Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The price one pays for crossing me...

The other night, I woke up to being strangled by my own braid. Not acceptable. I decided it was time for my approximately triennial haircut. The last time this occurred, I was with my ex partner Dan, who did this for me. The time prior, BT did it. Obviously, neither of these options was feasible so, for the second time in my life, I paid a professional human to cut my hair.

I feel light as a bird! I'm sending it, as usual, to Locks of Love.

I've seen a lot of unfavorable press about them, even so harsh as to call them a 'scam'. However, their BBB report looks fine to me, and they have a passable Charity Navigator rating. The only creditable words I've heard against them concern the fact that they sell hair that they cannot use to commercial wigmakers to help offset costs. This is something they clearly state on their website, and I don't see why it's a problem. Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program and Wigs for Kids have both been suggested as alternatives, but the word "scam" also appears with their names in the top google hits.

Frankly, I find the criticisms against Locks of Love to range from mild to nonsensical, and I don't have time to read up on and compare the three charities, so, whatever. I'm finishing up lab work, writing a thesis, looking for a job, skijoring, and maximizing cuddle time with three fuzzy critters. All of these things are far more important than researching where to send my hair trimmings.

Teef cleaning

Here are the girls cleaning their teef:

Three! Three fuzzies in my cabin! Ah, ah, ah!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Sometimes the guy who orders our plowing orders for the roads to be scraped down to bare dirt again. Normally, they only push off the snow, but this is what happens when they scrape back the hard pack (a bit of snow had fallen again):

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Is it safer? It's more slippery immediately after they do it. Also, these chunks?

I sprained an ankle on one my first year in Alaska. I was Not Amused.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Arch

Every year, around this time of year, the civil engineering students put in the engineering courtyard some version of this:

And... we've gotten another inch or two of snow:

Goodbye, flamingos! I guess it's finally going to be goodbye until spring!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A few changes around here

I've added a very loose commenting policy to my sidebar, to the right of this post. Please take a moment to read it. Thank you.

I've also moved my "let me know if you see your photo here and would like me to remove it" statement from my profile to the top of the page.

Then I changed the template, because it was getting kind of crowded, so now I think it's easier to read. Blogger offered me like 17.8 bajillion options. I chose the first one on the first screen that looked neat and tidy.

Maaaaan, I can't believe that there are enough of you people now (like, fourteen at last count), that I have to manage you! ;)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just Beautiful

Every now and then a data set actually comes out like you'd theorized...

No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, but is it not amazing that I can get something so true, so perfect, from actual, natural snow? Sometimes even deliberately engineered materials do not get mechanical test results so close to perfect!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Living Alone

Brace yourselves for this--it may come as a bit shocking. Are you ready? Okay. I am... a tad... quirky. Shocking, right? I know! But--and I feel I can share this with all nine of my loyal readers now--plastic flamingos in front of a moose-curtained log cabin without indoor plumbing are what I would call a sign.

So yesterday's New York Times had an article on how people who live alone indulge their own quirks more than those that co-habitate. However, the article was so gentle, so mild, so self-conscious in its effort to be charming and inoffensive, that the supposedly quirky traits brought forward among its solo-dwellers are completely underwhelming. One solo dweller's laundry list of oddities reads: "running in place during TV commercials; speaking conversational French to herself while making breakfast (she listens to a language CD); singing Journey songs in the shower; and removing only the clothes she needs from her dryer, thus turning it into a makeshift dresser." Aside from the last item, which has practical constraints, the rest of them are all things that I'd feel perfectly comfortable doing in the presence of a partner. Maybe that's why none of my relationships have worked out. :)

In any case, I think this is yet another reinforcement to my position that allowing my weirdness to be indulged in academia wouldn't be good for me. Living alone, and working in academia, would put me in a life of no social corrections whatsoever, and that would put me on a fast ship to crazy-town.

In closing this post, I would like to confess that I, like one of the subjects of the article, once forgot to put on pants and left the house in my underwear. I was about six, I think, and found myself in the yard in just a T-shirt and underwear. My sister and our neighbor kid, WZ, were outside already, and the conversation that ensued went something like this:

"Why the heck are you not wearing pants?"

