Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Greetings from my new office!

I have moved from the satellite office to the Mother Ship. My direct supervisor said that he wanted me closer and felt bad abandoning up on the hill where most of the workers are hardly at their desks and people scarcely saw me. So when a colleague who was based in the main building gave his notice and left, I moved in. I figured it was best also, for my anti-whacko maintenance plan. "Sure, fine!" said I. "After the summer interns leave to go back to their universities, I'd have been all alone, and, you know, that'd have been bad for me. I'd start neglecting to shower, I'd pick my nose, I'd talk to myself..."

This afternoon, one of my now former officemate interns came to visit me in my new office and inform me that I ought not to have moved, since all of the cool people are hanging out in the other building, and now I'm all alone down here in this one. And by the way, had I seen B or M? He wanted to talk to them.

I was all, eh? He had just finished telling me that everyone was...

"Oh, no! I said all of the cool people were up there!"

And that would be...

"Um... ME!"

Monday, July 30, 2012

Let Evening Come

Last night I landed in the Fairbanks Airport at 8:30 p.m. after rising in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at 2 a.m. AK time, after three flights, two layovers, one delay, four sandwiches, and three pounds of cherries.

The sun was arcing along the horizon, shining over a storm that was slinking away. The dark clouds and remaining brave sprinkles made a double rainbow over the brilliant green hills as the plane landed. As I climbed wearily upstairs with my two appropriate dogs (no retriever necessary), I reflected that we'll soon have proper evenings, mornings, and nights.

The quality of light is special in the Fall, something I'd noticed even in California, which doesn't exactly get a Fall, more like a few brilliant days in mid November that occur in between the two seasons of Not-Rain and Rain.

In Alaska and in California, the sunlight dances the same dance, before fading to winter.

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

--Jane Kenyon

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Veggies for the week:

The dowgs were staring at me very intently while I took this photo:

I'm afraid I've had a loss of faith in Sam. Last night when we were out for our walk, an aggressive dog ran toward us. Autumn and Linden raised their hackles and prepared to fight. Sam flipped onto her back and showed her belly (dog language for, "I'm a harmless (if annoying) puppy! Please don't hurt me!"). No fight ensued, but after the other dog left, my dogs resumed their normative behavior while Sam cowered and screamed and howled like an Indian widow committing suttee. What pathetic behavior! Poor Sam. I think generations of being America's most popular dog have really made the retriever into a non-working, non-functional animal, except for affection and companionship.

Oh, I picked most of my raspberries last night:

The rest will ripen over the next few weeks. Pies!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Botanical Garden

On Saturday, I took a lunch break from thesis crap and met a friend at the botanical garden to admire the flowers and plants.

Here are photos. Click to embiggen. I'm quite proud of a number of these.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberry picking, and miscellaney

I spent most of yesterday and this morning on thesis stuff, so I took off the afternoon to attempt to go blueberry picking. I had been told that they were ripen early this year, due to those heat spells we'd had. Nope; they were still a touch underripe. I picked a single quart and then headed home.

The dowgs were very patient and followed me around and sat near me the whole time:

One of my favorite views ever. This is the first trail I'd hiked since moving to Alaska:

Check this out:

Some leaves have turned yellow! Yay! Fall is coming!

I also lit a fire the other night, for the first time in a long time:

Watching music in the rain had made me chilly.

Finally, here is a photo of a skwerl thieving from a trash bin. Ew!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Music in the Rain

Yesterday evening, I arrived home to a message from my young neighbor across the street. "My sister and I are going to play our violins downtown tonight at 7. If you get this message on time, will you come?"

I arrived at the outdoor plaza in a cold drizzle, 20 minutes ahead of time and clutching my takeout dinner. The sisters' violin instructor was leading the small group of children in playing along the side of the plaza before the makeshift stage was set up.

Then they moved under the tent:

A small crowd assembled:

About 25 of them were a group of developmentally disabled adults and their caretakers. About 10 were family members of the children or associates of the Young Native Fiddlers group. And another 5 or so were derelicts that the music had drawn through the haze of their drunkenness. Their demons quieted for a few moments, and they stopped to listen. One family member danced with her grandson.

The instructor is none other than Bill Stevens, called "the most recognized Athabascan fiddler in North America today". But he was not so, in that drizzly, mostly-empty plaza. After a few songs, the rain began to fall in earnest, and the disabled adults were led away by their caretakers. Then all that were left were the families, the drifters, and me. The rain had chased the tourists and normal downtown pedestrians indoors. The only passersby were people rushing to and from their cars, as they held plastic bags and other makeshift protection over their heads.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

-- Leisure, W.H. Davies

More dramatic and better-written version of this story here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Late Summer

Late summer means veggies are getting intimidatingly huge, fireweed is abloomin', and the sky hangs heavy with rain:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Business travel

It's a little different here.

For example, here is my first lunch on the road:

Autumn and Linden sat very nicely and didn't steal any. I still think they are the World's Most Perfect Dogs!

