Friday, February 29, 2008


We got some crazy auroras last night!

Here are a few photos from locals:
From Spaceweather
From the News Miner

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Finally a Moose photo!

I've only rarely been able to take moose photos because when I see them I am too startled to get out the camera in time. I just look at them and think, "Whoa! Moose! It's a big ol' moose! Big brown moose! All big and brown and moosey and moose moose MOOSE!" But today we were just walking along we saw this guy contentedly sitting there blinking into the sun like the way dogs do. I managed to zoom in, snap this photo and then turn around and head away before Autumn noticed him and attempted to chase him off, as she is generally wont to do.

Autumn and Millie and me hanging out together:

"Hey! What's my little buddy doin' down there?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Report from the Academic Front

Stat Mech--insanely difficult. Lectures consist of the prof barfing greek letters all over the board, and me scribbling them down as quickly as I can, with zero comprehension. Homework is a lot of guesswork, and I consider myself lucky if I get half the points.

Upper Division undergraduate E&M--insanely easy. The prof gives us integrals, even trivial ones. For example, he informed us very nicely that the integral of the cosine was the sine. Yup, he's that soft. :)

Nonlinear dynamics--awesome. Perfect level of difficulty. I am learning new concepts but not getting my butt kicked. Our prof is awesome and great at explaining things. I had wanted to do research with her, but now find that she doesn't have funding to test any applications, just computer simulations, so that would mean coding, coding, and coding, for my entire research. No, thank you! It would be cool work though, if we could actually test applications. Like if we had a wind tunnel! Or a wave machine! But no luck. It's a damned shame.

And finally, I am meeting with faculty to see whom I'd like to work with and who would like to take me on as a research assistant. It's been a bit of a loopy odyssey, but I hope to have it all worked out soon, and I'll let y'all know what happens!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yeti! Sasquatch!

Any wildlife biology readers? What the heck made these tracks?

It has well-defined, furless toes and walks with its heels down! That's not like any dog or wild animal around here!

This is its gait:

It's like it walks like a bunny, with its back feet side by side and landing at the same time. And where are the front feet?

Here is what its print looks like in deep snow:

Here I happened to catch Autumn's foot, which makes a good comparison. Dogs walk on their toes, so they sink in deeper, and their feet are furry, so they don't leave such pronounced toe outlines.

What is it? What is it?

In other news, I helped to judge the Homeschool Science Fair today. It was cute. The kids were a pretty smart crowd. Anyway, check out this one photo this one girl had in her poster:

I literally laughed out loud when I saw that. Huskies are like that. When you have a husky, you have a husky all the time, even in situations where a dog is neither necessary nor useful. :)

Then this other kid did a project on ants. Check out these little fuzzy props! Cute or what? I love that they have little personalities. :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wham, Bam, it's Sunny, Ma'am!

Yesterday I was out skiing in our neighborhood, rounded a corner, and was suddenly dumbstruck. Golden sunlight streamed down all around us--I had forgotten that sunshine was warm! It is so different now than it was in deep Winter, when the faraway sun provided no warmth and seemed to serve only as another ornament in the sky, like the moon.

So different now! The sky was deep, pure blue, so blue that the shadows in the snow looked blue. A scene I'd seen dozens a times, now transformed by the quality of light.

I don't think I've experienced joys and sorrows as simple and profound as I have in Fairbanks. On the surface, it looks like any generic small town in America. But there is something strange and wonderful about living here. The sun and the sky can make you experience joy on a visceral level. You step out at night to do some mundane chore--let the dog pee, retrieve something from your car--and WHOA--shimmering curtains of green light are waving around overhead, the juxtaposition of their gaudy brilliance unnerving against their silence.

And I cursed like a sailor when I saw that Rosie Creek had melted. Cut off from half the ski trails! &*$@!!

P.S. very funny article on how Fairbanksians obsess over temperatures. And true, I can assure you. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

High-speed, small-scale glacier simulation

So this was the only bit of snow left on our roof, sliding down and creeping off like a tiny glacier:

When it's warm, and the chunks of snow calve off your roof, they make you jump when they come crashing down!

Here it is the next morning. I don't know how it managed to hold on for so long!

