Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring and behbeh pygmy hippo

Here are photos of a behbeh pygmy hippo. Any relevance to this blog? No. Why do you ask?

He is called Prince Harry, and he was born at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa. More photos here. Photo credits: Cango Wildlife Reserve

I left early yesterday and found our roads scraped to bare dirt again. Grrrrr! How annoying! Just when we'd gotten enough traffic to roughen up the ice again, they scraped it bare and smooth, perfect for me to slip and fall down on! Even more annoyingly, they had pushed a berm of ice chunks into each of our driveways! I cursed, shook my fist, and started shoveling the berm away. I was about 80% done when the plow came back, and pushed all of the berms off the driveways. What an idiot I was! But how was I to know that he'd come back? I don't normally come home at 4 p.m.!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another perspective

I saw a tourist snapping photos of us the other day, so I gave him my email address and asked him to send me any good ones.

"So we went for a dog sled ride on the river, and came upon this girl skiing with her dogs loose!"

"Then I guess she felt bad for having her loose dogs distracting the teams, so she hooked up to them."

"When we got back to the parking lot, she asked me to take her photo, but her dogs insisted on looking away."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The first geese have come back. They were on the Delta Clearwater, which is spring-fed and thus one of the first rivers to open in the spring.

A bald eagle and a flock of snow buntings have been spotted.

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu!

Da Ice Park

Here are photos of favorite sculptures from the Ice Park. Don't forget that you can click on photos to embiggen them!

A nicely detailed poodle:

A mermaid. That ball she's holding is carved on the inside:

Sea turtle!

Indian in regalia:

In Alaska, the word "Native" means either Indian or Eskimo, so "Indian" is more specific. In the Lower 48, both "Indian" and "Eskimo" are mildly offensive, and they call them "Native American" and "Inuit", respectively. But in Alaska, "Inuits" are "Inupiaq", although we have a lot of other Eskimos, such as Yup'iks and Cup'iks and Aleuts. Got that?

Manta ray and sea turtle! I never tire of the chelonian sculptures:

My favorite, a caterpillar and a butterfly:

A Chinese-looking boat:

The grand prize winner, a leopard eyeballing a porcupine:

Good luck with that, pussycat!

One of my favorites, that didn't photograph so well--a ring of moxen lining up against a wolf:

A hawk:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Notes from here and there

Ugh. It's too danged warm:

When we go out skiing or skijoring, the girls pant, and I get all sweaty.

But we still cuddle:

Saturday night, my friend MMS and his wife MH had a party to celebrate his successful thesis defense. I don't often attend their parties since they live in a remote area about 45 minutes away. Here is the view from their land:

Lovely, eh?

Oh, in case you were wondering, this is how little dogs stay warm outdoors:

There were two of these HUGE puppies, who belonged to a neighbor:

She told me that they were Inuit dogs, and would be about 120 pounds when fully grown. I think that means that they are from Greenland or Siberia, or maybe Canada, because in Alaska, our Northern people are called "Inupiaq", not "Inuit", although they are related. Inupiaq and Inuit dogs are bigger and furrier, and culturally, they are not as integrated into the family as Athabascan dogs (like Autumn and Linden), are. I think that's why Eskimo dogs aren't generally as sweet and friendly. Athabascans love their doggies and breed for sweetness and cuddlywuddlyness!

The Tanana at this time of year becomes a regular highway. There is very little virgin snow left. It looks nothing like it does earlier in the winter, when the girls and I have the river pretty much to ourselves.

Today we skijored down to visit Howard Luke, who is the last Athabascan man living on the site of the old village, as well as the only person I know who lives on the other side of the Tanana. He lives alone out there among his combination of traditional and modern trappings--his old chinked log cabin with a solar panel on the roof, his food cache next to his wind turbine, his snow machine and his smokehouse--but he isn't lonely. Friends come by to visit and help him with chores (he's in his mid-80's now), and he goes into town to give educational talks. In the summer, he holds Gaalee’ya Spirit Camp, in which he teaches children Native skills such as sled building and how to make an outdoor shelter.

