Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warm, snowy, beautiful

It looks to be a perfect Thanksgiving weekend. The weather is remaining above 0F/-18C, and we should get a bit more snow. The sun is golden, the landscape is sparkly, and the intermittent clear skies are dancing with atmospheric phenomena that are only common in the arctic, such as sun dogs and sun pillars.

Today's weather report shows this:

Eh? The current weather description is "ice crystals"? Isn't that a bit like saying "foggy" in San Francisco? Or "dry" in Tucson?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Its my favorite week of the year!

Only three workdays, topped off by America's best holiday. So many of our holidays seem tainted by overly commercial this or overly dramatic that that the existence of Thanksgiving day, as it is, seems enough reason to be thankful alone. So here we have a holiday that justifies its own existence. How cool is that?

Off and on over the past few months, I've been trying to obtain a locally raised turkey to make our feast more treehugger-friendly. But alas, it was not to be. However, I do intend to use the last of the Alaskan pumpkins I'd saved for the pies, and the last of the Alaskan squash to roast. We will have 10 people, 3 dogs, and 2 rabbits in our little 20x25 cabin--a bit like phone booth stuffing.

Thanksgiving is also Autumn's first anniversary with us. In fact, I bought our turkey last year the day I brought her home, and it was frozen like a rock and she had nooooo idea what she was riding with in the car. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Warming up

I think it was only in the minus teens in degrees F today. I took the girls skijoring both yesterday and today, and we had a blast. The girls are running strong and fast; I just do my best to make some sort of contribution and not hang there like a sack of potatoes. In terms of exercise level, skijoring is to skiing what running on a treadmill is to running for real. It's theoretically easier, since you don't have to propel yourself forward. But skijoring turns out to be more difficult, because it is like having the treadmill set WAY too fast, and I have to clamber along to keep up! Of course, resting is no problem. I can just stand there while the girls continue forward. The first time I ran on a treadmill and I tried to stand there and rest, I went flying off the back, haha.

When I got back today, my earlobes hurt. Apparently, my silver earrings (tiny hoops) had gotten really cold. Ouch!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh. My. God.

There is a reason I still religiously read my hometown paper. The food section. And now they give me this.

I'm in reading heaven. I won't get any work done today. Okay, I should provide something better for this blog, so here is a photo of Mr. B taking a nap. Isn't he... special? :)

In other food news, today is the Thanksgiving lunch/potluck. Wow the engineering one is sure more multicultural than the physics one. In addition to turkey, dressing, and potatoes, I had seaweed salad and Indian curry. And bakhlava for dessert. How wonderfully American!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


It is currently -15F/-26C outside, according to yahoo weather.

This morning, I ran in:

*3 pairs of pants--silk under merino wool under nylon

*same ol' coolmax socks and shoes (my feet never get too hot or cold, in any weather; how weird is that?)

*2 shirts--merino wool under a thin fleece, and a light shell (and I found it too warm on top; the fleece was overkill--all I needed was a light synthetic layer)

*fleece neck gaitor

*fleece hat

*2 pairs of gloves--merino wool under polyester

*reflective vest, headlamp, etc

On my way into school I finally dropped off my skis to be waxed. They have you pick them up the next day, and I had been unable to part with my skis for that long until now. It's too cold to ski today; at these temperatures, you don't have any glide at all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It was around -20F or -30C this morning when the girls and I headed out for our run. My headlamp froze to my hat, for the first time this year. When I later left for school, the sun was rosy pink, and the snowy street looked magical. Having no wind not only makes cold tolerable; it makes landscapes very picturesque. Snow sits on trees for a long time, making them look like they are from a Christmas card.

On cold days, you can even see the moisture freezing out of the air. If you look at a sunny spot and sort of zonk your eyes out like you are looking at a stereogram, you can see that the whole atmosphere is dancing with pixie dust. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Linden is doing her famous Grounded Superdog pose. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Classes for Spring

* A course on SEM instrumentation (1 unit)

* "Sustainable Energy Systems" (a grad level course offered by the mechanical engineering department)

* Ice Physics

* The second semester of Math Physics, the first semester of which I completed in Fall 2007.

A full course load. I will have to get better with the procrastination and puttering and woolgathering.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Silicon2tanana reportage

debs said...

What would a typical night out back home have been, compared to what you'd do in Fairbanks? Do people do the same things, just with warmer clothes, or is the social life different?

I have personally had a change in lifestyle with my move, so a lot of what seems different to me are not due to the Fairbanks vs. Sili Valley thing. They are due to the student vs. working thing. Also, I'm probably not the best person to define "a night out" since I've always been a bit of a prude (living in sin and frequenting nude beaches notwithstanding). When I was in my early 20s I liked to go out to nightclubs and go dancing, but I generally left earlier than most (around 1 or 2 am at the latest) and returned home to my own bed (evidently not as common a thing to do as I had believed at the time).

