Monday, January 31, 2011

And so it begins...

Racing season! Yay! Flying dogs!

In other news, our revered local bluegrass musician, Carl Hoffman, is still in serious condition, and his band is continuing to put on benefit events. They are growing increasingly crowded, which is very good! On Saturday, I stood on tiptoe, reached my arm up, and took this snapshot at Ivory Jacks:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Preparations for New Year's dinner

After my mother informed me that HAHAHAHAHAHA wontons don't count as proper New Year's dumplings, I sucked it up and decided to make real and proper jiao-zhes.

The napa cabbage at the store looked pretty bad, so I bought bok choy instead. Two bunches. I pulled off a few leaves for Millie, and got to work with the rest:

I don't have a food processor, but I do things like this so infrequently that I don't mind doing it the old-fashioned way, with a cleaver:

It has to be this fine:

Then I added salt and let it draw the water out. This is called dejourger in French. I don't know what it's called in English or Chinese! After wringing it out in cheese cloth, I was left with less than a cup of greenery.

Here is the completed filling:

Thanks to our friendly local butcher, I can get ground pork! Americans don't generally eat ground pork, so people who want it for Asian cooking have to grind it themselves. In my case, with the cleaver. I'm very thankful to buy it pre-ground!

Still using the recipe I copied out of my mother's little green binder when I left home:

I'm thankful to come from a family that regards that as a recipe! It means we assume that we all have basic knifing, mixing, and cooking skills. For example, if I wanted to give my sister a recipe for a cake, I could give her an ingredient list and a cooking temperature and time, and that would be enough. I've come to realize that not many folks have these basic skills any more, and I'm thankful for them. My sister, incidentally, is a really outstanding cook!

If any of my six faithful readers would like a conventional recipe, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll save my carpal tunnel accumulation points. :)

I wrapped the first half last night, and put them in the shed to freeze. What, doesn't everyone use their backyard shed as a backup freezer?

It looks like I will have plenty of leftovers! Yay!

My friendly neighborhood moose. She beds down in my yard, and we watch each other eat breakfast on weekends, when I'm not up until it's light:

Oh, look what I found today at the Asian market! I'm going to try to make my own nian-gao.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Misc Musings

1) A rainbow has made the front page of the Minor News. To be fair, a rainbow when temperatures are below freezing is a rare sight indeed.

2) Ice harvesting has begun for the Ice Art Championships! Yay!

3) I'm planning my first attempt at a Fairbanksan Chinese New Year dinner (dunno why I didn't do anything the past few years). My first Thanksgiving up here, I invited over a bunch of foreign students, who experienced their first American Thanksgiving, and now I will have a bunch of non-Californian Americans, to experience their first Chinese New Year! I've come to notice another cultural difference between the San Francisco Bay Area and Fairbanks. In the former, not only are the Americans more exposed to immigrants, but the immigrants are more Americanized. Here in Fairbanks, immigrants are still a novelty (just a few weeks ago, I met a lady who delightedly observed my Chinese-ness and expressed a wish to introduce me to her Chinese friend, because, hey, we're both Chinese, so we ought to meet!), and the immigrants seem to have a worse command of English and have had much less exposure to American culture.

For example, when I invited over an East Indian student for my aforementioned first Thanksgiving here, the conversation proceeded thusly:

Would you like to come over for Thanksgiving dinner?

"Sure! Thank you! Which day?"

Uhhh... I was thinking Thursday. Thursday of this upcoming long weekend...

Afterwards, a mutual friend (who declined my invitation to go backpacking for the weekend instead) asked how it had gone, and my guest expressed astonishment at the quantity of food, and she couldn't believe how much I ate! She rattled off the list of dishes, a list she had never seen before and whose composition was completely novel to her--turkey ("this big enormous bird Arvay roasted!"), stuffing ("She put bread crumbs in the bird! It was delicious!"), mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, etc. All of it was completely trite to the American listener, and all a stunning novelty to my Indian guest.

So shall the situation be reversed for this Chinese New year dinner. I'm quite looking forward to it. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Notes from here and there

1) Fort Wainwright soldiers are blessed at an Athabascan potlatch before deployment to Afghanistan. I think that's really nice. Warm fuzzy points for them!