Someone had built a bridge across the creek:

The highway includes a whole lotta nuthin, but some lovely scenery:

Every now and then, the highway bends, and you sit bolt upright and move your steering wheel ten degrees.

That's your excitement for the next half hour.

Then it's business as usual:

Arrival in the bustling metropolis of Tok:

Tok is at the crossroads of two major highways, one of them going down to Anchorage, and the other going East-West between Fairbanks and the Canadian border. Because of this, Tok gets about a bajillion tourists a year. It is jam-packed with RVs, tour buses, campers, etc. The average age of a tourist on the Alaska highway system is about 108 years old. I'm just kidding. But they are sweet ladies and gentlemen who looooove Autumn and Linden.

Because Tok is a crossroads, most people are passing through. I was continually asked where I was from and where I was headed. I had to point out that I *was* at my destination!

A pretty fireweed:

We point the car in the direction of home, which looks exactly the same, except with more bugs on the windshield:

Another pretty lunch spot!

Would you believe I stopped at and rejected three other lunch spot candidates before deciding that this one was acceptable? At two of the three, I actually got so far as to park, unpack the cooler, and walk with the dogs across the spot before saying to myself, "meh" and repacking everything and leaving! But this one! This one is okay!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Judgy Judginess

I believe that I am neither a humble nor a braggy person my nature. I tend to be pretty straightforward in my self-evaluations. When I rock, I rock. When I suck, I suck. I throw it all out there, and I'm not socially graceful enough to realize that maybe some I should hold back.

However, I have come to realize that people perceive certain people as judgmental, which, ironically, makes them judgmental of the folks in question. For example, when I was a vegetarian, I often had to make a point of saying, "Oh no! I do not think that you are an animal-murderer!" And I absolutely did not.

I recently told BT:
I don't volunteer that I am training for a marathon. Heck, I don't even volunteer that I run casually with my dogs every morning. I also don't volunteer that I am a PhD candidate, outside of my academic circle. No matter how un-braggy I try to be, people often take it as braggy.

It's true. Outside of this blog (and a small circle of close friends), I seldom mention either of these things, because "running" and "being a PhD" are both tropes that are often taken to be braggy and self-righteous. And, in my humble, blue-collar world, I wish to wear neither of those descriptions.

If you think I am being hypersensitive, I assure you that I am not. I offer as proof that I once had a pseudo-anonymous comment (pseudonym, but unhidden IP, and also, very familiar tone) on this very blog (where I don't, as I've mentioned, censor mention of my crimes) accusing me of viewing my readers as "pathetic losers" because of my physical activity level, and asking me to "tone down" my posts about my physical activities.

I once also sat through a conversation during which several casual friends lightly poked fun at another (who wasn't present) for consistently running/jogging all through winter. "He must have missed the memo that he's crazy!" And they laughed. Do you think I'd chirp up, "Oh, well I run every morning all through winter!" No. No, I would not.

On this blog, I let it all hang out because all of my readers are here by choice, and if I annoy them, they are free to go away. Furthermore, their responses, and my subsequent responses to them, are in written form, with which I feel more comfortable communicating. If someone were to snap at me in person, I would probably react by stammering, "Uhh... Whaaaa...? Buuuhhhh... Dool?"

I know that, of the social "crimes" one can commit, running and being a PhD candidate (and splitting wood, taking care of one's own car, etc, etc) are pretty trivial, and no-one ought to give me grief for them, and that's why I can face them head-on on in this blog, where the medium of communication is my preferred one. In the meatworld, I ought to be just as straightforward and sufficiently unafraid to face others' reactions. But... I just mostly lack the energy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Endurance sportsy stuff

Last weekend, I volunteered to help at the Sourdough Triathlon, which is a half Ironman. So it's a 1.2-mile (1.93 km) swim, a 56-mile (90.12 km) bike and a half marathon (13.1-mile/21.1 km) run.

Although the Sourdough Tri is not a super-elite event (it's low-budget, and the prizes are plaques carved by the race organizer himself in the UAF machine shop), the participants were still insanely fit. They were also approximately half men and half women. My first job was to write the competitors' numbers on their upper arms and on their calves with a Sharpie. Did I mention that this was a low-budget race? Anyway, the point is, I got to look at and touch every sleek bicep and rippled calf.

I was surprised that, of the 60+ participants, approximately three of whom had any visible excess body fat, there was still a great variety of body types. They ranged from half my size to twice my size, with one woman matching me on the bottom, but with half the upper arm width.

At the end, there was a cookout with potluck contributions supplementing. I have to say, watching triathletes eat is very joyful and entertaining! Not a one of them picked at their food and declared themselves full! They each piled on a mound of food even bigger than mine! It was fantastic!

As for me, my own Equinox training with G is going okay. Last weekend, we attempted to save on napping time by doing our long run (a 15-miler) at night. That way, we figured, we could go right to bed for the night after finishing, instead of taking a nap in addition to a full night's rest, thereby saving on the napping time. That did not work. The next morning, we woke up, ate breakfast, and then looked at each other, eyes glazed over. We then flopped onto the couch and proceeded to nap for the following two hours. So much for saving on nap time!