We chatted a bit, and he told me how to heal up some of my cuts and scrapes, and I helped him figure out how to set a live trap that another friend had brought him to catch a weasel that had been stealing his drymeat. ("I have plenty of traps, but I don't want to kill this guy, so I borrowed this live trap. I'm going to release him far away. Unless you want him?"). As I left he eyed my light fleece and thin gloves. "Where is your parka and your mittens?" I pointed out that it was 30 degrees F outside, and that I actually had a light jacket in my bag, but had taken it off. "That's how people freeze to death," he said. "They take off their clothes when they are warm, and they freeze to death." I looked out the window at the warm sun shining onto the current river traffic (four dog teams giving rides to tourists, four skate skiers, two classic skiers, and about a dozen snow machiners), then nodded my head and put on my coat and mittens. After I rounded the island and lost sight of the his cabin, I peeled them off and stuffed them into my bag.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Worst Tour Guides Ever

Is there an award for Worst Tour Guides Ever? If so, I'd like to nominate Peggy Billingsley and Darrell Harpham, who according to our local columnist Tim Mowry, whom I trust implicitly, took a pair of tourists from Georgia on a supposedly guided mushing tour in the White Mountains. Believe it or not, the following ensued:

1) They asked the clients to help wrestle the dogs into harnesses and hook up the team. I have done this, and it's no job for people who have no familiarity with mushing dogs! My non-Alaskan readers may have been misled by photos of my two girls calmly chillin' in the house, but in a dog yard, when it's evident that the team is going out, dogs are crazy excited, and not easy to wrangle!

2) They let the clients go out with inadequate clothing. It's typical for mushing outfits to provide clothing to their clients for mushing tours, especially if the clients are from a warm area (such as, ahem, Georgia) and wouldn't want to purchase warm clothes just for one trip. In fact, this warm clothing is often Native fur coats and parkas, for added fun for the clients. But, bare minimum, these two jerks should have looked at their clients' clothing and said, "Honey, no. Go back into town and buy yourself some warm clothes, and then come back."

3) They had their clients each drive his or her own dog team, when neither had any experience whatsoever in doing so. As if that isn't appalling enough, they apparently didn't even teach them the basic commands!

4) They went out without two-way radios.

5) They took all of the food, water, and emergency gear on their own sleds and left their clients to fend for themselves. Even backpacking on foot, I would never go anywhere without carrying my own adequate provisions for spending a night alone if I have to. You just never know!

6) They got separated from their clients by up to seven miles!

7) They took out of shape dogs, who clearly don't get regular exercise. Hell, my 12-year-old girls would have been capable of the five miles that winded their poor team!

8) They blatantly lied to clients (They told them they'd take them over the Continental Divide? In the White Mountains?!? Here is a map, see?

Source: Wikipedia

Our local Continental Divide just happens to be, oh, the Brooks Range! It's not in the White Mountains, forty miles North of Fairbanks!

These people make me so angry! They could have killed that couple! I'm so thankful that not only are they alive, they hadn't paid their "guides" yet and don't intend to! They should also demand that the "guides" pay for their hospital fees, and for another vacation entirely!

And to add literal insult to literal injury, apparently, after it was all over, the "guides" blamed the tourists! Ain't that the best!

Let this also be a lesson to tourists. Always Be Prepared and carry your own emergency supplies. I would never go out into the backcountry without at least my trusty, stocked daypack with extra clothes, water, Clif Bars, and a first aid kit. Of course, this poor lady was not an outdoorswoman (she was wearing mascara for this trip, for Heaven's sake!) and trusted her husband and her tour guides to take care of her. And they threw her onto the runners of her own sled! Jerks! That woman had no business anywhere outside of the BAG on the sled!

3 April 2012 edit: Here is another article that is more sympathetic to the guides. However, it does not refute the statements made in Mowry's column.

I have seen the future, and she wears Carhartts and lipstick

Imagine my delight to glance at the front page of my latest APS News and see this:

Why, it's a woman physicist! Of a generation when women physicists were even rarer than they are today, which is rare enough already! It turns out, she is Kate Kirby, and she has quite an outstanding biography:

Kate Kirby received her A.B. in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard/Radcliffe College in 1967 and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1972. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard College Observatory (1972-73), she was appointed as research physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy (1973-86, and 2003 - present). From 1988 to 2001 she served as an Associate Director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, heading the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division. In 2001 she was appointed Director of the NSF-funded Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard and Smithsonian.

She is also wearing ruby red pumps and rocking, it must be said, a fantastic pair of gams. My, how happy this makes me! It's like I've mentioned several times before, women today don't have to look, talk, or dress like men to succeed in male-dominated fields. Yay for second-wave feminism! As for me, I'll not be burning my bras any time soon!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roasted artichokes

Confession: It used to grate on me when Chinese restaurant menus would drop the -ed that is generally required to to make verbs into adjectives. For example, "fry rice" or "stir-fry chicken" or "steam buns". Aaaaack!!! It was like fingernails on chalkboard. But I'll often make a roast chicken... Sigh. Nowadays, my brain is confused on the matter. Mercy me!

I got these bee-yoo-tee-ful giant globe artichokes for $2 a piece the other day. Yay for Fairbanks pricing structures on perishables!

First, I cleaned, trimmed, and quartered them:

(For those of you who study my background detritus, yes, the elderly dowgs are on glucosamine now.)

Then, I sprinkled them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and chopped garlic:

And roasted them for an hour at 380F, and yum!

To round out the meal, camembert and tomato slices on toast:

And this, my friends, this is how a Chinese girl grows a bona fide arse. It takes hard work!

Finally, here is a photo of a behbehrhino:

credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Two-month-old Indian rhino Charlees — which is the Hindi name for Charlie — jogs around the grassy 40-acre Asian savanna habitat that she shares with the rest of her herd during her public debut on March 20 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Clean Bills of Canine Health

12.5-year-old doggies got updated shots and exams today. Their only signs of age are yellowing teef with some tartar, occasional trembling in the legs, some cataracts, a broken lower right fang, and a new weight allowance. They are at the same weight as they have been since retirement, but the good Dr. B no longer informs me that they need to lose weight. And no, it's not because she's given up. She's too Austrian and too factual to "give in" to a health issue. She would normally say, "I can't really feel ribs here. Fewer treats in future for these girls, ja?" But today, she felt the girls' hips, and said, "There is really nice muscle tone here!"

Knowing that their family history is to show no signs of illness, and then drop dead one night peacefully in their sleep, gives me comfort and hope that their passing will be as gentle as their forebears'. But it also keeps me in a bit of suspense, as I might not see it coming if I don't see a decline in overall health! Poor Autumn sleeps so soundly, that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, gasp, and poke her. "Autumn? Autumn?? Are you still there?!?" She wakes up in a quite understandable huff!

Dr. B. says that their current exercise level is still fine for elderly ladies, and if they still want to run marathon distances like greased lightning, I'll get no argument from her!

One quirk of retired sled dogs that have spent their prior life on a farm is that they don't grok stoplights. From the farm, the farthest they had ever ridden in a car was to a local race. When they are in the car with me, they get terribly excited whenever I stop the car, thinking that it's time to get out and have fun, already! Imagine their surprise when the light turns green and we just proceed forward again!

On Sunday was our group's annual Burbot fry. Here is my lousy, blurry fryer photo:

A friendly crowd of umpteen:

I brought a brilliant dish. I had planned to make potato salad, but forgot about the potatoes and let them boil for over an hour, so made mashed potatoes instead. But I added all of the stuff that I was planning to put into the salad--bacon, green onions, olive oil, etc.--and mixed it in. Then I grated cheddar on top of the whole thing. Delicious, and quite terrible for you, especially with fried fish!

Sammypants, the social butterfly of a dog, was in attendance.

"What are you doing?? I'm having my photo taken!!"

"Hrrmph! Well, that was annoying!"

Monday, March 19, 2012


The equinox will occur tonight at 9:24 p.m. Then we will beat the Lower 48ers for daylight hours!

Here are some photos by others of Things I Do Not Bother to Photograph any more since others' photos are so much better:

(1) Sprint doggies!

(2) Aurora!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Hadn't been to this birch forest in a while:

Relaxing in sumbeams. Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, won't get a sunbeam for another several weeks minutes.

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, sez, "Hrrmph! I do, too, get a sunbeam!"

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Local Necessity

The air hereabouts is so arid that I, along with quite a few other outdoorsy women I know, make our own super-rich mixtures of cosmetic oils and use them on hands, lips, face, body, hair, eyelashes (to reduce frost accumulation), on cuts to help them heal, on scars to help them fade, as eye makeup remover, as wood polish, as dog paw salve, et cetera. Of course, everyone is convinced that her own version is best, which explains why so many women foist theirs onto the public.

Mine is a mix of approximately equal parts cocoa butter, shea butter, and liquid oil. Typically, I use the canola oil that I use for cooking, but any liquid food or cosmetic grade oil will do. Then I put in a few generous shakes of any natural aromatic essential oil that has preservative properties (I like lemon, although my (male) neighbor T swears by oregano oil as the best antiseptic ever and even put it directly on one of my cuts when he dressed it for me. Reaction at the University Health Clinic when I went in there to have it cleaned and re-dressed? "Your cut smells like pasta sauce!")

I heat it gently:

and remove it from the heat as soon as the last bit of cocoa butter is about to melt.

Then I pour it into containers and let it cool:

Some of my containers are reused from goat's milk cosmetic products. I love behbeh goats!

It takes a surprisingly long time to cool down (about two hours at room temperature, or half an hour sitting in front of a cracked open window), and you have to catch it during the several-minute time window during which it goes from liquid to solid so you can stir while it is doing so so the heavier oils don't sink to the bottom. When it's all cool, it's just a chunk:

When you use it, you have to smear it out like a lip balm, but it melts easily since it's composed of tropical oils.