2) Here are the girls looking lazy, although they never, ever, are lazy:

3) Best. Carrots. Evar. And most adorable logo. How am I still getting them at Freddies in deep winter? I have no idea. Greenhouses? Phenomenal storage methodologies?

4) One of my favorite soups, before cooking:

It has onions, ground red meat (moose, caribou, bison, beef, etc), beer, carrots, potatoes, and kale. It sounds strange, but it's really delicious!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's better than a behbeh elephant?

Two behbeh elephants!

These are havu and Uli, meeting for the first time at the zoo in Wuppertal, Germany. Photos from the AP.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Scenes from around the house

Sometimes it's warmer chez nous than it is in town, and sometimes it's colder. Last night, alas, it was the latter.

Edited: 4 hours after that photo was taken, temperatures were in the negative single digits F. The next day, the Minor News published a story that it's getting warmer. You go, Minor News!

Here are the girls in yet another napping permutation:

And Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, doing yoga:

My clothes drying. I don't like to put wool or synthetics into the dryer, so I put that stuff into a garbage sack and bring it home to hang dry. Last night, after having dinner with some friends in town first, I came home and the sack of wet clothes that had been sitting in my car was frozen. Sigh. Anyway, when there is a fire going, my underwear dries in about an hour, and my heavier stuff dries in about six.

The thing about cold-weather underwear is, it doesn't really matter who sees it. It's not remotely sexy or suggestive. :)

I wish you could see from the photo, but on very cold days, the ice in the dogs' water bowl develops from the bottom up.

Because ice is less dense than water, and furthermore because as temperatures drop in winter, air is usually colder than the ground, ponds, lakes, and rivers freeze from the top down. This is what enables life to remain in liquid water beneath the surface all winter, and it has enormous implications for ecology and for the development of life on earth, and even possibly for why it's possible for life to have developed at all.

In a Fairbanks cabin in deep winter, however, the air is so cold and still and stratified that your head can be 20 F degrees warmer than your feet. When the fire in the wood stove has been out for a while, and the cabin has been kept warm only due to the oil stove (which I set very low, only to prevent the cabin from totally freezing up), the floors are definitely at a temperature below freezing. Milliebun has a raised floor and mats to keep her warm, and the dogs don't care because they are used to living outdoors. But their water bowl grows ice from the bottom up, and it forms in needles, which adhere to the bottom surface. Consequently, it eventually reaches a very strange stage at which the bottom of the dish is filled with shards of ice, while the top is open water.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All right!

Woolly mammoth cloning!

They need to make a whole herd, release them into the wild, and issue hunting tags! Then, I'ma fill me a freezer fulla meat! Yeehaw!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Weather reports like this are common hereabouts:

I've also noticed that when we are in a -40 cold snap, they never say it will be -40 for longer than two days. Every day, they push back the time when temperatures will come up, so it's always two days out. Finally, when temperatures do come up, everyone says, "Ah... the weather report was accurate after all! Two days ago, they said temperatures would come up, and they did!"

The thing is, a cold snap that lasts, say, 8 days still makes for an error of 400 percent, but no-one thinks of that. They just say, "Oh, the prediction happened late, but it still happened!" Although it makes no sense whatsoever to give credit to a meteorologist for predicting that temperatures would someday come above -40. If nothing else, it has to come above -40 in, say, May.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Haiku

Waxing gibbous moon
Beautiful golden sunrise
My ass is frozen

Here is an interesting article on the physics of 40 below.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dog Act Under Review

I hope this passes.

"Tradition" is no excuse for animal cruelty or for any practices that are abhorrent. I hate when "tradition" is used as an excuse to avoid critical thinking. Fire? Who needs it? As for these new-fangled 'wheel' thingies...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Random act of kindness

Skied the Tanana today with a few friends and found that someone had groomed a trail for both skate and classic skiing.

So two of my friends took advantage of the former, while the other friend and I, the latter. The dogs, of course, couldn't care less!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Collecting snow, a Cuddlebug photo, and paws caught in traps

This morning, I slept in until daylight and then headed to the old 'hood to the beaver pond to collect snow samples. Because the beaver pond has liquid water (at 0 degrees C) beneath several feet of ice (which is a better thermal conductor than snow) beneath several feet of snow (which insulates against ambient air temperatures), I know that the snow against the ice will have grown into large, interesting crystals for me to study.