Lately, Dan and I have had very tame nights out. For the aforementioned birthdays and symphony concerts, we'd just go to a nice restaurant and then go home early, haha that sounds so much like elderly folks. There were also our office holiday parties. Office holiday parties in the silicon valley are lavish affairs, even when the economy wasn't so good (I'm not sure how these parties are now, though, since the economy is even worse than during the downturn I experienced). Let's see, I've been to parties on boats, while cruising in the San Francisco Bay, in a giant tent on Treasure Island, with the lights of San Francisco as a backdrop, and of course, lots of ballrooms in lots of fancy hotels. There were platters of giant prawns and lobster tails, fountains of chocolate into which you dipped cookies of half a dozen shapes, gambling tables, elegant live music, and, best of all, the sight of my nerdy coworkers dressed up, the women generally looking beautiful and the men generally looking awkward. :)

A funny observation I made at most of these parties was that my engineering coworkers mostly had wives who were also engineers, and while they could certainly be attractive, they did not make "being attractive" the focus of their presence. They made intelligent conversation, and were warm and friendly. Most of the smarmy marketing guys' wives, in contrast, were trophy wives, and dressed accordingly--elaborate hair and makeup, silicone-enhanced breasts threatening to overflow elaborately beaded décolletage, which was clinging for dear life to the thinnest of spaghetti straps. Until I met them, I had no idea that women like that even existed in the Sili Valley. Most of them were coldly polite to each other, but overly warm to me (they saw me as a darling little boobless child, not as competition). They called me "honey" and put their freakishly tan, perfumy arms around me. I was both amazed and amused.

Here in Fairbanks, I have no idea what office parties are like, since I've never been to one. We grad students do get together quite often, but only in a very casual environment. We have potluck-type dinners at each others homes, and they are mostly casual and loosely planned. My friend Carl is in a band, so we often go see him play at various pubs around town. We never dress up. There is quite a lively music scene around here, with local bands playing at pubs and coffee houses, but to be honest, I've never seen any that aren't Carl's. :)

I haven't yet been to the Fairbanks Symphony, but I would bet that people don't dress up to go. I personally don't even think it's safe to wear high-heeled shoes on ice, and I absolutely don't feel safe driving around in a dress in this weather, even if I have a warm coat. What if the car breaks down and we need to walk out for help? Or what if I am alone and need to change a tire?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not much to report

I realize that I recycle post titles, but my life itself is a cycle, especially since I am a student on an annual cycle, and I report so much on weather and weather-related activities, which are, of course, on an annual cycle. As I passed the one-year anniversary of this blog, it occurred to me that my posts might get redundant, so I guess that's why lately I've had a bigger emphasis on photos and food, although you may be getting tired of seeing various permutations of the dogs flopped around the living room in their naps. :)

Anyway, this has been an uneventful few days. I am plugging away at the take-home exam, and admiring the full moon. It is so incredibly bright here that when I took the girls out for their final pee last night, I wondered if there was new street lighting, somehow. I think the moonlight feels amplified because of all the snow. Yesterday morning we had a bit of a warm spell (a midday high of about 15F/-9C), only I hadn't quite realized it. After I shed my outer layers after my morning run with the girls, I realized that I was sweaty, and had waves of heat coming over me. I was frightened because I thought I was falling ill. I quickly stripped off my wool underlayers and put on a set of dry sweats. Then I lay down on the couch and let Autumn lay her head on my chest. Ayah! What was happening to me? Only then did it cross my mind... I didn't actually feel ill. I just felt hot. Huh.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Here is the moon rising over the Chena yesterday evening:

Here are the doofi looking peeved:

Here are the girls looking floppulous:

I was doing some organizing last night, and came upon a couple of boxes of my Sili Valley clothes. It struck me how much my life has changed.

Here we have Silicon Valley special occasion shoes versus Tanana Valley special occasion shoes:

Special occasion in the Silicon Valley: the symphony, Dan's birthday, my birthday, a holiday party.

Special occasion in the Tanana Valley: Temperatures drop below 0F for the year.

Of course, some things never change.

Here we have running shoes in the Silicon Valley:

And here we have running shoes in the Tanana Valley:

That's right, same shoes. But the accessories are priceless! (By the way, I did not put those shoes in front of Autumn. I put them on the floor for the photo, and she came right up and curled up next to them. Aahhhh Mama's stinky shoes! How lovely!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not much to report...

I've been trying to take the girls 'joring twice a week, to make sure they maintain their fitness level post-retirement, and also so they regularly burn off enough energy to remain calm, peaceful indoor dogs. I also think it would be fun to enter a fun race in Spring. Nothing so serious that we'd annoy the really competitive mushers and skijorers with our levity, but just something casual and enjoyable. We'll probably win the red lantern. :) I also ski once a week while they run beside me off-leash, and we still run weekday mornings. With all this activity, I feel happy and strong. I seldom feel drowsy or lethargic in afternoons, the way I often used to in afternoon meetings in the Sili Valley, where my activity level was somewhat limited by my intolerance of hot weather. I am also indulging my appreciation of the unique beauty that Fairbanks has during its cold, icy Winters. The sun is low in the sky even at noon, and the sky and snow-covered trees are awash with the colors of a combined, extended sunrise and sunset.