My neighbor D across the street, instead of mixing solid and liquid fats, uses just straight coconut oil, which already has a perfect, in-between texture. And for aromatic preservative, she cooks in lavender from her own garden. It smells heavenly!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Do you remember being a student and being anxious to get exam results back? Professors generally respect this, and if they take longer than is comfortable, they generally fluster up some excuse, "I'm sorry; my daughter was ill." Or, "I'm sorry; my roof had a leak that I had to repair in a hurry," One professor I had at Santa Clara University, when informing us that he still hadn't scored our exams, said something I'll never forget. "I'm sorry," he enunciated in his thick Chinese accent. "I... I... I got raaaaazy." I appreciated his honesty. :)

A few days ago, my kindling bucket was running slow, and I had, during my last snow shoveling, obliterated my trusty tree stump under about four feet of snow. I know I should locate and excavate it, but I got raaaaazy, so I called a neighbor and asked, was his splitting block available? He informed me that it was. That evening caught the sight of me trudging up the street carrying a bucket with a few logs, and an axe.

When I returned with the logs turned into kindling, I looked at the general region of my tree stump and made a mental note not to be so raaaazy and excavate it this weekend.

Today I read that Anchorage has had 130 inches of snow this year, making it the second snowiest in recorded history And they are well poised to beat the previous record of 132.6 inches, set in the winter of 1954-55. Haines' total snowfall for the year is now 28 feet (336 inches, although I don't think they use inches there anymore!), with an average of 128 inches. Our tramontane friends are are eligible for disaster loans.

And us in Fairbanks? Our total snowfall for the season has now topped out at about 60 inches. And I, I need to stop being so raaazy about dealing with it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

What pi are you going to make? I think I'll make pumpkin. :)


Edited to add: Here is a video of a little dog attempting to cuddle with a Great Dane. Little dog fails repeatedly. Great Dane could not care less. Result: way cute.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lessons from Dogs

Last night as the girls and I were out for an aurora-watching walk, two loose dogs suddenly came running up to us from behind. It was too dark to see their intentions, and I assumed that they were being aggressive, and shone my headlamp into their eyes and yelled at them.

One spun around and ran away whimpering, with his tail tucked down, and the other crouched down in the universal animal-kingdom-wide posture for play. My girls happily bounced toward him, exchanged butt sniffs, and danced together for a bit before we continued on. I felt horrible about making the other dog cry, but what else could I have done? I hadn't known whether the two had been about to attack us!

What we can learn from dogs:

1) If you approach someone and he has no way of knowing whether your intentions are friendly, he may assume the worst based on his own past experiences and react defensively. This has nothing to do with you.

2) Even once you are given a defensive response, it is still possible to break down the barrier by being friendly and inciting joy.

Oh, my gift to SH finally arrived (I guess it spent some time sitting at Canadian customs), so here is a photo:

That was SH's email quote for several years. I liked it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hangin' out

The dowgs relaxing at home:

In some ways, they are starting to show their age (12.5), but in others, still not at all. I think they tire faster when we are out and about, but their recovery is still astonishing. "Yeah, I know we skied eight miles this morning, but that was this morning! Now it's time for another run! Yaaaaaaaaay! Let's ruuuuuuun!"

Friday, March 9, 2012


Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, knows the sound of a banana snapping open and runs to the edge of her pen and sticks her snoot out for her share. The other day, I snapped a photo:

So cute! Please disregard the loose bunny raisins. It was cleaning day.

It reminded me of this photo I had taken several years ago of a behbehreindeer:

And this I took of a behbehgoat:

And this I took of a slightly altered lemon:

And speaking of adorable, a few weeks ago, my friend M adopted this:

His name is 'Akepa. Cute, what?

Also, also! Here is a note stuck on a post card I received from Japan:

Our addresses are in the opposite position! My favorite part of this note is that it was apparently hand cut with scissors, and stuck on with Scotch tape. Doesn't Japan post enough outgoing international mail to have preprinted stickers for this sort of thing? I wonder who the poor sap is at the post office who has to hand cut and tape these on outgoing mail!

Also, also! Here is a photo I took of a fritos junk food delivery truck:

In Alaska, even our junk food delivery is awesomer!

And, Ketchikan avalanche researcher finds Winnie the Pooh with his head in a honey hunny jar, frees baby bear, has WAY more courage than I do, to approach a bear cub not knowing where mama bear is!

And my final note of today's attention deficit disorder-inspired ramblings?
Haines' snowfall for the year is now 28 feet! So yeah, my little mini snow dump gets no oo's, no ah's, and no sympathy, from my tramontane friends to the south!