Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We will be watching fireworks tonight from campus. There will be a full moon. I bet some nice photos will come out of it--the full moon with fireworks against the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Merlion, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc, etc.

Here is a photo of the moon from the top of my driveway last night. I knew I'd miss it if I waited a few minutes longer, so I stopped as I was pulling into the driveway, opened my window, and took the photo right then and there. I edited out the power lines, but this is the only time I've done that. The rest of my photos have been only cropped. :)

Here is a photo of the same moon, taken from Kotzebue by blogger Cathy. It looks like another planet, doesn't it?

Here is a photo of the girls being warm and fuzzy. And smiling!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Collected snow samples for the first time this season this morning.

Note to self: When you need to preserve snow samples, you can't heat the car. When you drive in an unheated car, you need to wear more clothes. Don't you remember from last year?

Anyway, here is an image for your amusement. I don't know who took it, but it's floating 'round the internet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time for me to be smug

"A strong inversion is developing over Fairbanks again, with a 20-degree temperature differential over an elevation gain of 300 feet..."

I live at about 700 feet, and the town is about 400, so I'll be about 20 F degrees warmer than town. Ner, ner, ner.

As long as we're on the topic, the Tanana River, leaving Fairbanks, flows another 100-150 some odd miles before it hits the Yukon, which then travels another 1000 or so miles before hitting the ocean. All that over an elevation drop of just 400 feet. Isn't that amazing?

And... behbeh elephant cuddling his human caretaker! Ahhhh!!! I want to cuddle one!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Views down the hill, and Christmas at Sam's house

I'm really glad my land faces south. I have beautiful views, even while doing distasteful chores. Such as carrying firewood up the hill. Manually. By myself. Since a certain silly goober of a dog hurt her shoulder bouncing around in the woods at much faster than is prudent after a fresh snow.

This is the sun at around 1 p.m. There's just a bit, but on my hill I get all that there is.

Moving westward, and now peeking from behind my outhouse:

"I'm a goober. I hurt myself, and now my mama has to haul the firewood herself."

"Woe is me. I'm not sure why I look depressed, but I always do when I am indoors."

"I get all the veggies now, and nobody humps me. Life is good."

Huskyballs come in four sizes. I have one small and one medium.

Here are some photos from Christmas at Sam's house.

"We'll pose nicely for you... but... we think..."

"... we smell something from over there..."


"Where do we line up?"

"Our best side"

"Let's maul Uncle Dan!"

Dave and Agatha's oven. It's the latch I love.

A closeup of the dial for you. Dave informed me that his sharpie marks had rubbed off and that the dial is due to be renumbered.

"Oooohhhh... are we full!"

This is Sam's cat, Berenices:

Berenices is very shy. Although I'm at Sam's house pretty frequently, I only see Berenices maybe twice a year. I once had forgotten she existed when she came sauntering in the room. I jumped up. "Whoa! A cat!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Notes from here and there

So I just now mailed Christmas cards from the Ester Post Office, where our friendly neighborhood postal clerks helped me sort through my thirty some odd cards to three different countries, and four different types of stamps in various obsolete amounts of postage. Christmas cards are on time if they are postmarked before Christmas, right? Merry Christmas, all!

And, a bit of good news for Bay Area bibliophiles... Black Oak books has reopened!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So, I just barely finished coursework. Literally finished my final project an hour before grades were due to the registrar, giving my professor/adviser an hour to grade it. Bless his heart, he took this all in stride. I know that grad students are infamous for procrastinating, but I'm not generally of this sort, and cutting it this short is a record for me!

This morning, I checked and found he had given me an A-. I don't think I deserved above a B, but I'll bow to his superior judgment. :)

So now it's four straight days of skiing for me! Yay! Then back to the grind of research. There are a few interesting things to do, that I'd put on hold for my trip to meet my niece, conference travel, and coursework, so it'll be good to get back to it.

And it's another year! I can still remember when I was a kid, calculating how old I would be in 2000! And now it's been ten years since then!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One thing about the short days...

... is that you can always feel virtuous, being up before sunrise. Also, they were playing the Nutcracker score on the radio this morning, and it is really a magical experience, to be driving into the sunrise during a soaring Tchaikovsky waltz.

And that is all I have to say for today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

The days will start getting longer from here! Pretty soon, I'll be sneaking in evenings of skiing after work!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


When I stepped outside for the first time this morning, I was surprised to find it pleasant. I checked the thermometer, and sure enough, it read -5F/-20C. When I skied to the bottom of the hill, the thermometer down there read -20F/-29C. Now I'm on campus, where the thermometer reads almost the same as the bottom of the hill. I'm glad I live on a hill! During inversions, I'm that much warmer, and above the ice fog.

Tomorrow is the Solstice! I must confess, I kind of enjoy this kind of year, despite the cold. I love the pinkish orangish light on the fluffy snow. It looks like the whole world is made of cotton candy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A white Christmas, and brrrrrr!!

It is about -30F/-34C at my cabin right now. Here are some photos I snapped from my porch. The girls, incidentally, spent the week hanging out with Sam. The conference went okay. It was nice to meet in person several people with whom I'd previously corresponded in email.

Here I am manning my poster. I was there for two hours, and of all of the browsers, other than my correspondents who came to meet me in person just to say hello, I had two! whole! visitors! who actually happened to wander by and find the poster content interesting enough to talk to me about.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

White moose calf!

White moose calf born to a brown mama!

Photo by Lisa Stossmeister.

Is it just me, or is this behbeh moose smiling?

And... I'll be traveling this week again, so there will be another hiatus in silicon2tanana reportage. Good luck with all the work going into the holidays, everyone! And to my friends in the meat world, I'm very sorry, but your Christmas cards will be late. I still haven't received them from the print shop, and I fly tomorrow and won't be able to get mail until the following Monday, so there's no chance I'll have them written and in the post on time. :(

Friday, December 11, 2009


When I'm having a bad day and need to relieve stress, I go skiing or split wood, or sit by the wood stove and read non-academic books.

Apparently, some people have different means of coping.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Almost over...

... but it ain't over 'till it's over. I took my final exam today, but I'm still working on a final project. My adviser, who is also the prof, glanced it over as I handed it in, while I cringed. He then informed me that I had done okay. I was amazed. I totally thought I had screwed up one of the three problems. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And where is Mr. Bunn now?

Here is a topic that has some relevance to Life in Fairbanks... the ground is frozen, so burial is not possible. My plan had always been that if any of my pets passed away in Winter, I'd leave them in the shed to freeze until spring. But when it actually happened, this plan became obviously unfeasible... For starters, the body would thaw long before the ground would. Additionally, there are some days when air temperatures come above freezing in Winter--what then? A partially decomposing rabbit? No. And I could not do less than give Mr. B. some sort of honorable end, lest I fear him haunting me at night. I decided to have him cremated, to scatter in a nice patch of dandelions or anything else he'd like to eat, come summer.

I've heard of people with elderly pets pre-digging graves for them before the ground freezes for Winter, in case the need should arise, but that just seems really sad and morbid, to me. I'd rather not think about my pets' passing until it actually happens. The cost of cremation is small, compared to my feeling of doing the right thing by an ill-tempered rabbit whose vengeance I fear!

Mr. B. is the first pet I've ever lost who shared little mutual affection with me. Yet I'd had him for so long, almost my entire adult life, and though he provided little in the way of friendship, he did provide lots of entertainment and conversational topics among other animal lovers. Everyone is amused by tales of being harangued by an angry rabbit!

My recent hare loss has me musing on death in general. It is inconceivable to me that he is actually just gone, which I should believe if I were truly a devout atheist. But my religious training offers no explanation for animals, either, dismissing them as mere objects. I personally believe that he is somewhere, harumphing and grumphing in another world.

Here is a story I've enjoyed time and again. Another one I enjoy is the story of the Rainbow Bridge. However, I do not flatter myself that His Majestic Grumphusness, Mr. Grumpylicious McDoofus, Harumpher Extraordinaire, will wait anywhere for me!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Skijor tips

1) Don't be afraid of falling down. If you fall down, 99% of the time you won't even get a bruise. Being frightened and tense, and doing crazy acrobatics to avoid falling down, however, is more likely to cause injury.

2) If you trust your dogs, trust your dogs! They are smarter than you. Oh, yes! There is a reason that 30-40 percent of the work force work in padded cells. Oh, right, they call them cubicles.

3) Put on extra clothes. Wind chill.

4) If you have a bad sense of direction, trust your dogs.

5) If you are a poor judge of snow conditions, trust your dogs.

6) Trust your dogs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My sister's cats

Just working, skiing, and splitting wood. Not much to report, so here are my sister's cats:

Naya, the sweet kitty (her equivalent of Millie bun):

Lemma, the evil kitty (her equivalent of the late Mr. Grumphus Bumfus Bunn B. Doofus, Esq.):

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bunn, February 2000 - 4 December 2009

The saga of Mr. Grumphus Bumfus Bunn B. Doofus, Esq. is over. His end was more peaceful than his life ever was--he simply went to sleep and never woke up. I dropped his body off to be cremated this morning, and his ashes will be scattered on my land near all of my rats'.

Goodnight, Mr. B. Rest easy. Please don't haunt me. We had a difficult relationship, but I truly did my best. I hope you have lots of fresh cilantro where you are.