I was out on a frozen pond today, following some snowmachine tracks, and I think I finally "got" effective skiing. I had been shoving myself along, pushing with my poles, huffing, puffing, quite ineffectively. But today, on that smooth, perfect snow, something clicked and I realized that I could actually use the strength of my thighs for propulsion. And then I realized that I could also apply this to 'joring, and sure enough, when I hooked up to the girls on our way home, I felt for the first time that we were actually working together, instead of them dragging me like I am a sack of potatoes. It was awesome, and once again, I am so thankful to have such sweet, intelligent partners.

In other news, I am working on a take-home exam for my elastic stability class. It's a structural engineering class, and assumes quite a bit of civil engineering background that I don't have. But I did pretty well in the one beam theory class I took at Berkeley, so I figured, how bad could it be? Well, I was doing fine in the class, and learning some interesting things, but then I got this exam and looked at it. Uh... hmmmm... some casual references to how we should "check our work" by plugging in numbers and running it through this structural engineering software that apparently all civil engineers are proficient in. Oops. Well, I have a week to teach myself a new software package! Yay for not actually paying attention to prerequisites before signing up for classes!

Friday, November 7, 2008


It was -15F/-26C when the girls and I got back from our run this morning. I had serious white mascara (although not as much frost on my hat as when those photos were taken!), and my gloves went stiff with ice.

We had fun though. It was nice to sleep in a bit and be out when the sun was already brightening the morning.

Here are the girls being fuzzywuzzy cuddlebugs:

They are growing the fur back in between their toes for the Winter. It is so thick and dense that it blocks out snow, and it also spreads out their toes a bit to make their paws into little snowshoes. Here is a photo of Linden's feeties this morning:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What's up?

This is what was up outside my home late this morning. Lovely, isn't it?

This has been a really lovely few weeks, weather-wise. Enough snow to ski and 'jor, and still plenty of sun to warm our spirits. And that amazing blue sky!

By the way, I found a trail system in my neighborhood that I had not known about. I can't wait to check it out with the girls! And I'm not telling where it is! Muwahahahahahaha...

And yes, yesterday was an exciting day around here, as it was in the rest of the United States, if not the world (I see our little country's election made the front page of the BBC). I was in a night class when the presidential election was called. I must say that when I voted, I was pleased to have the opportunity to cast my vote for the better of two fine people to lead the country, instead of having to pinch my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, as I had in elections past. Yes, it was truly a pleasure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beautiful Morning

Last night when I left class, a couple of inches of fresh snow was covering the ground, and it was sparkling like I had stood up too quickly. This morning, the dawn was rosy and bright.

Monday, November 3, 2008



"Why Linden! What big teef you have!"

Millie munching:

How cute is Millie?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Development, 'tis sad

So, along with my disappointment at finding that a paved street and new collection of McMansions have replaced Dingo Dave's recommended trails, I had another heartbreak yesterday when I took the girls out to our old stomping grounds for an afternoon of skiing and 'joring. This undeveloped road (read: ski trail) has now been graded and developed into a full-on road, for, like CARS! Well! I cannot tell you how heartbreaking I find this. The girls and I have had great fun back there, walking, running, skiing, and 'joring through all kinds of weather. But now of course the road will be kept plowed and will have a constant flow of cars, so no more fun there for us! And now I no longer have any regrets about moving closer to town. That trail system was my favorite thing about living out there! Ah, so sad. Shocks like this usually happen when you visit your childhood home after a decade, not when you visit your home of six months prior! Geeze!

But the back side of the trail system is still available, and it is on state land, so hopefully it will never be developed! And I guess now that I have to drive there from town, what's the difference between parking at the beginning of the road, or driving down the new road and parking at the end of it? And with that time and energy saved, we were able to explore an extra several miles of trail that we had never been on. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So, I finally got up the courage to try skijoring with both girls. To those who joined us recently, I only got Linden this past Spring, so this is our first Winter with her. She and Autumn are biological sisters though (litter mates), and they became part of our family as they retired from pulling a sled for a farm in Two Rivers. They've dragged moose and caribou from hunts, and also had the all-important duty of taking their human children to school and back in a little pulk. How cute is that? But now their brother has taken over this responsibility, and the girls are with me!

Well, 'joring was awesome! I don't know what I was so afraid of--they were so good, so well-behaved. I had them run loose while I skied out, and hooked up to them to 'jor back (so they'd be good and tired and not take me flying), and they were so well-behaved. Bonus--they have such a good sense of direction, which I can only take advantage of when hooked up to them. When they are running loose, they look to me to decide where to go, but when they are pulling me, they call the shots, and I've learned that it's best to let them! At one point, I got confused, and called "Haw" (left). They hesitated, jerked to the right, looked back over their shoulders like "are you sure?" then finally went left. After a few seconds, I realized that this was the wrong trail, apologized profusely, and pulled them back to the correct trail. With dogs like these, who needs their own brain? :D

Anyway, here are Halloween photos.

First, here are our pumpkins. I did the girls. Dan did a whiffle ball.

Here is my pumpkin bundt cake with chocolate glaze:

Here are some nice shots of the girls:

Here they are looking like badass doggie demons!

And here is some beautiful frost I found growing on our window: