Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Signs of Spring

The first geese have been spotted in Delta Junction. Welcome back, geese! We're sure glad to have ya!

Cleanup Day is on the calendar. Time to pick up our Winter's worth of frozen crap!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why, thank you!

Yesterday, this humble blog had a hit from the search "digging stump strong muscles".

Why, thank you! What an extraordinary compliment for a skinny Chinese girl who's been working hard. :)

Oh, and here is my gift for you today:

Part II of my presentation of Voices to Make you Believe in God. Hot. Damn. Those two are awesome in the literal sense.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So I guess that's it.

Temperatures are up, the snow is melting, the ski trails are all ice.

Dang. :(

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chop chop!

So, after nearly Isadora Duncan-ing myself with my ass-long (literally) braid one too many times, I decided that my current hair was all that Locks of Love was gonna get! It had to go!

Here are the obligatory before/after photos:

Oh, it's blurry. Oh, well, whatever. Screw you, hair that wants to strangle me!


And of course I couldn't resist messing around with it:

Here are the girls today while I was skiing:

And hanging out on the porch:

And now Bunn isn't my only recent hare loss!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Behbeh mooseyness

A friendly neighborhood behbehmoose. Mamamoose was nowhere in sight. Where could she be? Didn't survive Winter? Gave behbeh the boot as her new one is about to be born?

I love his sweet, gentle eyes!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, says, "Kiss my foot, peon!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well, gosh...

The census didn't ask anything important--what pets I have, my favorite cheese, my favorite sandwich, what kind of splitting maul I use, my preference for beer or wine, my hobbies, my preferred brand of ski wax, my favorite flowers, my favorite cheeseburger joint, my favorite photos of my niece, what I think are the best hiking boots...

They don't care to know a thing about me!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tandem teef cleaning

(I am starting to wonder if I should make Millie into a "Where's Waldo/Wally" game. She keeps popping up in the background of my photos. :) )

In other news, the lowest snowpack in 100 years is being reported not to increase the fire danger for next Summer. But I am skeptical.

And here is a photo of a Cold Regions Test Center truck:

This is where I was doing field work last week outside of Delta Junction. I love that the logo is a photo of Mount Hayes. Most photos of peaks in Alaska are of Mount Denali, even though most of us only rarely see it. But the CRTC folks see Mount Hayes every day, and they feature it on their truck, seeming to say "It's not the tallest mountain, but it's our mountain!" I love it.

And here is a behbeh elephant!

He says, "Whoop! That's not how these legs work!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Notes from here and there

1. Happy Equinox! From here until Fall, we Northerners will have longer days than anyone else!

2. It looks like we are having an early Spring. The streets of Fairbanks look just like breakup time--streets are wet with slush, and piles of filthy, black snow line the sides of the roads where they have been plowed. The snow is sliding off my roof and crashing to the ground.

3. I haven't made up my mind about whether I prefer splitting wood in warm weather or cold. It's nice to be out in a T-shirt and no hat and not have the safety goggles frosting up. But on the other hand, splitting unfrozen wood is a lot like work!

4. Warm weather means eating less. I'm not sure whether I've mentioned this, but in Winter, I eat truly terrifying amounts of food and crave protein and fat. Sili valley friends reading this will probably shrug and say, "Arvay eats a lot? This is news?" But I mean, I eat items and quantities that I would never touch in California, where I was almost a vegetarian. In Fairbanks Winters, I eat at each meal until I cannot possibly fit more food down my gullet. Then two hours later, I'm eating again, likely a not insubstantial snack. Like a PBJ or a chunk of cheese. On weekends, I sometimes eat two lunches, one a BLT and later a half pound cheeseburger. If I fry an egg or two to put on my noodles, after I place the eggs on the noodles, I pour the cooking oil on top as well. Once, after I had friends over for pancakes, there was still melted butter left in the dish. I stared at it wolfishly for two seconds, then took out two slices of bread and sopped up the butter and ate those, too. I don't trim the fat off my meat. I eat ALL of the fried potatoes a restaurant gives me. I eat peanut butter by the spoonful. I am not a person who eats like this by nature, but in the cold, we all turn into ravenous, slavering beasts. And I'll confess, it makes me feel... happy! I love to eat, and this is one of the upsides of Winter in Fairbanks!

5. So per DJC's request but for the edification of all, I took the camera skijoring with me today. I let the girls run loose while I skied under my own power for a few miles, then hooked up to them. I needed them to be tired so they'd go slowly enough so that I could operate a camera while moving. My girls obey only three commands reliably--gee (right), haw (left), and whoa (slow down or stop). There is no speed control. And there's no command for "go." Silence equals consent. Oh wait; they do know one other--"on by." They are very good at "on by." It means, "ignore the moose/bird/person/dog/rabbit and keep going." They indeed zip right past and don't even look!

