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.