Another view:

Here is Autumn. "Why are you taking photos of the roof? Can we go back inside?"

Only it's impossible for her to actually look annoyed, since her face has a permanent smile pasted on it. Huskies are like that, much like rabbits always look disapproving.

She even smiles at the rabbits while they disapprove of her!

I'm still feeling very ambivalent about this warm spell. Going about in jeans and a light jacket is nice. Heading to our favorite ski trail area and finding our way blocked by a thawed-and-flowing Rosie Creek is not.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It is very warm today!

45F/7C, to be exact. It's weird to still have snow everywhere and still be comfortable in a T-shirt.

The snow on top of our roof came sliding down like a high-speed mini-glacier last night. It moved at maybe an inch every ten or so minutes, and as it came hanging down the roof, it would calve off in chunks. Ka-BOOM! I took photos. Will post them when I get home!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Heat wave!

We are now experiencing temperatures in the 20F range, and should be for at least a week. It's the craziest thing... I strip clothes off while I run, and come back sweating like a pig. Autumn lies on the floor and pants. But it is still below freezing! Are we losing our minds? I cannot imagine how cooooold I would have thought 20F was just a year ago. I'm quite baffled and I'm not sure what is happening to my body.

I must say that I am quite ambivalent at seeing the last of Winter. The sunlight is wonderful--we saw our first truly gorgeous sunrise since Fall this morning. A million colors exploding over the river and washing down the hills. And not wearing a ton of clothes is nice. But I don't quite appreciate all the sweating and panting and huffing and puffing! Ew! I will quite miss our long Winter runs, just snow and silence, cold and Autumn and me, running strong in our optimal running weather...

We only have a month or so left of skiing, as well. Bummer! I hope we have another good snowfall or two before it's all over!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Real Dangers of Living in Fairbanks

My mother is evidently quite worried about me being attacked by bears. (Hi, Mudder! *waves at the computer*) While people are mauled and/or killed in bear attacks, and it is undoubtedly horrifying, the rate of bear attacks is still very, very low (according to this website, 56 fatalities and 211 nonfatal maulings in the past 20 years). I think it only sticks in people's minds because it is graphic like a horror movie. But in reality, the real risks of living here (which kill a few dozen PER YEAR), are quite different. In the interests of honest reporting, I offer the following list, which I dedicate to my mother. Mudder, please feel free to offer your "friendly reminders" on any of the following topics, which are the real killers.

1) Sliding on the ice. Driving on ice can be done safely with good tires and safe driving practices, especially when temperatures are sufficiently below freezing. But you must always be careful!

Preventative action: Drive slowly, brake gently, and don't put yourself in a situation that you have to brake hard on a curve or a turn. Do not EVER tailgate. And use studded tires.

2) Hypothermia and frostbite. This can of course occur from wearing insufficient or inadequate clothing, but it is more insidious when you are caught unexpected in cold conditions. For example, quite a few idiots around here love to walk around in indoor clothing. They dash to their car, heat the car, then dash to their offices. Well, cars break down, crashes happen, and you can also slide off the road. You must be prepared at all times to walk out for help. If you are walking around in a T-shirt, you can die in half an hour. Remember my Christmas party? Yeah, I brought a bag of warm clothes and good boots.

My boss at school takes this a step further. He says that you have to wear even MORE clothing in your car, just in case you get into a bad accident by yourself, and you are knocked unconscious. You need to be wearing enough clothing so that you will stay alive until help "happens upon" you, which can be several hours!

Preventative action: Take good care of your car, wear sufficient clothing, keep extra clothing and boots in your car.

3) Moose. You will likely kill both moose and self if you hit one in your car. Also, be careful not to startle moose if you are just walking around. A startled moose is a dangerous moose. They can trample you to death.

Preventative action: Drive slowly, and be alert when walking around. It is very helpful to have a dog that is smarter than you are (not a significant limitation, in my case). Watch your dog, and be on guard when he is on guard.

4) Slipping. Some shoes' soles get hard in cold temperatures. You WILL do a face-plant if you wear them. Oh yes, you will. Don't be vain. You will have to wear big boots with good rubber soles.

