Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy 2008, Everyone!

Thanks for the friendship, love, and support. And thanks for keeping up with my northerly adventures! I hope you and your families and friends all have a wonderful, blessing-filled 2008!

In other news, I had a vivid dream last night. I was in the lab at Sun, assembling prototypes with a few Sun colleagues. We were chatting, shooting the bull, gossiping, complaining, laughing, that sort of thing. I woke up feeling rather lonely, although Dan was beside me and Autumn at my feet. I think it's my first touch of homesickness... I actually miss the sili valley grind. Whoda thunk?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

So just what is she?

Autumn is not a Siberian Husky nor an Alaskan Malamute, though she likely carries strains of both. She was very purposefully bred, but she is not any AKC-recognized breed at all. Loosely, she is called an Alaskan Husky, which encompasses the group of Northern dogs who are bred for sled-pulling without regards to their physical appearance. I find AKC descriptions of dog breeds quite humorous. They say things like, "Dog must have an erect carriage, an alert expression, and a solid coat of black or grey. Brown is unacceptable." I just made that up but that's about the gist of it. These descriptions crack me up because they remind me of descriptions on wine labels. They sound poetic and all, but I don't really understand what they are talking about.

Anyway, Alaskan huskies can have pointy ears or flopped ears, and can be any color or mix that any dog can be. They can have long tails or short tails or no tails, and can carry them up or down. The only characteristics they have in common is a love of pulling and running, a thick and furry coat, a hardy constitution, and a friendly temperment that can get along with a crowd. They are subdivided into different types also, according to where they work and the type of running they do. Down South near Anchorage, huskies are bigger and more powerful, for plowing through thick, wet snow. Autumn is a sprinter, so she is small and lean (she is just a bit under 40 pounds!). Our neighbors down the street have a team of giant, extremely furry dogs that they take out with an old-fashioned, wood-framed sled that looks like Santa's. Man, are they cute! The newfies of dog-sledding!

Autumn is particularly special because she was raised in a family that loved her as a companion as well as a working dog. She was close to both her human parents and their children, and they neither cull puppies nor euthanise retirees. It's a sad fact that many mushers cull puppies whom they don't anticipate to be good racers. And quite a few do not get placed out to retirement homes as Autumn and her brethren have been.

Anyway so that is my report for today. Sorry to end it on a sad note. :/

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Confirmation: The Inversion Layer is for Real

Took Autumn to Creamer's Field yesterday, and dayum, it was cold! I could only stay out there for 45 minutes. It's pleasantly warmer in our neighborhood. Autumn and I have been taking long walks and runs every day since school let out.

Temperatures have come back up. We are back to daytime highs of about -10F/-23C, and yes, that is comfortable! We have no wind, so I bundle up and off we go. We are accompanied by the neighborhood chorus of dogs, doves, ptarmigans, meese, ravens, wabbits, skwerls, and lots of little colorful songbirds whose songs sound exotic to me.

Back to the regular grind next week, but at least no school yet! Autumn hangs out in my office, and we go for walks during the daytime.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

HAWT Husky Action!

HAHAHAHA! But seriously, she's a big fan of the belly rub, so if you walk by her while she's lying down, you're likely to get an eyeful of dog naughty bits in her belly rub request.

Classic Autumn. "I'm going to sit here. Okay, you can hug me."


Millie flopped out:

This is a very difficult shot to get. But I, yours truly, have spent years chasing after the elusive Bunny Flop.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, everybody!

We are planning a quiet Christmas at home. Hope you all have a lovely one that is not too stressful. :)

If you ever find that Christmas stresses you out, may I recommend grad school? ;)

For us, Christmas is not stressful at all! Shopping, cooking? Psh! We just finished final exams, and we now have a solid month off, what's there to to be stressed about? :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Um... wait a sec...

Happy solstice for real!


Today was so lovely--just cloudy enough to hold in some warmth, but clear enough to see the gentle orange sun move along the horizon. I realized that it was warm enough to take Autumn for a run! And during the daytime--what a treat! So I took her to the trail, where I let her run off-leash. She is such a joyful runner! It's amazing, her little bipolar personality. Outdoors, she is ebullient--full of energy and life and springiness. She will gladly run for miles, and then sulk as we head toward home. Indoors, she is every bit the gentle retiree--patient, prone to indolence and long naps. I don't understand how she bounces back and forth like that, but it sure works well for me! Not to mention that she is a cuddly-wuddly schnoogly-woogly schnookums-wookums puddin-head. Hahaha. :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh my goodness

I got a B in Classical Mechanics. Oh yes, I did.


That was difficult. Really difficult. As difficult as one of the more difficult of Berkeley engineering classes. But in Berkeley engineering, I got Cs. And here, I got a B. And the curve is the same, no grade inflation.

