Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's great to be a dog!

We got 7-8 inches of fresh, powdery snow last night. Fairbanks' snow is very light and dry, so you promptly sink up to your knees. At least I did. I took the girls to the Tanana, and there was only one set of tracks on the new snow--left by a local musher who gives rides as a business. His dogs are sweet, like my girls, and often run up to strangers to be petted. Anyway, at some point, he went in a direction that I didn't want to go, so the girls and I had to break our own trail. It was difficult, and I couldn't quite follow the trail that we skiers, along with the local community of snowmachiners and dog mushers, had been gradually building up and packing all Winter long. So I pushed my way here and there, zigzagging back and forth through the deep, soft powder. At some point, a snowmachiner overtook us, so I got into his track and hooked up to the girls and had them take me home.

Here are photos.

The girls for some reason like to jump into the front section of the car every now and then. It's funny. You open the hatchback, and they jump out, excited to take off for our hike or ski adventure. Then you open the back door to get out your backpack or skis, and they both jump in! And then plop down on the seats, and get all comfy!

The girls LOVE fresh powder! They bounce around with big smiles on their faces.

Enjoying the moment.

Snowy noses:

A Winter wonderland:

I love this house on the cliff. I think it's so picturesque.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

International Polar Year Comes to an End

The BBC Article quotes that it has been a success. UAF has had quite a big role in it, as one might imagine.

The BBC article is a nice synopsis and has a photo of a dog that looks like a silly goober like Linden. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yukon Quest

A friend and I went to see a few of the top finishers cross the finish line tonight. The winner, Sebastian Schnuelle, finished this morning. We caught the finishes of Martin Buser and Michelle Philips, a few seconds apart. It was a close race for 4th place! The Quest alternates direction each year, so last year it started in Fairbanks, and this year it started in Whitehorse.

I took this photo from the bridge over the river. They are just two strings of lights!

At the finish line:

Time to get petted!

Are they pooped!

Running 1000 miles will tire a dog out! But a lot of Alaskan huskies have a naturally "woe is me" sort of posture to them. Autumn has it, though Linden doesn't. It's hard to explain, but they'll sit around with their ears down and their shoulders hunched, as if they have just accepted the struggles and burdens of the world onto their furry little shoulders. It's especially pronounced in Autumn when she's in the back of my car. I can see both of my girls in the rear view mirror--Autumn looking like she's about to accept the Cross, and Linden with a big blank smile, bobbing her head along like a bobble head dog.

Perking up at the attention:

Here is a photo of Brent Sass taking off in Whitehorse. He has such pretty dogs! He's still not in yet at this time, although at one point he was far ahead and a sure bet for 4th place. I wonder what happened.

And here, a study in contrast. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The downside of sled dogs as pets

"Your dogs are just amazing. Surely they do have some tiny imperfection though?!"

Their biggest imperfection is their inability to walk nicely on a leash. When we are on city streets, they have no sense of staying on the sidewalk and not on the street, wandering right, left, up, down, anywhere they please. So I have to keep them on their leashes. It is no problem when we are on our morning runs because they are in working mode, and run a nice pace, straight ahead, with me. And when we are standing still, that is no problem either--they wait patiently for me to take off a shirt, take a drink of water, etc. The problem only arises when I attempt to walk with them on a leash. I have to at least jog slightly to keep them in line, otherwise it's sniff here, sniff there, cross each other and tangle the leashes, etc. It's really quite unmanageable!

But aren't they cute?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Apparently skiing requires more food than running

It's finally light enough to ski on the river at 8 a.m. Knowing I wouldn't have to be in early this morning, I took the girls and we headed off. About two miles down the river, I hit the metaphorical "wall" that marathoners talk about. I don't understand how I am able to run up to ten miles on a banana and a cup of tea, but I can't even ski two miles. I stood still for a moment, utterly bewildered. My legs felt like bags of sand. So I put on the girls' harnesses and had them pull me back.

And the timing couldn't have been better. As I was putting on the girls' harnesses, a mama moose and baby moose came out to cross the river in the direction in which we had originally been headed. I sure wouldn't have wanted to get too close to them!