Here is a clip of a good, straight run where there are no bends in the trail for me to drop the camera on. This is also a pace I am comfortable with. No uncontrolled acceleration problems. :)

Here is where I attempted another straight run, realizing only somewhat belatedly that this is the turnoff for the trail home. I must have you know, though, that I did not fall down; I just dropped the camera. I'm getting better and better at remaining on my feet these days. :)

And finally, here we are making the turnoff to the spur that takes us right to our property line. This time when I dropped you guys, I just let you dangle from my wrist for a few seconds. :) But I had to cut you off entirely after that because it is a bumpy, turny-twisty trail, and I needed to use both poles to navigate!

Now here are some stills.

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

Sunny ridgetop:

A trail lined with aspen. I'd dearly love to see this in the Fall, but I suspect this trail is inaccessible due to mud.


And afterwards, we cuddle:

Cuddle wuddle:

And sprawl in sunbeams:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


No time for commentary today since I'm commuting to Delta Junction and need to rush home to relieve the girls' bladders.

Cute photos of the kids from pi day:

Here are is the mumble mountains Eastern section of the Alaska Range, as seen from Delta Junction. The one on the right with the two shoulders, Mount Hayes, is the tallest, at about 13000 feet.

Donnelly Dome, which I hiked with M last Summer:

It is a special time of year--we have both Summer and Winter, warmth and cold, light and dark:

No step here!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy pi day!

Happy pi day, everyone! Again, not much to report, so here are some photos of elephant calves to make you smile. See, when I have nothing to say, I provide a valuable service.

Look at those ears! Oh my goodness!

Posting might be slight next week, as I will be at field work in Delta Junction. Have a pi today, everyone!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nothing to say today...

I really have nothing interesting to say today, so here are some funny photos of anteaters.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fuzzy Wuzzies

Fuzzy wuzzies relaxing at home:

We didn't get our trail time this morning since a mamamoose and her calf were hanging around the trail head. It's annoying because there are only two times of the year we can do morning runs on the trails--Fall and Spring. In Winter, it's dark in the mornings, so we stay on the roads, and in Summer, the trails are inaccessible due to mud and standing water.

The behbehmeese are getting big--about .7 to .8 the size of the mamameese. I guess they are on their own once the next set of behbehmeese are born in Spring. TwoYaks told me that they are weaned in the Fall, which makes sense because that is the rutting season, and nursing reduces fertility. In fact, I've heard that in developing nations, a long nursing period is recommended not just to prevent malnourishment in the babies, but also to serve as a form of birth control for the mamas. So it would make sense that behbehmeese have to be weaned before the Fall rut, otherwise the mamamoose might not get a calf the following year.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Well... BBRRRR!!!

When I stepped outside this morning, I observed it to feel a little chilly. Came back in, and saw the outdoor thermometer reading -20F/-29C. Dayum. Cold days in March feel colder than cold days in January, and I can't decide which of two reasons dominates:

1) In March, preceding warmer days have filled the air with moisture. In fact, I can look outside my South-facing windows, and see the ice crystals freezing out of the air and dropping through the shafts of sunlight. In January, the air is bone-dry, which makes it easier to stay warm.

2) Psychological reasons. You look at the calendar, you look at then sun, and you expect to be warmer! Okay, -20F is quite cold, no matter what time of year it is, but the other night I was crabbing about being cold, when it was positive teens!

Miss Millie sez, "Hoompf!"

Well, at least it is not cold enough for a film of ice to form on top of the dogs' water at night! Yes, when it's around -40, it does! Millie has no such troubles, though, because her water dish is raised.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Town of the Future?

Sunset Magazine, not exactly known for being hip and happenin', names Fairbanks on a list of 20 "Towns of the Future." It starry-eyedly states, "Young entrepreneurs here are not hesitant to try something new, city halls are taking on the environment at a grassroots level, and universities are challenging old ways of thinking."

This is flattering, but it gives me pause. I need some time to think about why, and I'll write about it sometime, but in the meantime, let's look at some others on the list:

Boise, I agree with, Micron's having started the roots of what may be the next tech hub, after the Sili Valley and Austin, TX.

Pasadena, I'm not so sure about. Pasadena is a lovely town, and it has Cal Tech and the the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But these are both institutions of long standing and already hard-earned respect. Calling Pasadena a "Town of the Future" is a bit like calling blue jeans "the apparel of the future".

And then Oakland. Are you kidding me? I like a lot of things about Oakland. I made regular forays into Oakland when I was an undergraduate student in Berkeley, going shopping in Chinatown and taking an extra class at Laney College, the community college therein. Oakland is also very beautiful up in the hills, where the fabulously wealthy minority live. But the majority of Oakland is known predominantly for its violent crime. Its Wikipedia page has an entire section devoted to this, and it cites grim statistics--In 2003, the latest year it cites, Oakland had 3.5 times the national average murder rate, and 2.31 times the national average violent crime rate overall. Town of the future? Not if people are too frightened to move there!

Palo Alto, CA? Geeze! Same comments as Pasadena!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Raising of the Tripod

The Tripod went up yesterday, but I did not attend due to feeling, as my Chinese friends say, razy.

It's okay, I'm sure it hasn't changed all that much in two years. :)

So... would anyone like to tell me a breakup guess? The ice was last measured to be 50 inches thick on the 18th of Feb.

