Monday, December 31, 2012

All kinds of miscellaney

What a wonderfully productive holiday break this has been! I have:

* Skied every day.
* Feasted and skied with friends I hadn't seen in months.
* Repaired my hearth.
* Replaced the gasket on my wood stove.
* Shoveled a path to my woodpile, cleared my wood pallets, and gotten back into splitting wood.
* Reorganized my car emergency stuff.
* Done my laundry.
* Tackled another round of feedback to my thesis.
* Drafted a syllabus and organized notes to teach ME344 next semester.

So here are deets on the more interesting stuff.

In a book I was reading, an old Wyoming man freezes to death on a cold, blizzardy night because he's lost his way, his car has gotten stuck in snow, and he had forgotten his duffel bag of emergency supplies in his other car.

I thought to myself, duffel bag? That's brilliant! I had had my emergency supplies tucked into every nook and cranny of my car--very tidy, but difficult to remember which was where when I needed it. So this evening, I pulled all of that stuff out and into my living room:

All that's missing are the tire jack and the bottles of fluids (oil, IsoHeet, and coolant), because those sit too nicely in the Subaru's nooks and crannies to remove.

My sister has expressed contempt at my desire to be able to save myself should the need ever arise, comparing me to the Unabomber. Be that as it may, I'd prefer to minimize my chances of ending up like this guy or this guy, or even this couple or this family, who both survived after a long, cold wait. The Unabomber, I'd like to point out, is still alive, and wouldn't be in jail if he didn't kill people. So I figure, if I can refrain from killing people (which is certainly a challenge at times, for example, on weekday afternoons when I am still at work and all out of Triscuits), I can afford the great mental risk that comes with keeping survival skills sharp. Also, I have prettier hair and probably prettier shoes than he does.

Not to mention--a vintage Sun Microsystems duffel bag! Look how nicely it holds my stuff!

So in addition to the brilliant (to me, anyway. Smarter people have long figured out the uses of duffel bags) idea to shove everything all together in a duffel bag, I have recently learned two other things. Firstly, that my emergency blanket really ought to be wool. Worst case scenario, if I am ever spending a night out exposed, keeping warm by a fire, a wool blanket is far safer than a synthetic one. So I pulled out my fuzzy fleecy synthetic blanket and replaced it with a felted wool one. The second is that matches don't work so well when they are cold and possibly damp from frost accumulation. Yes, I know, those Coleman camping matches supposedly work when damp, but have they ever worked easily for you in the rain? Me neither. So I picked up a cheap BIC lighter the next time I was at AIH. The clerk who was checking me out attempted to pass it to me after he had rung it up, saying, "You wanna just hang on to this?" I realized that he took me for a smoker, and figured I'd want it in my pocket. I was mildly taken aback, but shook my head no and informed him to put it into my bag.

Okay, now onto my hearth. I have two women friends who are quite warm-blooded and chill easily, so they like to sit on my hearth, toasting their backs against the stove. The other evening, as one of them got up to leave, the front row of false bricks crumbled off behind her. She was appalled, exclaiming, "I'll go to the gym more often!" I laughed. She's about the size of my right thigh. Anyway, the next day, I pulled off all of the loose false bricks, chipped them clean:

and took one of them to The Woodway. My mom, in the days before GPS and google maps and mapquest, always told me, "A map is in your mouth." So, too, are repair instructions for almost any project, especially in rural towns, where there are so many do-it-yourselfers. A kind man at he Woodway informed me that grouting false bricks onto a slab of plywood was a crap way to build a hearth; no wonder it was falling apart! I needed to build myself a proper hearth, by blahblahblah-ing and then blahblah-ing and then, finally, by blahblahblah-ing. I sighed and looked as pathetic as possible. "But if you just want to do a quick fix..." I perked up. "You can just stick these back on with Liquid Nails and then grout around 'em." I liked that! Special heat-proof grout? Nah, ordinary grout'll do. Liquid Nails holds up in the heat? Yes, he'd seen it used around stoves before. Score!