I envy less nowadays the people who are effortlessly, frighteningly smart. I knew dozens of them at Berkeley, and it made me feel so... cheated. I was willing to work just as hard as they were, if not harder, but it was difficult to keep up since I was not gifted with as much natural intelligence. But it seems, the older I get, the more I appreciate that "stick-to-it-iveness" and motivation and ambition are worth more than raw intelligence. And one of the biggest advantages to having more ambition than intelligence is this! First, I can be proud of a B, and second, I can say that I earned a B! How cool is that?

Yay! :)

Happy Solstice!

The days will start getting longer again now! Yay! :)

Here are the stats:

It was indeed warmer today. Autumn and I took a long walk down to the beaver pond and back. What do beavers do in Winter, I wonder? Also bumped into the mother of one of my students with her three dogs. One like Autumn (a little husky) and two stunningly beautiful golden retrievers. I don't know where they come from, but gigantic, stunningly beautiful golden retrievers are very common in Fairbanks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cool Winter Things

At -40, you can do the following:

Throw a cup of hot coffee into the air. *POOF* it's gone! This is because the coffee warms the air around it, raising its capacity to hold liquid. And the air is so dry, POOF! It immediately absorbs the liquid! This is my classmate Ness:

Blow bubbles! They freeze, and then break apart in shards. Then they actually look just like bits of cling film that you use to cover your leftovers.

Here are some pieces of bubble. Did you ever know that the phrase "piece of bubble" could be used legitimately? :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Autumn Gnawing on her Bone

It's always fascinated me in dogs that have "feral" appearances--the juxtaposition of their soft, gentle eyes against their fierce, powerful teeth.

I can't decide which of my family members befuddles me more--the cute-as-a-cartoon rabbit with the savage temper, or the Wolf with the Big Teeth that cuddles with me like a kitten.

Holy Crappadoodle

Just came in from a nice morning stroll with Autumn, and checked the thermometer. Outside, it is supposedly -38F/-39C! We're almost there, at the magic 40/40, and then I can say I've experienced a real Fairbanksian winter!

And the Smartwool socks are doing just fine, thanks, so I don't need no fancy-pancy high-tech socks! And so, too, are the little light suede boots, no clomping around town in snowboots required, thank goodness!

Yahoo weather also says:

Sunrise: 10:56 am
Sunset: 2:39 pm

Haha that's stricly true, but Autumn and I were out and about at 9, and it was bright enough outside to see by. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yeah, it's cold!

Right now, I just got home, and it is -33F/-36C. Brrr! But yes, I have to admit that what all the locals say is true... a dry cold is SO much more tolerable than the raw, damp cold that some places get. 0F/-18C was quite comfortable. I still did not wear long underwear then. Nor a heavy coat (the coat I was wearing then is one of those soft-shell "windstopper" thingies that seem to have taken outdoor clothing manufacturers by storm lately). -40/-40 is the coldest it will get for any extended period of time. Every year, it goes below that only for a few days at most.

NOW I have quit running... Yes, I have! This morning was my last run for the Winter, and it was so damned unpleasant... I was getting cold in the most clothing I am willing to wear running. Wool leggings under shell pants, and two thermal shirts under a light jacket, plus gloves, neck gaitor thingy, and hat. Plus reflective vests and blinking lights on both Autumn and me. It's TOO DAMNED MUCH clothes for a morning run that I have to cut short because there is a chunk of ice accumulating on my neck gaitor thingy where I have it pulled over my nose and mouth. So, ten minutes getting dressed, thirty minutes running, ten minutes getting undressed... hardly a worthwhile ratio.

Autumn and I are switching to walking. Walking is nice because I can wear as much clothes as I want without feeling uncomfortable, and I can therefore walk as long as I want without feeling cold. Plus, no wind! There is no wind here at all, so your walking speed is proportional to how cold you get! When we were out walking last weekend, I stopped several times to adjust my scarf and hat (I pull my scarf over my nose and mouth, and it accumulates ice as my breath freezes on it, and so I have to adjust it regularly, and then I have to adjust my hat, too, because the strings on my hat tangle with it), and when I take them off to re-align--no problem! It doesn't feel cold when the air is not moving at all!

I now feel qualified to list my Favorite Cold Weather Items. For anyone who is new to a cold climate:

* Merino wool base layers. Seriously. Da bomb. Did I mention I ran this morning at -33F/-36C with just lightweight wool leggings under light nylon pants? My legs were not cold at all. They're the best.

* Smartwool socks. Been hiking in them for years. Turns out they go well for insulation against cold, too.

* Silk long underwear. Again, been hiking in them for years, because they are so lightweight and so warm, and a whole pair of pants or shirt squishes down to the size of a softball. But they are amazingly warm, and fit nicely under jeans without making you feel like you can't bend your knees.

* Fleece-lined wool hat with ear flaps and strings that tie under your chin. Only I don't tie it under my chin. I keep it tied loosely so as soon as I step into an overheated building, I can push it off my head and it just hangs behind me.

* Cheese. Potatoes. Haha. Yeah, seriously, I eat more now. :)

* Lots of water. Yeah, it's easy to forget to drink water here, because you don't FEEL thirsty. But you still need lots of water, even more than usual because the air is dry, and also I heard that dehydration exacerbates Seasonal Affective Disorder.

BTW, I'm really not feeling any different, physically, with the small amount of daylight. I don't have less energy. I'm not depressed. I do crave carbs, but yeah, no difference there from normal. Maybe I'm not susceptible, or maybe it just hasn't hit yet? But the solstice is in a few days, and then the days will start getting longer again, so maybe I'm just not susceptible...

Grades so far

I got an A in math, and an A- in plasma! :)

Classical mechanics isn't posted yet, of course, since our exam was only yesterday, and I could potentially get a C. But even if I get a C, that still means I survived my first semester without losing my scholarship or getting on academic probation. Aiming high, that's me! Yeah!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The girl is too sweet...

That's why my productivity has been down lately. Every time I sit down, she puts her big ol' head in my lap! GAH!

Here I am, sitting innocently on the floor trying to fold my socks, and this happens! How can anyone concentrate?

Guess what?

I'm done with my first semester. Yeah, baby!

Autumn hung out with my landlords and Savannah (the aforementioned loony puppy) today. She enjoys the company while I am at school, and Savannah needs the positive influence from a sane dog, since their older two dogs passed away.

At the end of the day, Lori asked, "Um... the family that you got Autumn from, do they have any more like her?" :D I think they are actually considering one as a friend for Savannah. And of course, Autumn would be thrilled to have one of her brothers or sisters here with her... That'd be so cool! Autumn is actually one of eight siblings that are all being retired and placed out to pet homes now that they are no longer top-form sprint racers. Autumn was the first to go, since she is the sweetest, and so she was deliberatly picked out for me (her breeder is one of my students). But if Lori and Dan get another one, that'd be so awesome! :D

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quick Vent

I've been reading up on husky care, although in reality I've been learning much more from talking with other husky owners than reading crap on the internet and in books.

I. Cannot. Believe. the number of husky care sites that say, "If you live in a warm area, like Florida, you should not get a husky unless you have air conditioning!" ARGH! That makes me SO angry! How about, "If you live in a warm area, you SHOULD NOT GET A HUSKY AT ALL." GEEZE! How can people be so selfish as to keep an active dog cooped up all summer, just because they HAVE to have a husky and don't live in the right climate for it? OK sorry just venting. :/

Walking with Autumn, and on Being a Lousy American (TM)

Every weekend day, I take a longish walk with Autumn. When you see her walking on a snowy trail, passing alternating landscapes of trees, fields, farms, and meadows, it is instantly obvious that she is very, very in her element. She looks the part, of course, because she is a husky, and looks a bit like a wolf (though more like a coyote). But the way she fits so perfectly in her role as Lead Dog on the Trail is something that hits you viscerally the instant you see her there. Her carriage is upright and proud, her gait is smooth and concentrated, her eyes are alert, and her ears are pricked forward. And she is happy! So happy! This is her life, what she was meant to do.

I was going to take some beautiful photos today, of her walking ahead of me with the orange sun ahead of her, but it turns out that electronics don't do so well in -20F/-29C. My phone is sluggish, and my camera doesn't work at all. I guess professional arctic and antarctic photographers have special cameras.

Anyway, tomorrow is my big exam, so wish me luck! Then I will be done with my first semester at UAF! It's been two years in planning, and a year in waiting. Buuuut of course, no congratulations are in order until I actually see how I did. This reminds me of a bit of cultural education I had a few months ago. I have a good friend here who only just came to the US for the first time from India two years ago to study. D is intelligent, bright, and wickedly funny. Anyway, she had just sat through comprehensive exams to advance to candidacy, and I told her we should celebrate. She gave me a blank look and said, patiently, "We can't celebrate until we know whether I passed!"

Well duh.

Only Americans celebrate mere survival! No wonder India is surpassing us in churning out an educated and motivated population of youth, ready to take on the most prestigious jobs in the world. And China is catching up, too. America has lately had this weird cultural movement of "everyone is a winner." The canonical example of this is the game of T-Ball, a sugared-up form of baseball where no score is kept, there are no losers, and an inning is defined as every player batting once. Afterwards, both teams are winners, and everyone is a winner!