I believe I am going to guess a breakup date close to pattern. Although this Winter has been particularly mild, the ice is still as thick as usual, probably due to the unusually low snow level (snow is a great insulator). And it's been middle-of-the-road weather lately. Some days warm, some days chilly. *shrug*

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Note to self

If a friend in a group you're skiing with suddenly pulls up beside you with no gloves on, and asks if he can borrow an extra pair, do not ask what happened to the pair he was just wearing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Not too shabby...

After managing to ignore two pronking dogs and sleep in for an hour and half, I got up, took said dogs skijoring, then vacuumed, cleaned Millie's pen, beat the rugs, swept the floors, took some snow measurements in the yard, split a week's worth of wood (although I'll admit that's not very much given our rising temperatures), then got water, then came to campus to crunch the data. Now I'm off to do laundry. Not bad for a Saturday. Not bad at all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The tough lives of retirees

This is what huskies do second best, right behind running like the wind.



Autumn: "Are you looking at me?"

Linden: "Me! Me! You must be looking at me!"

Linden is the cutest dog on earth, according to Linden. :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Behbeh elepant

Here is the Taronga Zoo's nearly seven month-old behbeh elephant, Luk Chai:


More of his photos here.

Here is an article in the Minor News about this Spring's first convertible spotted with its top down. Dermot Cole writes:

"The first convertible of the season is not as momentous as the inaugural pothole or any number of other seasonal events — first motorcycle, flower, day without gloves, returning goose, airborne mosquito, softball pitch or blade of grass — but we have passed the first of March you know."

Our local columnists are quite good and funny and make the local paper very enjoyable.

I have another Spring inaugural event to add to the list--first horsefly buzzing in the throes of death in my house. What in heaven's name is up with those appearing during every warm spell? Where do they come from? I can buy that flies might lay eggs in the house at the end of Summer, and so during warm spells, the baby flies come out. But baby flies are born as maggots, are they not? And I do not have maggots, which are macroscopic and which I would notice. What I have instead are fully-fledged adult flies appearing out of nowhere and then dropping dead withing a few days, dropping, as they say, like flies. What's up with that?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cultural Commentary

I have been meaning to write about this for some time, but was finally prompted by a gift I received yesterday from a Japanese-American friend of blueberry mochi she had made in honor of Girls' Day, a holiday I had never heard of. But never mind about that. The main point is--blueberry mochi? Wow! Something that could only occur at this very unique juncture of time and place... an Americanized Japanese living in Alaska.

There aren't too many American-born Asians in Fairbanks. M and I are the only ones I know. Most of the Asians in Fairbanks either are foreign nationals or naturalized as adults. The Chinese students (and there are lots of them in engineering) go out of their way to be friendly to me, and I to them, but after a while, communication gets difficult. Their English is in general not as good as that of Sili Valley Chinese folks, and my Chinese is limited to the vocabulary lists of names of colors and fruits and vegetables that I memorized when I was about eight. So unless we want to have a vegetable-based conversation (which would only utilize one of my colors--green!), we don't talk about much other than exchanging very enthusiastic daily greetings that then fall short of developing into a conversation.

I think most people here take me at first glance to be Alaskan Native, but then I open my mouth and instead of the gentle, thoughtful cadence of the Native, out comes my boisterous and indelicate California voice. Then I guess people don't know what to make of me.

One of these days, I'll have to make another cultural commentary post about size. In the Bay Area, I was medium-sized; here, I'm a mere slip of a thing; but I'm very big in China!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cold to a potty-mouthed level

The downside to doing snow research is that you have to do detail work outside in the cold (or in a cold room). I know it sounds odd for me to complain about this, since i have hobbies that involve me being out in the cold. But when you are skiing, running, or walking, you are moving, which keeps you warm. You also can bundle up as much as you'd like, because you don't need agility to control small objects and take precise measurements. You can wear big, awkward mittens that keep your hands toasty warm. I am currently using an instrument whose control box uses a touch screen. It came with a a stylus, which of course, I promptly lost. Which leaves me with having to take off my glove to operate the darned thing! Ay! Oi!

This is not dangerous, because any time you start to risk frostbite, you simply step inside (or outside of the cold room) for a few minutes. But it is bloody uncomfortable. Even a relatively mild 0 degrees F, which is warm by Fairbanks Winter standards, quickly makes you feel like you are the coldest you have ever been, cold down to your spine, and your very blood is freezing. It affects your psychological state. I am not a mild-mannered person, but I am generally cheerful and good-humored. But I stand out there cursing up a storm. The dogs look at me with their eyebrows scrunched together while I stamp my feet and shout curses that would make a sailor blush. When equipment malfunctions, which it often does, because 1) a lot of what I use is test equipment, cobbled together piecemeal and 2) most things are not designed for cold-temperature use, I seriously come close to blowing my top. I think I should always keep a batch of cookies handy. When I am about to blow my top, I'll eat a cookie. That solves a lot of mental problems. :)

Anyway, here is a photo of the girls this morning, spooning. Are they not cute and cuddly?

Monday, March 1, 2010


Here are the dowgs:

And here is the Supreme Leader of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, Ms. Millie B. Doofus: