Julia O'Malley

Calesia Monroe, 16, is that girl on the bus, the one with the worn-out notebook, scribbling down poems and saying them out loud, spitting her verses to an audience of blank-faced bus riders. It doesn't matter what they think, she told me when I rode the Number 9 with her Wednesday. On the bus, nobody cares if you're talking to yourself. When you're a teenager and you've been in and out of shelters, in and out of state custody, when you've slept in a car in the Safeway parking lot crammed in with your mom because you got kicked out of a shelter, when you've run away and lived on your own, you learn to respect the bus, she said. The bus equals independence and precious time alone for a kid on the street. But like a parent with problems, depending on it can be dangerous. It can be your...Julia O'Malley
It's all pumpkins/yellow-leaves/spicy-treats/roasted meats on Alaska's food blogs lately. October eating. All that is pumpkin has been brought to us lately by Alaska From Scratch's Maya Evoy. Her recent recipe scroll includes maple pumpkin breakfast quinoa and pumpkin french toast stuffed with orange cream cheese . Game meat recipes are still making a strong showing. I'm bookmarking a moose meatball recipe from Kim Sunée in the Alaska Dispatch. And, Anchorage Food Mosaic featured a delicious-looking recipe from chef Rob Kineen for rolled elk meatloaf. Also worth considering around dinner time: The News-Miner in Fairbanks offers a meditation on brussels sprouts (with recipes). Megan Ancheta, of Allergy Free Alaska, has a very serviceable looking roast beef . And for dessert, Nicole Pierce...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." And so I told you, dear readers, that you can't text/Facebook/write emails while sitting at a...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. Here's the thing. She's probably not proud of the fact that she's messing with her phone, looking at Facebook, reading email, etc. But it happens. Only at stoplights, but still. Her life doesn't have a lot of quiet moments and it's become a ritual. Before she knows it, someone is honking at her because the light changed and...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. A few days unpaid is one thing, but if the furlough goes beyond that, a time will come when...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. Meanwhile, other Alaska's foodies are putting on their autumn sweaters. Maya Evoy was making roasted tomato soup and roasting acorn squash stuffed with black beans and quinoa . Up at the Fairbanks News-Miner, readers were talking butternut squash . Anchorage Food Mosiac's Jennifer Kehoe and David Waldron of Alaska Public Radio brewed up some autumnal cranberry hooch . And for my final paragraph, some odds and ends: First, I can...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. Costco shopping comes from a primal place. Like dipnetting salmon or hunting moose. Southcentral Alaska is full of Costco freaks. You can spot them if you look for subtle clues. They wear magenta-topped yoga pants at the gym and attractive North Face fleece jackets in a selection of tasteful neutrals that they didn't pay REI prices for. They show up at your party with bottles of Kirkland pinot noir. Their...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. "The chickens, monetarily, were worth about $250. Our family security is priceless, and we...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. Polar bears are commonplace in Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of 250. They're a little like moose in Anchorage. Rexford was born and raised in the...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 .) Condom distribution is part of a new public-health campaign entitled "Wrap it up, Alaska." The state's condoms come tucked in red matchbooks. Each matchbook is decorated with an Alaskan image and an edgy sex-related slogan. Picture a hockey goalie above the words, "Nice Save," a pair of rain boots with "Keep Your Rubbers Handy," or small plane above the words "Happy Landing."...Julia O'Malley