I actually have a personal recollection of this cultural phenomenon happening to me. I was in the fourth grade, and everyone in the class was asked to make a nativity scene. It would be a contest, Miss Vitari told us with excitement. The day we all brought our nativity scenes in, Mrs. Spiegel would judge them, and there would be prizes for the top three! I thought I'd be clever, and laboriously put together a miniature nativity scene on a tiny circular platform. I remember gluing down pine needles for hay in the barn floor. I then mounted the thing inside an eggshell frame, whose outsides I had colored navy blue, with a bright yellow star in the middle. It was lovely. I was amazed by my own creation, seeing as I had and have never been known for my artistic abilities. Well the nativity scenes were judged while we were at recess, and when we returned, imagine my horror when Miss Vitari informed us that Mrs. Spigel had loved them ALL so much that we EACH were getting a prize! I even remember the prize--a foam core red valentine heart ornament covered with red enamel. I wouldn't have minded the lousy prize if I had won it fairly. And I would have been much less bitter if a superior nativity scene had one. I would have been slightly less bitter even if the winner had been one of the sucky popular kids, and I had lost just because I was a weird kid. That would have sucked, but it would have been understandable. What actually happened was not even fathomable!

Um... wow I can't believe I still remember that. Anyway, the point is, I think we should go back to the days of pre-political-correctness and allow people to have both winners and losers. A meritocracy breeds ambition instead of complacency.

That is all. Wish me luck tomorrow! But if I don't do well, you can just well say, "Luh-HOO-ser!" No need to say, "At least you tried your best. You're always a winner to me!" :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Autumn would like to know...

Whatcha eatin'? Can she have a bite?

Aaaand... uh... I still post about non-dog-related things... let's see, I am writing my term paper right now, and I am RIGHT on target with my study schedule for my big exam... See, relevant to school, right? :D

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Autumn ree-laxing

Autumn chillin' on the kitchen rug:

When I work at the kitchen table (which doubles as my desk, seeing as this is a two-room cabin), Autumn lounges around on the kitchen rug. Her blankie, you see, is seven feet away from the table, and that is not within her preferred radius of me. She excels at relaxing. She rolls to her side, then curls up, then luxuriously stretches out, making sure each leg and each toe gets its proper due. She sighs deeply, yaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwnnnnnnns dramatically. She sleeps deeply and dreams of running, and her four paws twitch as she lays on her side. Watching her makes me very envious, as I wish I could just go to bed myself!

Here she is doing what she does second best (behind running like the wind!):

And here she is mid "run":

In which I invoke my right as a physicist to represent a dog as a sphere:

BTW, before y'all tell me that she can't reach her water dish, that is actually her food dish under there! I keep it there for the other 23 hours, 59 minutes and 12 seconds of the day that she's not engorging her dinner. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not procrastinating

I finished my last Classical Mechanics homework last night. It was bizarrely humane... no insanely tedious algebra... I wonder if I did something wrong?

Anyway, I also went up to the Geophysical Institute Library and got copies of all of the articles I needed for a paper I am working on. Also stumbled upon this beauty:

It's Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr watching a tippy top. How cute is that? Two Nobel Laureates, in their suits and polished shoes, hunched over going, "A top! It's spinning! It's flipping over!" :D Haha totally made my day.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


I'd heard that huskies were willfull, headstrong and difficult to train, but I've noticed that what makes Autumn such a good companion dog is not that she is any less headstrong; it's that she loves to please. When you ask her to do something, she doesn't do it because you are asking her to. She does it because she has just become aware of something that will make you happy, and she wants to make you happy!

Okay I will REALLY spend the rest of the day on my term paper now. :)

A Photographic Tour of the UAF campus ice sculptures...

With special thanks to Autumn, for trudging up and down campus with me. :)

Bear at the Southeast entrance:

Raven at the entrance to the Museum of the North:

Bear at the South entrance:

Kids sledding on campus:

This hill is usually crammed with kids. Slow day today. :)

Autumn chillin' with her bunny pals:

Millie disapproving of the night's salad:

Doofus looking somewhat personable, for once:

Autumn again:

I wonder if the move from outdoor dog to indoor dog has been stressful on her... What do you think? ;)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quotes for y'all

"Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."

--Richard P. Feynman

"The Universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."

-- Eden Philpotts

"I admire the beauty and power of mathematics: there are ingenuity and intricacy in tactical maneuvers, and breathtaking sweeps in strategic campaigns. And, of course, miracle of miracles, some concepts in mathematics turn out to provide the fundamental structures that govern the physical universe!"

-- C.N. Yang


Yay! Yay! Several inches fell last night, and it's still coming down!

Now we'll have a nice blanket of insulation before temps drop again! No astronomical oil bills! Pretty sparkly streets! Toasty warm living room without burning a crapload of wood! Yay!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thanksgiving snowman

So the Warm Thanksgiving left us with one good thing. This guy!

See, it's normally too cold around here for snowmen and snowballs and snow forts and all. But with the temps warming up, Mr. Snowman was able to make an appearance. The same day, he started to thaw and droop a bit, but then the temps quickly dropped again, and now he's frozen solid. A snowman under an armor of solid ice. He'll be there until Spring!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Well today...

The flashing sign at the entrance to campus has an ice carving of a polar bear next to it!! I must walk down there and take photos! :)

An ice bear! How cool!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Okay for real this time...

I have officially switched to Winter clothes. Long underwear, baby!

The flashing sign at the entrance to campus read -15F/-25C this morning at 11 am. WHOA!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Oh and!

I almost forgot to add in my long-winded post below, I attended a formal Christmas party last night. First time wearing three-inch heels in the snow, baby!

Little cubes of cheese consumed: 12
Number of face-plants: 0



Yesterday, Autumn and I went to a skijoring seminar. I've decided to take up skijoring, more for Autumn's edification than for mine. Although she was given to me as a "retiree," she does not agree with this opinion, and has been returning from our runs and walks rather sulkily. When I run as fast as I can comforably sustain, Autumn is sort of walking/trotting. And I feel bad for her because she can GO, and she LOVES it! On weekends when I get to walk her during the daytime, I take her with a retractable leash that goes to 10 feet. She'll dawdle behind me until I am at the end of the leash in front of her, then she'll take four galloping leaps until she is at the end of the leash in front of me, and then repeat. Poor girl! I really feel for her because I, too, love to run as fast as I can sometimes, just to feel all the muscles pump and go. And she doesn't get that opportunity with me.

Anyway, so I figured it'd be good for her to tow me on skis; then she run as hard as she wants, and I'll just be long for the ride! Because of our weight ratio (I am 3.5 times her weight.), she won't be able to haul me off like some psychotic hard-core racer dogs do to their owners when skijoring. Anyway, she's also gentle and sweet-natured, and great on voice commands. She's been my "lead dog" on our runs, and I've been testing her. Before we turn right, I say, "Autumn, GEE!" Before we turn left, I say, "Autumn, HAW!" When she starts to go too fast for me, I say, "WHOA, girl!" She even knows "On by!" when we pass a neighbor with barking dogs, or when a car is comeing by, etc. And she really knows this stuff and listens! She's awesome! But as I've said, it's her sweet temperament that really makes it happen. When I, for example, slip on the snow, she rounds about back and looks at me, her bushy eyebrows knitted with concern. I LOVE her and cannot ever imagine wanting a different dog.

Anyway, after the seminar, we all went over to Creamer's Field to practice what we had just learned. I still don't have ski boots, though I'd inherited my boss's old skis and poles, nor have I yet purchased the $120 or so of harnesses, ropes, etc, so I just went to watch. Some of those dogs are terrifying! I mean, not in a vicious way, but just in the way they want to bounce around all over the place without regards to the wellfare of the human they are attached to! Two came charging at Autumn and me as we walked by. Of course, all dogs want to socialize with other dogs, and all three went for each other, but as soon as I told Autumn "on by" she stopped and continued walking, while the other two yanked their humans to their asses and dragged them over! Anyway, I'll probably buy boots soon, just to practice skiing on my own, but I can't see investing in skijoring equipment until we have more snow. I'm quite annoyed that we lost all our snow over Thanksgiving weekend. Oh well.

In other news, I do believe it is Winter for real now. Time to switch to heavy mittens instead of unlined gloves, and woolly sweaters instead of 2 shirts! Yes, I've been wearing 2 shirts every day since September. Only two thin shirts, and a midweight coat, and I was comfortable to 15F/-9C. But yesterday, the temperature at Creamer's Field was 5F/-15C, and I was COLD!

And in other other news, I think the "temperature inversion" that this Valley is known for has already begun in earnest. In the Summer, our hills are cooler than in town, but now that it is Winter, it is 5-10 degrees F warmer. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Semester Winding Down

Only two more labs for my undergrads. I am working on my last plasma homework. I am starting to write my final paper for classical mechanics... Dum da dum... Can't wait for the break!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Goodnight, Girls.

Rae and Simone have gone to the Rainbow Bridge today. They were already old when I met them last year, but I never quite grasped that one day they would actually be gone. I thought we had rented a cabin, whose amenities include running water, an oil stove and a wood stove, and the occasional company of two elderly weimaraners. I guess that's changed.

Rae in particular was a good friend to me. Last year, after Dan was diagnosed, I was a mess packing up the cabin and taking care of the administrative stuff at school. I stayed up late some nights packing, blasting music, and bawling. But in the mornings, as I stepped out bleary-eyed into the sunshine, the first thing I saw was this:

Who knows what dogs know? They are amazing. Rest in peace, Rae and Simone.

7 Things you don't know about me

JayKay tagged me with this meme thingy, so I thought it would be fun.

1. I believe in, and have experienced, love at first sight. Not just romantic love; I've also experienced it with platonic friends of both genders and with animals, one notable example being my first pet rat, Bernoulli.

2. I was cripplingly shy as a child. I was too shy to ask to use the restroom, and wet my skirt several times in the first grade. Now I have to make a conscious effort to reign myself in so as not to dominate conversations. I also have no fear whatsoever of speaking in front of a crowd, even on a moment's notice.