But when I was at AIH, I found this:

Intriguing. It said it would seal gaps in chimneys. I also liked that it was grey in color, so the flubs I was certain to make would be less visible.

Well, step 1 went okay:

I weighted it to let it cure overnight:

then realized that putting my water jugs in front of the stove was probably sub-optimal (algae in the water supply, anyone?), so I replaced them:

The next day, I found that my experimental filler-stuff was a mess. It didn't apply very cleanly, and it was thick as tar. I was barely strong enough to push it out with the caulking gun. I ended up squeezing a whole mess of it onto a piece of cardboard, and applying it with a painter's spatula. It was messy, messy, messy. In the end, I gave up on aesthetics and just smeared it every-freaking-where:

But voila! I finished!

When it had cured, I found that it felt plasticky and rubbery, like kitchen and bathroom caulk, but that it paradoxically had pokey edges. I filed and sanded them down. When I shovel my ashes and sweep my stove clean, I feel like Hestia. This job... was less meditative.

The stove gasket was a tad more problematic since the adhesive requires two hours of curing time before I can light a fire. So, when is the stove cool in winter? Weekday mornings, before I go to work, and weekday evenings, when I first get home from work. The former is out of the question since I'm rushing off to work and have no desire to fuss around with my stove. The latter is also out of the question because when I get home, the first thing can think to do is light a fire, and to spend even the twenty or so minutes in the cold to replace the gasket, and then run to a neighbor's house for the following two hours, was unthinkable to me.

Finally, temperatures came up:

So I was able to replace the gasket as well! No major mishaps there, except that the adhesive instructed me to "knead with fingers before applying." Sooooo... I imagined that it needed to be warmed and softened before applying, and figured that I'd squeeze a bit into my hand, knead it, roll it long, then stick the section on, then repeat until I had rimmed the stove door. The adhesive... it came sploodging out into my hand. Knead? How in heck was I supposed to knead this stuff? Finally, it occurred to me--they mean knead it in the tube, as in, to make sure that the contents are mixed, before applying it. Duuuuuhhhh. So I washed my hands, kneaded the tube, and applied a nice little ring around the stove door before shoving in the gasket. Then I rounded up the doggies and went skiing for two hours! Yay!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Suspicion and Sky

Today when I got back from my ski, the sky was clear brilliant blue, and a bit of cloud was weirdly pink. I took a photo, but the photo looked ordinary:

Oh, well.

Then there is this situation:

Hmmmm... very suspicious. Understand, I have never explicitly told the dogs that they aren't allowed on the couch, but I have never seen them on the couch, either. But whenever I get home, there are these two suspicious round indentations on the couch. Yesterday evening, the indentations were accompanied by the dogs' Christmas rawhides. Uhm-hmm. Very suspicious indeed!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Remembering the chaos of my three-feast Thanksgiving, on Christmas, I (not without a sigh of reluctance and wistfulness) declined two in favor of spending more time at two others. The first was with R and N, who are two of my longest-term friends in Alaska. I met R when I moved up here the first time, before my then-SO was diagnosed with cancer and we had to go back to California. I don't see as much of R as I'd like, but he has a heart of gold and is always a friend when I need one. I met N as soon as I arrived in Alaska the second time, when we were TA's together in the physics department. She, too, has an unusually kind heart in our cynical age. I was delighted to learn a few years later that they were dating, and last spring, they got married.

After lunch, I drove home and threw my prepared casseroles into the oven, then drank tea while they heated, then headed across the street for Christmas number two.

Here are photos of... random things! I'm sorry I totally forgot to photograph the parties, even the food at them! But R and N had a beef roast, and the B's had a pork roast, so I had diversity in meat. :) I made a quiche, a classic green bean casserole (in true classic style, all of the ingredients are dumped directly from cans into the casserole dish), a roasted blue kuri squash casserole, and corn bread.

Here is my kuri squash casserole, topped with pilot bread crumbs and grated parmigiano-reggiano:

Spinach, feta, and onion quiche in a half whole-wheat crust:

My crusts are always tasty, but cosmetically-challenged. One of my readers-turned-meatworld-friends, who used to be a pastry chef, informed me that the trick to making a crust that keeps its shape is to reduce some butter and substitute shortening. But I like butter and don't like shortening. As the late Mr. Grumphus Bumfus Bunn B. Doofus, Esq. put it, Hrrmf!

I gave the girls each a big rawhide bone for Christmas. They cleaned their teef:

The weather has been so great lately (hovering around 0F/-18C), that the girls and I have been skiing every day!

My neighbor grooms the trails with his snow machine:

We could see the Alaska range from the ridgetop:

At N and R's place, another guest had brought this creature:

It was astonishing! But after it warmed up to me, I held it and examined one of its teeny, tiny paws. What a cute little thing it was--exactly like Autumn's or Linden's paw, only the size of a single one of their pads!

Autumn and Linden are both so predatory--eating squirrels out of the yard and voles off the hiking trails--that I had wondered from time to time how they'd react to a little dog. But then my neighbor got a mini dachshund puppy, and my worry turned to real fear. How much of a turd would I feel like knocking on a door to apologize because my dog had eaten theirs? Well, one day Autumn and Linden did meet the little guy, when all three of them (with their two humans) were out for a walk. They wagged their tails, sniffed his butt, and continued on. Phew! They knew it was a dog! What a relief!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Warm and snowy

Finally a proper winter! Tons of snow, warm enough to ski (negative single digits F), and no sign of the temperature getting worse, in either direction, for NOAA's foreseeable future!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012

And what do my moose mittens think of the temperature outside?

Mr. Moose Mitten is unimpressed!

In the past two weeks, I have dropped over $300 on new butt-preserving strategies, including:
* New Carhartts (sans holes!)
* New silk long underwear (again, my old ones were puka pants!)
* New fleece base layer pants
* New lined shell pants
* Wool briefs

Since then, I have run, walked, and skied at -40, and my okole has frozen 0 times.

Whoever said that money can't buy happiness clearly is not unhappy to have a frozen bum!

Happy Solstice!

Now the days will be growing longer again!

Also, also! It's the first day of winter. The first. Day. Of Winter.


Here are some photos of the sun around 2 p.m., 12 hours before the solstice:

And what is this ice fog of which we speak?

The city is bathed in it. Campus, and, my 'hood, are above it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


This is why I seldom get up within twenty minutes of the alarm going off. I have these cuddly things:

"Are you coming to bed?"

"Kerflop! Let the cuddling commence!"

That very lively quilt was my birthday gift this year from DB, who informed me that she made quilts for all of her children, and so she made one for me. :*) d'awwwww!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Views from windows

Sunrise behind my cabin:

A raven outside my office window:


I read -40 this morning and thought, *shrug*.

Once again, my personal weather gage was incorrect. It's the coldest it's been so far this year.

Well, brrrrr!

On Saturday, I went skiing at -40 for the first, and, I hope, the last time. I had a colleague visiting from Darwin, Australia, for three weeks, and wanted to take him "sometime". Well, you know how "sometime" often gets put off... and finally his last weekend it town arrived, and it was -40! My colleague has done multiple Antarctic expeditions, and he gives survival training courses in the Australian bush, so when he informed me that he was still game to go, I wasn't concerned in the least. Sure enough, he showed up adequately dressed and with his own daypack of emergency supplies. I wore 3 pairs of pants and 4 shirts under my jacket and was suitably warm, if awkward. At one point, we crossed paths with a couple walking their exuberant puppy, and the puppy bounded up to play with Autumn and Linden. As I reached out to pet the puppy, I literally fell over, like this:

Then I flailed around like an upside-down bug for a few seconds before I got up:

It was... not dignified.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Digging out

Last night, I shoveled about six inches of snow from my driveway and front yard, as snow was still falling. Overnight, another similar amount fell, and I repeated the procedure this morning, indulging additionally in shoveling a path to the outhouse and the wood pile.