Edited to add some links in tribute:
Bunn on my homesite
Bunn on Cute Overload
Bunn yawning, on the bunnyyawn site
Bunn on Disapproving Rabbits

Thursday, December 3, 2009

End of Semester Potluck items

Here is what has been signed up for so far:

Ambrosia Salad
Moose chili
Caribou soup
Aluutigaq - Caribou meat with gravy and rice
Smoked salmon dip
Noodles of some kind
cup cakes
Soda pop
Green salad with dressing
Moose Steak

A menu that could not be repeated anywhere else!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Heat wave

This is what animals look like when temperatures come above freezing in Winter.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm back, and slammed

But we have tons of snow and perfect weather... Skied on the Tanana for the first time this season yesterday, while the girls ran around like loonies. There is still quite a bit of jumble ice that needs to be covered with more snow before we can go far, but we spent some time exploring the new shorelines of the islands, which change every year.

My niece is adorable, and it was great seeing old friends, but now it's back to the grind...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sad news for fellow Berkeley alums of my vintage

Party Sushi is no more. I mean, it's still there, but not as we know it... Godzilla is gone, as are all of the blow-up beer mascots and hanging and wall-mounted miscellany that comprise their own miniature, stationary, and alcoholic-beverage-sponsored Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The place is still called Party Sushi, but it's now decorated, like, tastefully. Would you believe that?

Sunday, November 22, 2009


This is my mother's neighborhood acquaintance.

She feeds him, evidently a lot. Skwerls in the Bay Area are barely wild animals. They are more like aggressive panhandlers, but they are so cute you can hardly be annoyed. They are the most presumptuous in Berkeley, where you cannot sit down on a piece of grass for your lunch without being joined by one of the little fuzzmonsters, who will sit right with you, rummage through your bag, and help themselves to whatever they find.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I'll be gone next week to attend my friend Tim's wedding and to meet my new niece! Yay! She's fuzzy and squidgy! Yay!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Warm fuzzies

If you slept in between these two, you'd take half an hour to get out of bed, too:

I love Bunn's leeps:

Edited to add: Bunn was on Cute Overload, a few years back. He's a bunny of world renown.

Monday, November 16, 2009


My infatuation with the new axe has already dampened. I still think it's an awesome axe, and yes, it does go through large logs like a hot knife through butter. But it's a one-trick pony, and is no good for either smaller logs or making kindling. It's like using a hammer as a thimble or a log as a toothpick... it's way more force than necessary, and it doesnt worry about details! And considering how many of my logs are small, seeing as they came from permafrost-stunted trees, my smaller axe is still the optimal tool for them. But I'm still happy with my new axe and think it's great to be able to bust open large logs and gloat over them!

In other news, we are having the first cold temps of the year. It is currently -18F/-28C. But did that dampen the girls' enthusiasm? Nnnnooooo... I bundled up and took them for our regular run. It's nice to have such well-adapted dogs. We went skiing with four other dogs yesterday, and only Chewie and my girls did not have to wear a jacket or booties.

Edit: Here we have technical definitions of "very cold" and "extremely cold". In case you were wondering.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Axe, and ye shall receive

A dear friend gave me a gift certificate to for my birthday. I figured, a birthday gift should be somewhat indulgent and not practical, so I looked at some earrings and silk pajamas and fuzzy sweaters. My amazon wish list is several pages long, but it contains mostly books, and I use it mostly as a convenient memory jog before I head to the library or to Gulliver's, and rarely purchase from it. Finally, I used my gift to purchase a splitting axe. So much for my attempt at asserting my femininity through retail therapy.

My very well-made and very beloved Estwing axe feels like it was made for me. It's the perfect length, the perfect weight, and the perfect balance. It's also beautifully forged of one piece of steel. I used it to remove half the tree stumps from my front yard this Summer. But alas, my axe is just not the optimal tool for splitting wood. The blade is too narrow, and makes more work out of wedging a log open than I would put in with a tool designed specifically for the purpose. Typically, people use a maul, or a wedge and sledge for the tough (very large, knotty, and/or twisted) logs. But I don't think I'm big or strong enough to use a maul effectively and safely. Enter my birthday present, Fiskars 7854 Super Splitting Axe. It's the same length as my beloved axe, only with a head that looks like a wedge! And check out those reviews! How could I resist?

Well, it arrived this week, and it cuts like a dream. Seriously, one whack from that thing splits a log open like... well... I can't think of a simile because there really aren't too many things in life that you split deliberately, but some of the amazon reviews say that it goes through wood "like a hot knife through butter", and that isn't too far off. It was light work to take apart logs I had struggled with before, and I even whacked apart some logs I had given up on and had put in the "when I rent a chain saw" pile.

Amazing. I now count it among my prized possessions (along with my Estwing axe, my Wusthof kitchen knives, my jade pendant from my mother, and my copy of Shigley). :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Linden's definition of edible

"I found it, and it fits in my mouth"

Rocks, sled dog booties, pizza boxes, tissues, unidentifiable frozen objects she's dug up in the yard, moose marbles, plants, twigs, the bunnies' pelleted food, the bunnies' hay, bark from my kindling box, etc are all fair game, to Linden. Then she promptly barfs, or later has diarrhea, and I wonder why she can't gain weight.

When I first got Linden, I wondered whether she had a physiological problem that kept her so thin. Worms, maybe? I took her to the vet, where she was thoroughly examined and diagnosed with "dietary indiscretion". Yes, that is on her medical record as a medical condition.

Alaskan huskies are bred for a good appetite. A working dog cannot afford to be finicky or to fall short of energy. The kind of people for whom exercise ruins their appetite could never be working dogs! It's a trait I enjoy in my girls, probably because in my family, gluttony is a virtue. The Chinese, like the Mexicans and the Italians, seem to have a universal family motto of "If you love me, let me feed you." On one of my visits to my sister when my mother was present, my sister spied me eating some bread with peanut butter. She recoiled in horror and hollered, "Muuuudddddeeeeeer!! Arvay's eating peeeeeaaannuuut buuuuttteeeer!" Whereupon my mother rushed into the kitchen to prepare for me instead one of the sumptuous foods that she and my sister cook. When I set Autumn's and Linden's suppers before them, they are gone before I count to ten.

I only wish Linden would be more selective. :/

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'm an Aunt! Welcome to the world, little one! May all the best and brightest of the world be yours!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

White Mountains yesterday

A group of friends and I went to the White Mountains yesterday. There was barely enough snow to ski, and it was quite cold, but we had fun.

The girls, backlit:

Carl and Dan on the trail:

Chewie courting Linden:

Chewie hasn't been deballed yet, so he *really* enjoys hanging out with three girls. Fortunately, our girls are all spayed!

The group:

A very cold lunch stop:

The waning quarter moon over Wickersham Dome:

Here are the doofi, relaxing at home:

By the way, frozen Snickers and frozen caramel Twix are delicious! Frozen grapes are nice. Frozen apples are bad, bad, bad. Ouch! My teef!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


The ski trails in my neighborhood are now frozen and covered in several inches of powder! Yay!

I opened a new stick of kick wax, and found it smiling at me:

Isn't it cute?

And then I had to rub his face in it...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Words for Snow

A popular bit of folklore has it that some Eskimo language has thirty, or forty, or eighty some odd words for snow. Even when I lived in California, I never found this difficult to believe, and I certainly don't now. Just varying grain size, shape, freshness, whether it's windblown or has been allowed to sit still, and average air temperature during metamorphosis, you can get a good 100 permutations.

I'm surprised that yahoo weather tries to go into it, though. Look at today's description:

Groovy, no?

In other news, the girls are warm and fuzzy:

I love how Linden sleeps like a pocket knife. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Could he possibly be any cuter?

He's at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney

Photo: Rick Stephens / AFP / Getty Images

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Other People's Dogs

I don't recall this guy's name, but he's super sweet. :)

Edit: I just bumped into this kid's mom. His name is Zeppelin!

This is Linden's best friend, Sam.

This is Chewie. He's mostly Bernese Mountain Dog, so he's enormous. He's in love with Linden.

This is the full moon last night.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just a few items to report

1. Temperatures have dropped below 0F/-18C. My plan of leaving the thermostat of the oil stove to 50F/10C is clearly not going to work as temperatures get colder and colder. Over the weekend, I noticed in the morning that my cooking oils were thick, cloudy, and viscous. The peanut oil was almost solid. Hahahaha. So I've been turning up the thermostat. It's now at 56F. I hope this works to keep the house tolerable between wood fires.

2. Making quesadillas on the wood stove. Hell yeah. Where have you been all my life, quesadillas-made-on-the-wood-stove? The tortillas get crisp, the little bubbles on the tortillas char, the cheese gets sooooo gooey and stretchy, oohhh, woodstove-made-quesadillas, I bow to you.

3. There still isn't enough snow for skiing, but the ski trails are frozen pretty solid, so the girls and I can walk for miles and miles, and take loops instead of turning around. Yeah!

4. I got my first trick-or-treaters in several years on Halloween! So cool and so cute!

5. After putting on hand lotion the other day, I then without thinking put a dab on each cheekbone and rubbed it in. Then I stopped and thought, Whoa... what prompted me to do that? Oh yeah... it's Winter! It's funny how I remember to do things, without consciously telling myself to do them. I guess our brains just follow their neural pathways, once they've been carved in a good direction to take care of ourselves.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Photos 'round the 'hood

The girls came with me to work yesterday. They just napped in my office.

On the trail today:

This is my favorite view in our neighborhood. The road bends around this corner, and voila--there is the valley spread out in front of you. On clear days, you can see to the Alaska Range.