3. Before I was with Dan, I was afraid of the dark. I'd often lie in my bed and imagine horrors in the shadows, even in my modern condo in bustling Mountain View. I'd get images from horror movies I had seen decades prior (Poltergeist, anyone?) But in recent years, that's just gone away. I have no fear whatsoever of the dark, now. I've even tested it. When Dan's not around, and I'm in bed alone, I'll try to conjure up some horror. Nothing happens.

4. I think quite a few people know that I am a compulsive reader, but few think to the logical conclusion that I read all of the supermarket tabloids while standing in line. I don't own a television, and I watch maybe two movies in an average year, but I can tell you what all of the Hollywood stars are up to, even if I don't know what movies they are in.

5. I am very meticulous with personal hygiene. I don't care if I just got home at 5 am. I am flossing, brushing, and washing before going to bed.

6. I don't particularly enjoy science fiction novels. Most engineers and scientists love 'em, and are shocked that I don't!

7. I have a compulsive love of fuzzy things. I have to take off my gloves to pet dogs or cats, because I hate to waste enjoyment of fuzz.

Okay, well this seems to be making the rounds among a certain crowd, so I now tag Lucky_Girl!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Here is Autumn, with her new bone. Isn't she cute? I love her big ol' smile!

Here she is sleeping:

And here she is sitting in the kitchen. She doesn't beg, she doesn't dig through the trash, she doesn't chew stuff up. She is the World's Most Perfect Dog:

And here... cutest. photos. ever. Autumn befriending Millie!

"If I lie down, will you not be afraid?"


"Millie likes me!"

Here is the moon rising on campus:

This is from Autumn's and my walk a couple of days ago. This would be the sunset, but don't worry, we won't be out after dark! The sunset is a three-hour event. Sunrise is also three hours. In between, there are two hours of normal daylight. :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Unseasonably Warm Thanksgiving

My sister informs me that the Bay Area is having one, too. Their temps are summer-like. For us, "very warm" meant staying above freezing for two days. At first it was nice, but then the snow started to melt. The pretty (and, more importantly, insulative) white blankets on the roofs of all of the houses begain to melt and slide down their roofs, and break off at the bottom in chunks, like mini-glaciers calving into the sea. It's very dramatic. They go BOOM! as they fall off and crash to the ground, sounding like gunshots. It's hazardous, too, as giant ice chunks fall from everyone's eaves. Neighborly chitchat happens outside or inside, NOT on the front porch!

I hope we have another good snow before the temperatures drop below zero F; otherwise it is going to be a very cold winter, not to mention an unpretty, unsparkly one!

Article on the odd weather

Monday, November 19, 2007

Autumn's first run on the slow team

That slow team would be, her and me. :)

She runs like a champ. I was sure she'd pull and strain at her leash, because she's used to hauling ass with a sled team, but we did fine. I think she realizes she belongs with me, already! Seriously, she curls up at my feet while I do homework, but then insists on accompanying me wherever I go. And I do mean, wherever I go. She reminds me of Mr. Doofus B, when he was younger. He was utterly convinced I could not possibly accomplish anything without lagomorphic supervision. But I won't flatter myself that either of them do/did this out of affection. I think dogs and rabbits are snoopy creatures and want to know what I am up to!

BTW, she and Millie are getting along just fine--they touch noses whenever Autumn walks by their pen. Doofus, however, charges at her and grunts! Of course, if she respondes in any way, then both he and Millie go into a frenzy... But Autumn is so good on voice command that she leaves them alone the instant I tell her to. And those two doofi are not easily frightened, the way they describe in bunny care books. I seriously lucked out, with the world's most resilient rabbits and the world's sweetest dog.

I don't know why I ever considered a puppy! Autumn is well-mannered, potty-trained, sweet, not-slobbery, not-destructive... what more could you ask for?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

She's heeeere!

Just in time for Thanksgiving! She is not remotely interested in the doofi anymore either, nor are they at all bothered by her. I guess Rae's visits have been good preparation for them!

Here she is on her blanket, which I just bought for her at the thrift shop:

Here is my new outlook on life:

Here is the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest. I've finally witnessed just too many families going down there, toting dogs and kids and picnics, to think it's hazardous to explore now. So I took Autumn.

Here are some icy trees on campus, which I photographed earlier this week:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Looked up the whole thing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any -- lifted from the no
of all nothing -- human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened.)

-- e.e. cummings

Calm mornings

The extremely sparkly fluffy snow is still here, since the temperature hasn't come above freezing since it fell Monday night. This morning, under the starry real sky, the sparkling snow looked like an alternate sky from a sci-fi world. When I got back from my run, I was still fascinated, staring at the accumulation on our cars and on the flowerbed, watching them wink and blink as I moved my headlamp back and forth. It looked exactly as if I had stood up too quickly.

In the middle of my run, a line from e.e. cummings came to me from high school English. "now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fluffy snow

Last night when I left, I noticed that the snow was fluffy, sparkly, like the fake snow they make with iridescent plastic sheeting and put in Christmas displays. Look!

On closer inspection, I realized that they were giant flakes! With pretty little six-sided patterns! Seriously, I had always thought that those pretty little ice crystals that you try to duplicate with paper and scissors when you are a kid were microscopic. I hadn't realized you could see an actual snowflake just sitting on your car like it's nobody's business!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The E&M Immersion Plan

I started Berkeley declared as an environmental biology major, but as soon as I looked at the curriculum, I saw too much chemistry, and changed immediately to mechanical engineering to indulge my other favorite academic field besides biology--physics! I think that was the first time I was given, and utilised, the freedom to NOTlearn disciplines in which I have no interest and for which I have no talent. A peculiarity of American youth is that we are told as children, "You can do anything you want!" And yes, we have more freedoms of choice and movement among social strata than our brethren in other countries, and for that I feel very, very blessed. But along with this, we also have the freedom to notdo somethings. So I chose to notdo chemistry and notdo electricity.

Now I am in physics, might possibely go into magnetospheric research, and need to rethink the electricity thing. :)

I've never been good at electrical concepts. I took "circuit design for dummies" at Berkeley, which catered to non-electrical-engineering majors. The professor was a very, very, very nice man, but we didn't learn much. When I took Physics whatever number class it was, the lower division introduction to Electricity and Magnetism, I nearly failed.

So here is my immersion plan:
0) Read and do all of the problems in Div, Grad, Curl and All That. Done. Last Christmas. :)
1) Take upper division Electricity and Magnetism next Spring.
2) TA lower division Electricity and Magnetism next Spring.
3) Take graduate level Electrodynamics next Fall!

One-two! Right-left! Here I go!

Wintry days... and new sources of confusion

The weather has been stable for maybe 7-8 weeks now. Seriously, I've been wearing the same amount of clothes this whole time. I'm thinking the temperature will start dropping again soon, but this has not been unpleasant. I think that with the extreme temperature changes here, the changes during times of change are more rapid. Or something like that. Definitely, the daylight works that way, because the earth's orbit is circular, so the lengths of the days change as a sinusoidal function, and the cos is at max when the sin is zero. Err... I spend too much time thinking about this, don't I?

Anyway, because the Natural Sciences building is on a hill that faces south, we have a quite lovely view of the winter sun as it moves along the southern horizon. And it really does just move along the southern horizon, coming up on the eastern side (to the left), taking a long arc, and then dipping down on the western side (to the right). It's like a big long sunrise and sunset rolled into one. It's quite lovely.

The other funny thing is that, in California (as in the rest of the world in general, what Alaskans refer to as "Outside"), the sun is on one side of the street in the morning, and on the other side of the street in the evening. Not so in Fairbanks in Winter! The sun is to the south, all day. You don't realize how disorienting it is until you realize that a whole day has passed, and the sun is still on the same side of the road! Also, apparently, magnetic compasses don't work so well here, because we are so close to the Earth's magnetic pole that 1) the field lines go upward at an angle, and 2) the delta between magnetic north and rotational north is actually significant. And to add just one more could into the confusion, the North Star is almost directly overhead.

Most people in cities don't worry about NSWE directions on a constant basis, particularly in the Silicon Valley, where the highways and roads that come down the Pensinsula round Eastward to go around the Bay. There, taking the highway "North" means taking it Westward. Exiting South from a "Southbound" highway means turning ninety degrees to your right! I would think that eight years of living with such directional confusions, combined with a natural inclination toward a bad sense of direction over all, I would not even notice a difference up here. But I do. The only directional sense I have is that the Alaska Range is due South, and you can see it from most places on clear days, and that the Chena River runs roughly from East to West. The Chena is more suspect, though, because it winds and bend around all over the place.

So there you go. I am all confused.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Allow me to Introduce...


Autumn is my new running buddy. :)

Wow she looks huge... she's actually rather a small girl. She is a retired sled dog, nine years old. She has not lived indoors since she was about a year old, but I think the year inside has given her some manners. She's sweet and gentle, and she doesn't want to eat the bunnies, and Rae doesn't hate her all that much, so we're picking her up this weekend!


Here is yesterday's sunrise:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A brilliant sunny day

Today is one of those days that make Fairbanksians say, "this is why I live in the Interior. Isn't it great?" The sky is blue, blue, blue. The air is clear, the snow is sparkling.

I, however, and deeply ambivalent about sunny days because it means that the snow surface will melt and turn to ice in the night. It also means no fresh snow will fall, so the sparkling white will turn into grey. And most of all, it means that there is no cloud cover to hold the warmth of day into night. Which means very cold morning runs.