I am wearing pants!

"Um, no. You're not. You're totally not wearing pants."

(refusing to look down). I am so wearing pants!

We continued in this surreal discussion, my cheeks burning hot, until I made up some excuse and ran back into the house and put on pants.

True story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring is creeping up

I put away my -40 boots. I have to admit, it made me feel a little melancholy. After this past winter's intense cold, this is the first time I'm truly looking forward to spring. And yet... there is something sort of mystical and magical about deep cold that is difficult to explain. It's not, mind you, that I need it for suffering as a counterpoint to happiness. There is something about it that isn't, indeed, suffering. The air itself winks. The trees whisper. Sounds carry like tinkling bells. And during the shortest days, the sun is pink, and the snow looks like cotton candy.

All the same, I'm not going to hold back celebrating warm, sunny days! And it's not even warm enough to melt the snow, nor cause overflow on the creeks, so we can ski all we want! I hope we still get more snow though. I think we're still below average for snow this year; my flamingos aren't even covered, although I kind of like looking at their little pink heads sticking up:

The fuzzies still have their heavy winter coats. Check out Linden's feet!

And Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, is still going strong. She'll be 10 this spring!

Finally, did you know that when meese visit hospitals, they are blocked by security guards and denied treatment? I swear, the state of health care in this country is appalling!

Source: Leslie M. Bagley of the Providence Alaska Medical Center. Full article here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Samba! Samba! Samba!

I warned you that this blog might start going all over the place, right? Right then.

I have to confess that although I have never been to Brazil, and it's low on my list of places to visit (I don't handle heat and humidity well. :( ) that every year, I am mesmerized by the photos coming out from Carnival.

These scantily-clad women are all gorgeous in a way that is so... healthy and adult. Sure, they may also represent the impossible, unobtainable, media-driven ideals that feminists complain about. And a lot of them have fake boobs, and tons of makeup, and yadayada, but they look so much more real and joyful to me than the American and European icons of beauty. And to strive to look like a big, buxom, curvy, boobtacular, grown-ass woman seems, to me, much mentally healthier than striving to look like a waifish teenager.

Compare and contrast:

Source here.

Source here.

Um yeah.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Parrots feeding dogs

No point here, just birds feeding dogs pasta. That's amore! :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your Dose of Fairbanks Reportage

1) Breaking News! A pheasant has over-wintered at Creamer's Field. There is a photo of said pheasant. He's really pretty. Yes, yes, this was on the front page of the Minor News. Why do you ask?

2) The other evening, I attended the ribbon cutting for the first new building to house the Alaska Center for Energy and Power. Since this is Fairbanks in February, huddling outside in the cold for a ceremony before a literal ribbon cutting to enter the building was out of the question, so we were ushered inside immediately, and a ceremonial ribbon was cut inside.

A lot of hot-shots were there, including UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, Pat Jacobson, the chair of the University of Alaska Board of Regents, Senator Lesil McGuire, and ACEP director Gwen Holdmann.

When the giant ceremonial scissors failed to cut (form over function!), pocket knives were whipped out of every pocket. I love engineers and Alaskans, and Alaskan engineers just double up the awesomeness!

I was also present at their groundbreaking, so it was nice to see the first finished building.

3) Here are photos of my fuzzies. Aren't they fuzzy?

I love fuzzy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Temperatures... and Navel-Gazing

The past few evenings, I've been arriving home a bit chilled. No problem--out comes the alpaca sweater, up go the flames in the wood stove. But what gives me the weirds is that it's been a good 70-80 F degrees warmer than two weeks prior!

I think it's something about the humidity. Warm air can hold more, so it can give you more of a chill. Also... I guess acclimation is a big part of it. That's why those first few days in the 30s F feel cold each Fall, but in deep winter, negative teens F feels warm.

So when my mother asks over the phone, "What is your weather like? Is it still cold, or warmer?" I really have no clue what to say, because it's more than a number. :)

The Minor News, true to form, reports, "After one of the coldest Januarys on record... Normally the second-coldest month of the year in Alaska’s second-largest city, February has gotten off to an extremely mild start.." Second coldest month, second largest city (as if we don't know where we are!). I swear, they just love their numbers and near-records!

Eleven of the first 13 days of the month have had an average temperature above normal and seven of the first 13 days have had a high temperature of 25 degrees or warmer.

The average temperature so far this month at Fairbanks International Airport is 5.4 degrees, which is is 9.5 degrees above normal and more than 30 degrees warmer than January’s average temperature of 26.9 below. Had it not been for the first four days of the month, which had an average temperature of minus 11.3, it would be one of the warmest starts to February on record.

I read blahblahblah numbers! numbers! blahblahblah numbers!...

Finally, happy National Half-Priced Chocolate Day! Yay! Yesterday evening, my incredibly sweet neighbors across the street came over bearing chocolates. I wonder if they had pictured me sitting alone and sad on Valentine's Day, since I had recently broken up with their son/brother? It was really touching, and made me feel more appreciation for their affection than I ever did for that of their son/brother.

And on the topic of being alone on Valentine's day... I noticed that yesterday’s blogs and even news sites were pretty evenly divided between “Ain’t love grand?” and “We’re happily single and loving it!”

I realized that I fall into neither of these categories. I’ve been happy in relationships, and I’ve been (and currently am) happy single. But I’ve never been happy to be in a relationship, and I’ve never been happy to be single.

Happiness seems to be more a result of temperament than of circumstance. We all know people who should be happy but aren’t, and people who shouldn’t be happy but are. I'm blessed to be more often the latter. To those of you who were sad and single yesterday, do not correlate the two. Do something to make yourself happier, with or without a partner. Yay for creating your own destiny!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Okay, so I lied

Contrary to what I believed and told you earlier, moose-car crashes are not, after all, usually fatal.

Apparently the correct statistic is that Only one-half of 1 percent of Alaska's moose-vehicle accidents result in a motorist fatality.

All the same, I'm not giving up my superslow driving! 55 saves lives!

That's another thing I love about my neighborhood. For the most part, my neighbors are patient with me when I want to go slowly, for any reason (icy road today? car making a funny noise?). They don't drive up my bum and blind me with their high beams and rage. They just patiently bump along behind me until it is safe to pass. My end of the bargain, of course, is that I pull over and let them pass at the first safe opportunity.

When I visit chez Sammypants, I find that drivers on their main road (Farmers Loop) are much, much worse. They speed, and they tailgate and curse at me if they perceive that I am driving too slowly. They have way more moose accidents, too. Slow down, Farmers Loop people! What is your dadgum hurry? This town is eight miles across! The most time you could possibly shave by speeding is about three minutes!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sun on snow

You can see my trail to the ski trail system:

Today I watched some larger birds bully the chickadees away from my bird feeder. Harumph! What do do about this?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Notes from Here and There

1) It is very heart-warming that the Red Cross disaster preparedness drills take animals into account. The practice 'evacuation' describes how stuffed animals were used to practice taking pets into account during a real emergency. As for things in my neck of the woods, if I were to lose power, I'd hunker down in the house and keep the fire going until power is restored rather than let my cabin freeze up, as it would do so in the absence of the backup heat source that is my oil stove, which depends on power. I don't understand how anyone can live in a rural area without a wood stove! In theory, one could actually die in one's own home! Although in reality, I'm sure that only happens rarely, as most folks would just run to the nearest neighbor that has a wood stove. Also, what sorts of things cause power outages? Wind, storms, and heavy snow, none of which occur when it's very cold. So I guess the real danger isn't so bad. Still and all, I'm glad I have a wood stove!

2) Here is a video of a behbehbear cub and a behbehwolf cub playing together. You're welcome.

3) The weather is too nice for me to be sitting here. Bye!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Problematic Construction...

... that would have been problematic with or without an oxford comma.

Check out the abomination that is on the Nutella label! And consider how big the Nutella company is! They couldn't afford a decent writer?

This is what I'm seeing in my head:

Sigh. Is it up to me to fix all of the world's problems?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hoity-Toity-fication of America

I have a question for y'all. Is the hoity-toity-fication of consumer goods inevitable?

When I went to Barrow, I was astonished to order a cup of tea in a tiny, unpretentious cafe, and be presented with a selection of a dozen or so fancy teabags. As a tea drinker, I was pleased, but also a little unnerved. I drink exquisite Taiwan-grown Oolong tea at home and in my office, but when I'm traveling in remote areas, Lipton original and Red Rose suit me just fine.

Here in Fairbanks, I once practically went catatonic at the tortilla selection at Freddie's. Understand, this is not a region of America heavily populated by Latin Americans, and yet--a full wall, three shelves high, of over thirty types of tortillas. Studies have shown that having too many choices induces paralysis, and that's pretty much what happened to me; I stood there reading labels, going back and forth from this package to that, until I actually felt crazy. What, after all, were the best and worst possible ramifications of my tortilla choice? Minutes later, an acquaintance of mine passed by and saw me standing there clutching six packages of tortillas, my head tilted to one side, my eyes glazed over, dribble working its way down my chin, etc, etc. He immediately assessed the situation, grabbed five of my bags away, and proclaimed, "You have tortillas! Good!" and marched me to the next aisle.

We might feel that we are happier with more choices (and Wal-Mart does such a stupendous job of capitalizing on this that I can hardly set foot in there without going catatonic), but are we truly? I heard somewhere that there is some optimal number of choices (between 3 and 6) that makes us feel satisfied. Any fewer, and we feel that we didn't have much of a choice. Any more, and we go back and forth and walk away wondering whether we really got the best one, and should we go back and study all of the other ones one more time?

But what's really, really interesting to me about all of these consumer choices is that it allows the true market trends to show up, and, as I hinted at at the beginning of this post, that trend seems to be toward ever fancier and hoity-toity stuff!

Observe, if you will, one third of the new cheese display at Freddie's:

I loves me my cheese and am delighted with this new addition, but there is even fancy-pancy artisan salt, to be ground directly from beautiful marbled blocks for your chi-chi cooking!

Amazing, is it not? I'm so torn between loving the cheese and hating the consumerism. My heart is confused.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Job Search

So... I've begun my job search. The contract for our project ends in May, and although my adviser has offered to help me apply for other funding so I might stay on, we mutually agreed that I'd wrap up lab work and a first draft of my thesis by May, and look for ahhh... one of those... job things and finish my thesis part time once I am already working.

This suits me fine. I enjoy my work, but frankly, I've never worked at the same job for four years in my life, and I'm ready for a change. I'm also ready to bring home some larger portions of metaphorical bacon! Mama likes decent paychecks and ten-dollar copays at the doctor.

So I've been thinking about my career. The Silicon Valley, for me, was a very lively, dynamic, and surprisingly flexible place to work. For the most part, I got along well with my colleagues; we had a lot in common, as it seems to be the case that careers attract their own certain sorts of people. At first glance, it would seem that any career-climbin' freshly minted PhD would be attracted immediately to the Silicon Valley, which is famous for being one of the most, if not the most, exciting place for cutting edge technology on earth.

However, there is one small niggling thing that makes all that sort of not apply to me, and it's this. While it is literally awesome (as in, it fills me with awe) to rub shoulders with such movers and shakers on a regular basis, and while I absorb a lot of the excitement of technology by proximity, most of that excitement is not about mechanical engineers. It's about software and firmware engineers, PCB layout engineers, and even industrial designers (as in the famous case of Apple). Mechanical engineers are critical, sure, but we aren't the stars. We don't get recognition or big bonuses. We are invisible support players.

Our work is very challenging (try designing supports for a 1-kg heat sink that's meant to 'float' on top of a printed circuit board that measures about 20 x 10 cm, while the board layout folks will only let you 'touch' 2-mm stretches of board at a stretch!), but we stand only to get negative recognition. Our work is only visible when it fails. Otherwise, it's covered by a pretty bezel, and the industrial designers get credit for a lovely cover with a nice user interface.

So where do mechanical engineers shine? I have to say, I am at a bit of a loss to answer that question. I do know that several obvious industry candidates do not appeal to me either. I had used to dream of working for the aerospace industry, but I've since met folks whose entire careers "designing rocket ship parts" meant spending years designing things like brackets and custom screws. Not so exciting when you look at the details of how your daily life will proceed!