When I woke up, it was silent outside; I didn't even hear the occasional car drive by. As I took the dogs out for a slogging run through the foot or so of loose snow, I observed that the streets had been plowed... precisely nowhere, so when I got home, I called into work and informed them that I'd be in late, if at all. I then shoveled while listening to and observing the passing cars. By the time I was done shoveling, about half a dozen trucks, and two sedans, had gone by, so I figured it was safe for me to go into town. All I had to tackle, after all, was my own road. I knew for certain that the highway would be plowed.

Autumn and Linden, for their part, were annoyed by the deep snow and utterly delighted after I shoveled. Linden actually stotted and pranced up and down the driveway like a goat kid.

Anywhere, here are photos.

Paths around the cabin and car:

Path to the outhouse:

And my driveway:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Miscellaneous photos

The three sisters are nicely enhanced by cheese and tomatoes:

Linden, begging very rudely:

Notice that she isn't smiling nor trying to be charming, as she usually does. She's all, "Psh! Hello-oh! I deserve some of that."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snowy hike

Two weekends in a row of not working suit me fine, thanks!

On Sunday afternoon, the dowgs and I joined the Fairbanks Area Hiking Club for a quick day hike to an old mining cabin.

The trail:

An old mining cabin, or maybe a trappers' cabin:

Group shot using the camera on a tripod:


"What's she got up there?"


Little pup!

And we have more snow on the way! Yaaay! It's about freakin'-frackin' time!

In other news, you once again have to prove you're not a robot to comment. My spam got out of control. Sorry about that. Don't forget you can click the little 'recycle' button to get it to barf up another one, if you find the current one illegible.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Awkward like me...

Something I've come to realize lately, much to my delight, is that not only do I have women friends, but that my women friends are pretty darned similar to me. Before moving to Fairbanks, I had very few women friends, just because I was an engineer and met very few women. But in my closely-knit Fairbanks community, I have more opportunities to meet people outside of my field, and therefore more women. As it turns out, while most of these women aren't engineers, most of them are scientists of some stripe or other, and I tend to gravitate toward the biology people, since it's an area of interest for me, in which I have little personal background. I corner my biology friends and grill them with my questions about our local plants and why my dogs Do That and whether it's true that slutty cats can get pregnant by two different male cats and carry a litter with two fathers (yes, they can).

But another thing I've come to realize is that the women of biology, like the women of engineering, are quite warm and likeable but also a tad awkward. I almost always cringe at group photos of myself with other women, because, while I am seldom the most unattractive of the lot, I am generally the worst-looking in the photos. The other women look perfectly posed and radiant, while I either have weird posture, am chewing something, have my hair flopped in some weird place, caught weird light, or some other such thing. The point is, the other women look lovely, while I look like an alien. But now with the advent of Facebook, I have come to realize that my fellow women scientists are similar to me in that way, as well! I was looking through the profile of one in particular, and she's a beautiful woman (and I mean that in the shallow, outer-beauty kind of way), but in her photos, yes, she's surrounded by perfectly poised girlfriends while awkwardly hunched this way or that, or chewing something, just like me! Haha!

I once read a column in which the author, a late-blossoming, nerdy woman, recalled how when she'd as a child come home in tears because she'd lost this or that popularity contest, her father would say, "Don't you change. Someday you'll find a place where there are lots of people like you." For her, that place was college, and for me, that place is a small community of intense scientists in a small town in the middle of nowhere. :)

In other news, here are some cuddly things:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Office dowgs

This is Chirri, sibling to Loki:

And I believe you know these two ladies:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


...that I'd heard said before but only witnessed literally since moving to Fairbanks:

(1) "I froze my ass off!"

I have literally frozen my ass off. As in, frost nipped its extremities. And a few days later, the outer layers of skin peeled off.

(2) "Sorry I couldn't get you that document this morning. My computer froze."

"I mean," he said immediately after that. "It literally froze. I left it in my car, and it wouldn't turn on."

Aaaaand, in other news, it is warming up today! And the inversion is still strong. What do I mean by "inversion"? It means that my long-desired upstairs thermometer:

is not as handy as I had thought it would be, because the temperature at ground level is quite a bit colder:

So I get all excited and dress in a mere three pairs of trousers instead of four, then go downstairs and see that, and I go, "DANG IT!!" and go back upstairs and put something else on.