Preventative action: Wear good shoes designed for cold weather, and walk more slowly. For Heaven's sake, do not walk like me! :)

And for all these risks, it is still safer to live here than in California. In 2005, California had about 4000 traffic fatalities, out of a population of 36 million, making the fatality rate 12 fatalities per 100,000 people. Alaska had about 70 traffic fatalities, out of a population of 660,000, making the fatality rate 11 per 100,000. I suspect that population density contributes more to traffic fatalities than bad weather and ice. People driving unsafely are killers in any road conditions, but people here are so spread apart and drive so slowly that we can overcome snow and ice.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Saturday, February 16, 2008

North Pole Chinese Food

The other night, Dan and I went with a friend (BW) to a Chinese restaurant in North Pole, which is a suburb of Fairbanks (located to the South of it!). The restaurant was BW's suggestion; he had tried it before and liked it. I admire BW's spunk. Most people from areas with not many Chinese people wouldn't have the courage to recommend a small-town Chinese restaurant to a Chinese person!

The place is called The Pagoda. Here is their website. It actually was pretty good. I've long said that I do not mind Americanized Chinese food, because, hey, what am I but an Americanized Chinese person? It's actually quite good, because it eliminates the elements of Chinese food that do not appeal to my Western tastebuds (e.g., chicken feet, tiny dried shrimp, excessive oil, shrimp that are not deveined). The menu featured entirely Americanized Chinese favorites such as broccoli beef, deep fried wontons, chicken chow mein, hot and sour soup, lemon chicken. But all of it was quite good, for what it was. I did wish they would have had some noodle soup, though!

There is also a pho house in Fairbanks, which advertises with a big sign on the street proclaiming "hot noodle soup" and who can resist that? It was really quite good, although they lacked the fresh herbs. But the broth base was on target. It does not have a website nor a review on Yelp, so no link will be posted here, but it is called "Little Saigon," and it hosts a booth at the Farmer's Market in Summer, where it sells Chinese food.

There are also about fifteen Thai restaurants, and almost all of them are excellent and on a par with anything you'd find in the Bay Area. And they are all staffed by Thai people who barely speak English. Where did they come from? What are they doing here? I can't figure it out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Autumn on the Beaver Pond

It is a balmy 32F/0C today, so Autumn and I took a walk to the local beaver pond and back.

Here she is pond-ering. (eh-heh-heh... a-hem)

Go Autumn, go!

So happy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A balmy 0F today...

Today is so warm that when I returned from my morning walk with Autumn, my forehead was coated with a layer of unfrozen sweat. I am wearing a lighter jacket, and light, uninsulated boots. I felt like not wearing long underwear today, but then I said to myself, "Um, HELLO? It is still 0F/-18C."

But it feels so warm!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Autumn befriending the Doofi

Autumn and the doofi have been comfortable with each other since day two, when they got over fear and/or fascination and went straight to ignoring each other, except for the occasional nose-touch through the bars of their pen. But lately they have expressed more interest in each other, sniffing each other up and down and actively following each other along the pen, so I've been trying opening the pen. And how sweet it is... I think they are actually making friends! Tonight Autumn laid down next to them while they had their dinner! Awwwwwwww!

The doofi aren't afraid of her, either. They hop freely about while she follows them around. My only fear is that either something will startle them, or they will just decide it's time to run the Bunny 500 and race up and down the room, and when they do, Autumn's chasing instinct will be activated and she'll go after them.

Things are proceeding cautiously... but Autumn definitely feels companionable toward them! She didn't even react when Bunn hrrmphed in her face!

Yukon Quest Photos!

But first... more Autumn!

Awwww... she's so pretty!

"Yes, I know I am cute! Aren't I cute?"

Now, Quest Photos:

The opening team. Teams go at three-minute intervals, and the order is by drawing.

They're so happy and excited! The teams have to be held back by giant metal spikes in the ground, while they whine and howl until they can run.

On such a cold day, most doggies wear jackets.

This team looked like a bunch of Autumns.

Lance Mackey

Big Crowd!

Friday, February 8, 2008

You know you are in Fairbanks in Winter when...

... no one recognizes each other outdoors.

... no one picks up a dime on the sidewalk.

... your (husky) dog stands on three legs when she has to stand still outside.

... you have to eat your ice cream bar quickly... before it freezes too solid to bite.

... when Punxsutawney Phil says "six more weeks of Winter" you DO consider it an early Spring.

Um... WHAT?

So, according to the meteorologists' predictions, it is supposed to be in the -20F range this morning, so I bundle up and take Autumn for a walk (something we don't do below -30F). We walk, I'm thankful that it is "warmer." Autumn enjoys her walk, blahblah.

Then I get to school. It still seemed rather chilly this morning. I wonder what the temperature actually is outside...

What the heck? I mean, it's supposed to be warmer today, right? Hellooooooo?!?

In all honesty, it is warmer in our neighborhood than at the airport, where the official reading is taken, so I'm probably not completely losing it. But still.

The Yukon Quest probably won't actually start tomorrow then. They'll probably do the ceremonial start, but then stop after the photos have been taken, to start when temperatures come up.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feelin' Good

Temps are up enough after our cold snap to take a walk with Autumn, and the sun is shining...

I'm somewhat on schedule for my homework, and life is good!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Things you only hear in Fairbanks...

"Be sure to bring the ice in from outside a few hours before lab so it has a chance to warm up to 0C."

Weather Report

So it's been about -50F/-45C for a few days now, and a Sili valley friend informs me that we have made the news down there. That this is news surprises me somewhat--my understanding is that we should have more than a few days like this every Winter. Nevertheless, if this is comment-worthy, then your intrepid reporter will offer her comments.

1) Yes, it is cold! Remember how I told you that -20F/-30C was still comfortable, even to run in? Well, -40 is not! It is cold! Even Autumn is cold! I haven't taken her for walks since the temps came this far down, and when she goes out to pee, she goes as quickly as she can and then high-tails it for the house! And this is a dog that used to live outside year-round! (She had only a straw-lined, but otherwise uninsulated, dog house. And no, this is not cruel, that I know of. Most sled dogs live like that. Autumn is just spoilt now. Which she deserves!)

2) "Ice fog" is a euphemism for "smog that can't go anywhere because the air is so dense and still and everyone's cars are burning rich in the cold air." It's disgusting and yet another reason that I am thankful to live outside of town!

3) Yes, we still go outside, not for recreational purposes, but we do not alter our general patterns of working and running errands. But it is not difficult to stay warm and comfortable. I wear boots that are rated to -25F/-32C, and they are warm to -40 or so and are remarkably lightweight (I love Sorels!). I wrap lightweight wool scarves around my face so I don't breathe cold air. And I'm still loving this hat... my head has yet to be cold!

Temperatures are supposed to come up over the next few days, though there are no predictions for snow. This gives me pause. How can temperatures come up with no clouds to bring snow and warmth?

We shall see.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Yukon Quest is this Saturday!

The Yukon Quest is this Saturday! This year it starts in Fairbanks (it reverses the route each year), so we'll get to see the start! Yay!

Monday, February 4, 2008


So here I am wondering why I feel so cold today "all of a sudden"... Here's why:

Yeah, bloody cold!

"Fog", though? Psh! I'm from San Francisco! This ain't fog! It cracks me up when they issue "fog warnings" on the radio. I'm like, uh-huh. It's the one way in which a native San Franciscan can feel tougher than a Fairbanksian. :)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

More photos, again

Frosty outlook on life:

When they scrape the ice off the roads, you can see alternating strata of dust and snow, from the periods of snow and no snow. :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

More photos

The many faces of snoozing Autumn:

I love that she smiles!

There are these "bearing trees" around here. They give your exact coordinates.

Permafrost trees. Their growth is stunted:

Moose print! They are ha-YOOJ!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Catching up on photos

Firstly, here is my A.G. Ferrari Foods loot from my quick visit home:


Here are some photos from our first bright sun since Fall:

Shadows! I remember how the sun is supposed to cause those!

Bird's nest:

My eyelashes collect frost. I need to periodically hold my fingers against them for a few seconds, or they stick together when I blink:

Pondering spending the night at my friend Carl's house after a late night: