chickens have proliferated in the city, it was only a matter of time until some of them were taken. Not by bears. Or dogs. But by people.

I believe the term is "rustled."

Let us go now to a modest, prayer flag-adorned street in Airport Heights, where you will find several strongly worded signs taped to the pickets of a fence and adjacent light post that feature the faces of abducted hens on milk cartons. The most prominent sign is all text, entitled: "An open letter to a chicken thief..."

"You have forced our hand in this matter of your pitiful thievery, and we imagine, the subsequent ingestion of four of our laying hens and two of our pullets," it goes on...

Julia O'Malley

In the village of Kaktovik, 600 miles north of Anchorage on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, villagers hauled in a whale Thursday. It was a bowhead. The third and last whale of the season.

After it was killed, they towed it to shore. Then the children climbed on it and a biologist took measurements and samples. After that, they rinsed it with seawater and began to butcher with "big, huge knives," Flora Rexford, a 27-year-old teacher in the village, told me Friday morning by telephone.

That's when the polar bears waiting on a barrier island not far off shore, slid into the water.

"Once they start cutting, the bears start coming across," she said...

Julia O'Malley

I will now write about the state's condom distribution program like a grown-up, without veering into questionable puns or juvenile humor. This is not because I have great impulse control. It is because the state has generated all the teenage condom humor I can handle today.

(Before I go on, a warning: If discussion of sex by a newspaper columnist makes you uncomfortable, stop reading now and look at some kittens .)...

Julia O'Malley

A lone horse is lost in the mountain range that surrounds Anchorage. She has been on her own in Chugach State Park since Saturday when she disappeared from a sheep hunting camp. Her name is Windy.

Her owners, B.J. and Christene Gravley of Wasilla, are praying that she's still alive, but with each passing day, the 1,000-pound mare's chances grow slimmer.

The couple has had her for 13 years, since she was a foal, B.J. told me Wednesday. Losing her, they say, would be devastating, especially for their little boys, Dakota, 7, and Paxton, 3.

B.J. Gravley and two friends took Windy sheep hunting out of Indian on Friday afternoon, as they had done a number of times before...

Julia O'Malley

PALMER -- Rob Wells talks about his dahlias the way some people talk about ships or impressive storms, using the female pronoun and a tone of reverence.

"Dahlias express themselves in so many different ways," he said Wednesday as I followed him through his greenhouse near Hatcher Pass. "Size, form, shape."

There were 200 plants in our immediate view, each 4- or 5-feet tall, with a psychedelic array of blooms. The blossoms ranged in color from creamsicle orange to merlot to luminous white. Some flowers were huge, as wide as 10 inches, others took a round form the size of a tennis ball. I wrote plant names in my notebook: "Totally tangerine," "Vanquisha," "Candlelight," "Edge of joy."...

Julia O'Malley

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