Well, I hope to get some answers as I proceed through this, my most thoughtful job search yet. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lovely, lovely!

It's been so nice and warm this weekend, and the girls and I have been skiing, running, and skijoring to our hearts' content.

The good thing about ultra-cold weather is that there are no after effects. You might curse and grumble as you build up the fire, but as soon as temperatures come up, forgiveness is instantaneous--life resumes as normal. On the other hand, after an unacceptable warm spell, the recovery is slow, and bad. A layer of ice can remain on the trails and on the roads for a long time, potentially until the end of winter! After a cold snap, well, no problem! Off we go to ski! Yay!

Oh, here is today's temperature:

(You'll note that I added the Kelvin scale. ;) )

Ayyyyyy! That is dangerously close to the danger zone, yes? But temperatures in town have been 10-15 F degrees cooler, and temperatures in town tend to precede temperatures chez moi, so there seems to be no danger of a meltdown.

The Yukon Quest started this weekend, but I didn't attend the start since I was too busy enjoying my own dogs to go look at others'. :) Here are some excellent photos though. It would appear that my Linden has actually been out-goobered. Check out this gooberdy beast! Linden now has to give up her crown as Gooberdiest Sillypants Dog in Alaska. She surely must cede to him!

Friday, February 3, 2012


So yesterday evening, this occurred:

It only lasted for a few hours before dropping back down to the negative teens F, but it did in fact occur. I have photographic evidence and poor photo shopping skills, so you know it's real!

I promise this isn't going to morph into a food-only blog, but here are some food photos. These are amusing at least to Dingo Dave and BT, and, furthermore, they reassure my mother that I am eating properly.

A decent enough lunch when I haven't time to prepare anything and don't feel like walking out in search of campus food--half an avocado, an apple, a tomato, a good chunk of cheese, and pilot bread from the stash in my desk drawer:

My neighbor gave me a jar of her homemade pepper sauce. When I opened it up, it smelled somehow East Indian to me, so I cooked it up with eggplant, then tossed in some tofu for protein and some cilantro and green onions because, why not? With the tofu, and over brown rice, it looked very hippie to me, so I had to take a photo to maintain my Berkeley and Ester cred:

My dinner last night, which I planned while talking to my adorable niece over the phone--veggies and potatoes, drizzled in olive oil, and chicken thighs stuffed with lemon slices and garlic cloves.


(I was about to crop this photo, but then realized that I'm proud of my kitchen detritus.)


And see now I've got leftovers, too!

Oh, and here is a photo of my favorite campus ice bear, when he first went up:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yes, yes, it happened

When I left the house yesterday morning, it was -40. When I got home at around 6:

And at 8:30:

At around 10, it finally happened:

We came above 0F! Yay

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Now we're talking!

A weather record! January 2012 went down as the fifth-coldest January on record in Fairbanks.


The average temperature for the month at Fairbanks International Airport was was 26.9 degrees below zero, which was two-tenths of a degree colder than January 1969, according to a statement released by the National Weather Service on Wednesday...

Though no daily temperature records were broken in Fairbanks, the average temperature was 19 degrees below normal for the month.

As I very eloquently stated several times over the past six weeks, "Holy sh*tballs".

There were 18 total days during the month when the low temperature was 40 below or colder and another nine when the low was in the 30s below.

That means that 27 out of 31 days were, to paraphrase a bit of eloquence from my sister, butt-ass cold.

The things you don't think about until they occur...

A week ago, I had a moment of inattention while slicing green onions, and cut a finger pretty badly. I cleaned and bandaged it, and the next day went to the University Health Center to have them look at it as well. They did a better job with bandaging than I did. Anyway, it's healing up nicely, but one thing I hadn't realized is how coooooold my pinkie would get when walking around outside See, my fingers usually snuggle together inside my mitten, and now my pinkie is thermally isolated:

Brrrr... Poor pinkie! Please wish me a speedier healing so my pinkie can snuggle again!

Here is a time lapse video of all of the people wanting to take their photo by the UAF sign when it's in the -40s:

And here is a photo of two husky configurations. They can be folded or extended, at your convenience.

Also, also: I've concluded that Yahoo weather sucks:

From now on, I'm a NOAA girl.