That is all.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

"American Food"

When I was growing up in San Francisco, the people that I considered most "generic American" (back before the definition of "to be American" became politically charged) were of European ancestry, spoke American English, and ate American food. I've unwittingly carried the assumption all my life, along with the implication that "generic Americans" are pretty homogeneous throughout the nation. The thing is, though, they are not. Along with their American regional differences, they all carry a bit of the old country in them. I tend to take this for granted with recent immigrants, who get hyphenations (Chinese-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc), but those who do not hyphenate themselves have other cultural ties, too. Most have a few (linear or nonlinear) relatives in the old country, and if you invite them to a potluck, they are likely to bring something from their original culture. In fact, I read an article a few years about about a person who, as a hobby, will tell you what your cultural heritage is if you tell him what your family has for Thanksgiving dinner. I found this particularly interesting because Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and has its own prescribed foods that leave little room for variation (once you have a turkey, after all, that doesn't leave much room for another meat dish to announce its chef's cultural origins). Yet food from the original countries still creeps in. I thought then of my own family's Thanksgivings. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, roast sweet potatoes, salad, cornbread. I thought, "Hah! He'd never guess us!" But then on further recollection, I had to admit that my sister regularly makes Chinese dumplings for lunch. And her sister-in-law brings potato knishes. Gee, a blended Chinese Jewish family? Okay, he wins. :)

Anyway, last year, I had a revelation when I was in China, travelling with a colleague who had been born and raised in Hong Kong. On our way out of China through Hong Kong (he to his home, I to the airport), he said, "My fiancee and I figured you would be missing Western food. So we would like to take you to a German restaurant." I was fascinated... You see, to a native San Franciscan, generic western food is not German. It's sort of Italian and French. German food is as exotic to me as Chinese food. (I did not mention this to my companion or his fiancee. I tried the German resaurant, which was lovely.) Anyway, then I realized that in the midwest, generic American food is probably German. So we Bay Areans who consider ourselves American cooks are in fact partially Italian and French cooks! How interesting!

Here in Fairbanks, I might have met my first real Americans. If you ask them their origin, they will not name a place in Europe or Asia. They will name a state in the lower 48. :)

All of this has been on my mind lately because I've been perusing my Italian cookbooks and missing food from home. Fortunately, we've *finally* found a passable Mexican restaurant here (the family is actually from the Bay Area!), but the best Italian food, I still have to cook myself.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Classes for next semester

Yup, I've already decided.

1) Continuation of Mathematical Methods in Physics
2) Nonlinear Mechanics
3) Undergraduate upper division E&M

I started graduate level E&M last Fall, and it scared the bejeebus out of me. So I figured I'd best get myself up to at least the level of background that my fellow grad students have in E&M.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Math exam

The math exam seemed much more humane. We had ten problems and were told to do six, our choice. Anything else we did would be extra credit.

In the classical mechanics exam, we also had 1.8 the amount we could finish in the alloted time, but we were told to complete all of it. We worked in a sweaty frenzy. But in the end, we didn't finish, and the mean score, percentage-wise, will probably be the same as the overall math score (seeing as the target was 60% for math).

And then the scores are curved so that the average value is a C+/B-, etc. So the end result is the same, right? But somehow, we all came out of the math exam with a warm fuzzy, and came out of Classical Mechanics feeling like we'd just gotten a drubbing.

Interesting, no?

Monday, October 29, 2007


We got the Classical Mechanics exam back today. The prof let us know how disappointed he was with the lot of us. Although I've had exams at Berkeley where the mean was lower. But I actually beat the mean by half a standard deviation, which puts me at a solid B. Not too shabby, though believe me, I have no reason at all to be proud, considering that I didn't even finish the darned thing.

OK that's the report. Off to study for math!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sometimes, when I think too much or try to plan too carefully...

... I just feel darned overwhelmed. I think after I finish my PhD, I'll need to take up a less life-encompassing hobby other than collecting academic degrees...


I was feeling rather down about how I had done on my Classical Mechanics exam (nailed the easy question, only had time to do half each of the other two, and then, the following day, realized I had done one calculation, which I should have nailed, completely wrong). I wanted to vent, whine, etc, when I realized that no-one would want to hear this. I am so OVER complaining about school. Am I not here by choice? Any time I want to leave, I could turn tail and go back to the Sili Valley, likely at a higher salary than I left. If I were merely in love with Fairbanks, I could find an engineering job in town, no problem. But no, I really love learning again and need to take the stress of it with the fun of it. I also imagine BT, who has a charming trait of getting quite huffy when I complain about myself. "I feel SO STOOPID!" And immediately she bristles. "How DARE you say such things about my friend!" etc. So I just had this conversation with her, only in my head, and immediately felt better.

Thanks, BT!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


We had hoarfrost a few days ago:

And then the next day, we got more snow. Here is the same tree as the photos from a few days prior:


After I took this photo, he scolded me up and down!

My new pots!

My birthday cupcakes!

I passed these out at school like in the third grade! No one could help but smile!