It's great (and rare) to have dogs that do double duty as both friends and emergency transport! Blood sugar bonk? No problem! Only one ski? No problem! And if, God forbid, I ever hurt myself and am unable to ski back, as long as I have use of at least one leg, they'll be able to take me home. Touch wood that that never happens!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Temps are near freezing today and could get higher. To make things worse, it's snowing steadily, which will turn to rain if we cross that line. Rain means we will lose our snow, and get ice. Cross your fingers for us that this doesn't happen! It's only February, dangit! We need to keep on skiing!

Here is an article.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blaze me a trail

Not much to report. I've been spending most of my spare time in the machine shop building a new fixture for work. Here is a photo from a few weeks ago for you to admire and then post under telling me how cute my girls are. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Tiiiiiime of the Yeeeeeear

Little songbirds are twittering around, and the sun is shining bright and warm in an impossibly blue sky. I am wearing my jeans alone (no long underwear!), and a light wool sweater with no undershirt. But this is better than Summer because there are no mosquitoes, no mud, and lots and lots of soft snow! And at these warm temperatures (about 10F/-12C), the snow is easy to glide over. You suddenly feel as if you are an Olympian speed skier, in comparison with the laborious skiing that takes place at lower temperatures. When we skijor, the dogs run like they are horses and I am a chariot, and there is hardly any tension in the bungee connecting us.

And then March will come, and we'll have the big dogsled races, the Nenana Ice Classic, the Spring festivals, and the ice carving festival. There is no place like early Spring in Fairbanks!

Anyone want to place a bet on breakup for 2009?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Food Photos

I love the color of "ruby-red" grapefruit. Why do they call it "ruby red" when it's the color of salmon?

My Valentine's Day cookies. Aren't they cute? I used Scharffenberger chocolate that B sent.

The heart log:


I wrapped a few in cling film to bring to some friends that we were meeting yesterday evening at a Chinese New Year party on campus, and the forgot them on the couch. Autumn and Linden didn't touch them. I tell you, they are the World's Most Perfect Dogs. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bunnies at breakfast

Both bunnies have a birthday sometime around now. Mr. B. is 9 and getting more savage and ornery by the day. Millie is 7 and cute as a button and not that bright. She occasionally makes bitchy little "hrrmf"-y noises, but other than that, she is a nice bunny and nothing like her adopted brother.

Here is Mr. Grumphus Galumphus Doofus Hoomphus. We've always kept a litterbox in front of the hay box, because he's an "in one end out the other" kind of guy.

Yeah, I'm talking about you, bub.

Here is Millie, looking none too pleased herself.

Wabbits are such unphotogenic creatures!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beautiful day

Days like this make me want to take off and go skiing.

It's nice to have more daylight nowadays though. If I want to take off early and take a quick round with the girls, I only have to leave by 4 instead of by 2, the way I have to near the Winter Solstice.

But seeing a day like this and then heading into a windowless lab is just heartbreaking, especially knowing that you have two furry companions who won't even get to see this day, since you took them for a run in the dark and then won't be home until after dark.

I wonder if the girls think that being effectively nocturnal is part of their retirement.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Narwhal Footage

Article on narwhals

You must look at the video, too. How cool are they?

You might say they are... narly

Salade Niçoise, Fairbanks-style

Also called "clean out the leftovers style." Apparently, the true and correct ingredients for a Salade niçoise are hotly debated among certain types. To them, I say, knock yourselves out arguing. I'll be over here eating my dinner.

The fresh tuna that is shipped up here is not very nice. I could have used cod or something else instead, but this was an unplanned meal, so I used what I had on hand. And I always have canned tuna on hand.

The best thing about being flexible is that you can be flexible. There are no green beans in Winter, so I used broccoli. The eggs and potatoes are from Autumn and Linden's former family. The carrots were from Freddie's, but Alaska-grown. The capers are from my last stash from A.G. Ferrari's. The corn is because I LOVE CORN.

And here are the girls figuring out their new bed, which I got for a steal off Sierra Trading Post. The problem is, they haven't figured out that they can sleep on the side of it and share it. No, one plops in the middle and the other goes to their grotty old comforter, which I had been hoping to be able to toss.

Here we see Linden in the bed:

And Autumn in the bed:

And Linden beside the bed:

And the closest they've come to sharing the bed:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Banff Film Festival reportage

Yesterday evening we went with a few friends to a series of screenings from the Banff Film Festival. It seems that the general theme was extreme sports, and the environment. It was very enjoyable, on the whole, and I like that the feats of derring-do (extreme skiing, extreme rock-climbing), were moderated by some sense and restraint. Rock climbers who climbed vertical and negative angle rock faces, and then leapt from spire to spire, still had their moments when they said, "uh-uh. That climb is not for me." A group of whitewater kayakers who were the first to kayak the length of the Pandi River in Papua New Guinea portaged over some rapids that even they considered ridiculous. A group of alpine climbers who wanted to be the first to climb a shear rock tower in Patagonia in Winter turned back because of poor weather. They didn't say, "I want to climb this, and I WILL climb it, dammit! I am an extreme climber, so I don't care about the weather." No, they realized that they may risk their lives for their sport, which may be foolish enough, but even they had a line they would not cross, and that sometimes turning back is the better part of valor. There was also a film on avalanche safety awareness, which was a nice addition, too.

Some films also focused on environmental awareness and conservation issues, which was nice. I like that a side effect of adventure-seeking is that the adventure-seekers often fall so in love with the landscapes and people they find that they eventually give part or all of themselves to helping to save them from various modern scourges. I read a good book this year on this exact same theme, and it's very topical. I highly recommend you check it out. Funnily enough, it even starts with an exercise in the restraint I admired above. The protagonist had called short an expedition to climb K2.

After the film festival, it was 9 p.m. and we were hungry. None of us had eaten dinner because we hadn't realized it would go on for so long. Every one of our favorite local restaurants was closed. Closed at 9 p.m. on a Sunday! That is part of small-town life. Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley, used to be like that when I first moved there in 2000, and I was shocked! San Francisco and Berkeley both have restaurants that open at least until midnight, if not all night. To be unable to get a bite to eat at 9 p.m. was shocking! But things have changed in the Sili Valley since them. Downtown Mountain View now has a bit of a hipster vibe, with wine bars and groovy fusion ethnic restaurants. I can't say I'm a fan of the hipster scene, but I do appreciate their food service! Last night, we ended up going to Chili's. See, you are supposed to hate chain restaurants, but how can you complain when they are willing to serve you their good ol' reliably mediocre food at late hours? What's not to love?

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I, the hasty, careless idiot, slammed my ski pole into my car door, and the tip broke off. Those poles were given to me by a friend who had had them for decades. They don't even make poles like that any more. I called around and visited several sports shops, and they all said that they couldn't repair it. :( I couldn't even buy a used pair that was similar at Play it Again Sports. :( I was able to buy a brand-new pair at Beaver Sports for only $17 (they were on sale from 21, and were nice ones--Italian-made), but that only made me feel worse. We live in an age when too many good things are treated as disposable--tossed instead of repaired or refurbished. And I had never wanted to be one of those people who always buys the latest and greatest of everything instead of sticking with the good ol' ones they already have. I was very proud of my old poles, and I am very proud of my old skis. I am going to take better care of them from now on. :(


Anyway, here are some red berries outside the outhouse. They have been frozen solid all winter, and still look pretty.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day in the sun

When I got up this morning, there was this yellow stuff shining in the windows all over the walls. It was odd. I opened the venetian blinds, and there was the sun, (relatively) high in the sky and shining yellow, not orange nor pink. How fascinating!

After breakfast, we went skiing on the Tanana.

Happily prancing around:

A tree that had frozen in the river:

The wealthy homes lining the river (they face due south, for maximum sun exposure):

Happy leaping!

Linden running:

Autumn running:

Dan fell behind when he stopped to take off his jacket. So I stopped to wait for him to catch up. One of the girls' sweetest habits is that when I stop for any reason, they come to me unbidden and sit with me.

Linden sitting and waiting:

Autumn sitting and waiting:

"Here is my papa at last!"

How freakin' cute is this photo? I want to kiss that fuzz under her nose!

Autumn looking very sweet:

Linden testing out their new bed:

I don't think our girls belong in the "God, please help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am" category of dog. They don't think I am any sort of exceptionally brilliant person in particular. They, like human family members, know that I am fallible and imperfect, and yet they love me all the same. They also don't obey my orders blindly, because they know that in some cases, they (Autumn in particular) know better than I do. When we are skijoring and faced with a choice between two paths, I would sometimes choose the more difficult or less sensible one, and they are conscientious objectors. Nowadays, when we have a choice between two ways to get home, and they know that we are going home, I don't say anything, and let them make the call. It's much better than stupidly mumbling, "Errr.... ge-haw?" (instead of "gee" for right or "haw" for left)!

I've always heard and read that a good dog should accept you as the benevolent dictator, and that huskies in particular need to show submission to their human masters. However, the relationship between the girls and me is not much like that. They only obey me when they understand the point. And yet... they are not difficult nor troublesome dogs at all. I find that their deep affection for me, backed up by their unusual intelligence, serves the same purpose as blind obedience in another dog. The only difference is that their actions stem from their own thinking and then drawing of conclusions, rather than a command from me!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sore leg

When I woke up this morning, my one leg was all sore from yesterday's adventure. As it turns out, it's actually quite challenging to balance on one leg while in bumpy motion (getchermind out of the gutter!). Whoda thunk?

It reminds me of my Fall and Spring runs, when the temperatures are quite close to 32F/0C and the ice is slippery. The next morning after a particularly slippery run, not only are my legs sore, but my arms are sore, my back is sore, my belly is sore, my shoulders are sore. It turns out that running on slick ice is quite a balance job, that you perform automatically. Your body parts make all these split-second minute adjustments, without your conscious mind controlling it or even realizing it is happening. It makes me wonder what else my brain is taking care of without my realizing it. Good brain!

I was thinking the other day... When you raise your arm, what you think in your mind is, "Arm, raise." You don't think, "Tendon, pull," although that is what is actually happening. So I am wondering, is that something we are born with, or something we learn as infants and toddlers and have learned so well that we no longer realize we are thinking it? Do infants think, "I want this hand to do that, so I'll pull this tendon--no, whoops! Wrong tendon; that made the hand go the wrong way. Oh there! That's the one!" Do you think they do?

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So, ummmm, somehow I stumbled upon another memory stick of photos I had not downloaded. It dates from last October. Well, all I missed showing you guys was food! Hahaha. Well, here we are, better late than never.

Here is my pumpkin chiffon cake:

Here is what the interior looks like:

It was a very "adult" cake--light and not too sweet. It was nice, but not really a good birthday cake! I like my birthday cake to be rich!

Here is the pile of cheeses I got as gifts. :D

Here are the cupcakes I made:


I budgeted this entire afternoon to fix a piece of equipment that was down, but I fixed it in under five minutes. And this was a stunningly beautiful afternoon, with a golden sun shining in a sapphire sky. So I thought, God must be trying to tell me something, so I took a couple of hours off to take the girls to the river for a quick skijor. A few minutes after we left, a giant puppy came bounding to us and tangled up our lines, so I took off my skis to untangle them, and then I couldn't put them back on! I think the relatively warm snow was faster to fuse into ice today, and there was ice all over my bindings! I managed to scrape one clean (while the girls waited so patiently and so sweetly), but not the other, so I hooked back up to them and skijored back. On one leg. While carrying my other ski.

Now we can be like those water skiing stunt people I used to see at Marine World when I was a kid! Only, on snow! And with dogs!

Oh tough call, though. Are huskies cuter or dolphins?


The trouble with days approaching normal lengths is that sunrises and sunsets now last only a few minutes instead of a few hours. I missed photographing the most bea-yoo-tiful sunrise this morning. Oh well. Here is what I got, but all of the spectacular colors, as well as the orange sun pillar, were gone by the time I had parked, climbed the hill to my building, found the polarizer, and run back outside.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Been busy

It turns out that two of my classes are accelerated and will finish near Spring Break. That makes for an awesome second half of the semester, but unfortunately, that's not the half that I'd prefer to have more free time. I'd prefer to have more free time now, when there is snow available for me to make progress on my snow studies, ski, and skijor. What do I care if I have more free time after breakup, when all there is to do is slop around the mud?

Anyway, so as it is I am slammed right now. But today I caught a break when a prof called in sick and canceled a planned evening lecture. So now I get to post this post, finish my Ice Physics homework, and finish my CAD models for my fixture that I need for my research instead! Yay!

By the way, I've learned another challenge to living in a cold climate--it's difficult to walk around while eating something! This is very sad for me, because I spend a lot of time walking, and a lot of time eating, so it's nice when I can combine them. But a slice of pizza quickly turns into cardboard, I cannot manipulate an orange enough without taking off my mittens and risking frost bite to my fingers, and an apple goes WHOOP! slipping between my thumb and mitten and flying through the air in a lovely arc. It's such a shame.

By the way, when Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of Winter, we in Fairbanks say, "Yeah, and...?"