The girls ran out to the pond to play...

... then promptly each walked into a snap trap. As soon as I heard them yelp, I knew what it was, and ran over and freed them. The dogs are fine--the traps were small and had no teeth, obviously intended for the pond's natural residents, the beavers--but I was pissed.

What kind of jackass:

(1) Puts traps on multi-use trails that have skiers, recreational snow machiners, dog walkers, and dog teams?

(2) Doesn't tag his traps with his license and registration number?

(3) Doesn't put warning signs on the trail ahead of his trap line?

My friend Bobbo says, "Never assume malice when stupidity will explain a person equally well." So I will try not to be too angry without knowing the details.

In the past, I have had excellent experiences with the Alaska Trappers Association policing their own. They know that trapping is losing support in modern society, and that in order to keep trapping legal, they must work with others to minimize hurting pets and people. Their rules and guidelines cover the three things I mentioned above, and myriad other details.

Last winter, I found a few traps just past my property line, on a very busy ski trail in my neighborhood. I called my neighbor, who is a long-term trapper, upstanding member of the ATA, and dog lover who also has a great deal of common sense and integrity, and asked him what to do. I know that trapping is legal, and that my aforementioned 3 courtesy rules are just that--courtesy rules--and are not required by law. My neighbor went out to investigate the traps, and left a note for the "trapper" (his quotes; he doesn't believe rogue trappers deserve the title). The "trapper" cheerfully contacted him, gave his full name and address, apologized for the trouble, and removed all of his traps from the neighborhood.

All of us dog-walking neighbors were astonished at how lightly the whole situation ended. We had expected to learn that he was some maniac who enjoyed catching pet dogs, so grotesque was his placement of the traps right behind our homes. But nope; he was a decent enough fellow who just happened to be monumentally stupid and thoughtless.

So I will withhold judgment on whomever put the traps on the pond, avoid the pond and that area, and call my friend again to see if he finds this situation worth interfering with. FYI to my non-Alaskan readers: it's a common methodology for a trapper to write his name and phone number with a warning--"Traps XX yards ahead"--on a paper plate and staple it to a tree at each trail entrance where unwary dog walkers might approach. This is common courtesy, and all I ask for.

Aaaaanyway, being the cruel dog parent that I am, I still made the girls haul me back with my snow samples. Well, what else was I gonna do? Let them run loose when there are traps in the vicinity?

Here is a vid I took for y'all, my six faithful readers.

Great dogs, aren't they? I wubs them!

Oh, here is a photo that Rufous' papa sent me from the night of the eclipse:

Adorable, what?

Here is a map for TwoYaks:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good Samaritans save Moose!

A rather heartwarming story published today. Of course, it made the headlines of the Minor News. As I read it, though, my warm fuzzy was slightly ruined when I realized that I agreed with the wildlife troopers, who said that it wasn't worth risking human lives to save a moose's, especially when moose, like rabbits, are prone to stress-related deaths, and thus this moose is likely to die anyway.

But one of the rescuers chimed in in the comments and pointed out that it was done safely, that none of the humans went onto the ice, etc, etc, so that somewhat restored my warm fuzzy.

And that is all I have to report today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Well, Excuuuuuuse me?

I do believe I have put in a request for no more Chinooks! But I woke up this morning to find my trees denuded of their beautiful snow flocking, and a dead tree having fallen over in my yard.

Things like this are easy to deal with in rural areas. Is it a large tree? Yay! Free firewood! Cut it up and stack it! Is it a small tree? Well, is it in your way? No? Then leave it. Yes? Cut it up and throw the pieces somewhere where they won't bother you. Problem solved in ten minutes.

We now have record warmth after the longest cold streak in over 30 years, after 2010 being the 15th warmest year in Fairbanks history.

Once again, I say, ho hum.

Happy New Year, everyone! I rang it in by watching the fireworks and then hanging out at the Pump House. They had bagpipes and Scottish dancing. How random is that?

Today I am notworking. Slept in, ate my bowl of oatmeal while looking out the window at a moose, went skiing, cut up that tree and threw the pieces down the hill, refilled the firewood thingy on the porch for the week, met a friend in town for tea, and now I'm sitting here blogging. After this, I'm going to shower, go grocery shopping, and get water. That's not a bad day. :)