Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Turd Coat Decoration #1

Last night I sewed my Equinox patch onto my turd coat:

And that is all I have to say for today.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Top of the Minor News

Today's fine Minor News headlines include:

1) A Pier 1 store is opening in town. Comments are divided between, "Yay! A new store to shop at!" and "More foreign-made crap! Shop local! Buy local!" My opinion? I am disinclined to shop there until they learn about proper syntax and comma usage.

2) Alaska man contracts trichinosis after eating black bear. "Sullivan [the victim] said the meat seemed to be cooked to 'something a little more than medium rare.'" Louisa Castrodale of the state Division of Public Health's Section of Epidemiology is quoted as saying, "In the past decade, bear meat has overtaken walrus as the primary culprit behind Alaska trichinosis cases." Moral of the story: Always cook your bear and walrus until it is well-done!

3) "Winter is Coming to Interior Alaska" I had to quote that headline directly because it's awesome. Thank you, Minor News! For that article, I would like to present your editorial staff with a special, limited-edition "Rain is Wet" trophy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Beautiful Sitka

I'd been told that Sitka is the most beautiful place in Alaska, and it was:

That volcano is Mount Edgecumbe, and it has been dormant for 4000 years, although on April Fools Day 1974, a local prankster dumped 70 tires inside the crater and set them on fire (click that link; it's a hysterical read, and there are photos). It's a lovely backdrop to a lovely city. The views in Sitka are incredible. I took the photos above from the supermarket parking lot. Here is M2's photo of me taking them:

Here was the view from my hotel window:

Here is the view from the Air Force base:

I'd also been told that it is almost always overcast and rainy in Sitka, and it was not:

The only problem with Sitka is that it, surprisingly, has kind of a big-city vibe that makes folks a touch brusque and impatient. For example, when I hesitate at an intersection, the driver behind me immediately honks his horn. When I hesitate as a pedestrian, drivers fling their hands up at me and give me an exasperated look. This is the first time I've experienced such things in Alaska outside of Anchorage.

I spent my first day (and my birthday) at Mount Edgecumbe High School under the auspices of Energy Smart, which is an educational curriculum about energy efficiency and conservation, and the Wind for Schools program, which is a U.S. Department of Energy initiative that installs wind turbines in elementary and secondary schools, with the larger aim of educating the next generation of American workers to be literate in renewable energy concepts. Mount Edgecumbe High is a boarding school whose student body is comprised predominantly of students from tiny bush communities, some of which don't have high schools. The school boasts some impressive statistics--the student body is 90% Native, and 90% of them go on to college. Of course, this does raise a question--is that impressive statistic because the school is so excellent? Or is it due to selection bias? After all, it seems reasonable to suggest that only the most motivated of students in tiny bush communities would strive to attend a top high school away from home. Therefore, the school has easy material to work with. Who knows? Anyway, the students were very bright, inquisitive, and articulate. They also, at the prompting of my friend and colleague M2, sang me happy birthday. :)

Mount Edgecumbe High is one of the first Native American boarding schools of the modern model, i.e., the ones that allowed and encouraged the Native students to preserve their cultural identities instead of forcing them to assimilate into white culture. It is housed in a former World War II installation, and remnants from that era are all over campus, including a cannon that dates from Russian times (Sitka used to be the capital of Russian Alaska before Alaska became American), and these hand-drawn WWI-era flight maps on the walls of what is today a supply room:

Are they not beautiful?

We spent our second day at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. My, how I love that name! Keet Gooshi Heen. Here, I learned that if you ask a Southeast Alaskan kid to draw a fish, you'll get either a beautifully detailed salmon in its spawning colors, or an anatomically correct halibut:

If you ask them to draw a flower, they draw a forget-me-not. If you ask them to draw a tree, they draw a Sitka spruce:

Okay! Final item on my Sitka post. M2 and I visited the Fortress of the Bear, where they raise orphaned bear cubs who cannot be returned to the wild. The resulting adult bears bear (Ha! I swear, that was unplanned.) an alarming resemblance to house dogs. They are fat and lazy and sit up and beg for treats. The bears were housed in giant round concrete enclosures that resembled turrets, hence the name of the place. Visitors climbed a staircase to a viewing platform to look down at the bears. The most outgoing bear ambled over immediately and sat up to beg:

The guy hollered, "Pray! Show these folks how you pray!" And the bear put his paws together:

When the other two realized that food was being tossed out, they galumphed over and sat down beside the first bear:

Clearly, dignity is not their big thing, but the bears seemed healthy and content, so I guess it's better than letting the cubs die.

Here is a waterfall that just runs under the road on the way there:

And here are some farm animals, just because, you know. P0nies!

And that concludes my Sitka report!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Subaru flaw

Both my prior and current Subarus had a weird little flaw with the headlights. When you need to replace them, you find that the bulb is stuck in as if it is welded in place. You pull and pull (it's a plug-in, not a twist-in), and then it finally breaks loose, but bulb comes flying out, and you wham the back of your hand into the car frame. It's... not awesome. I greatly expand my creative vocabulary in such moments.

The other evening, one prong actually came out of the dang thing and stuck in the socket, and I had to pull it out with pliers in order to put the new bulb in:

What the hell, Subaru?

In other news, yesterday was just breathtakingly gorgeous:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Final Southeast Photo Dump

So here is the view from my colleague K's new home, which she and her husband are building in Thorne Bay:

Not bad, eh?

I found an eagle feather on their property. It's illegal to keep them, but I took photos:

Dammit, I'm sideways! But I'm lazy, so whatever.

Here I am with the mascot for Viking Lumber:

Now we finally get to my Ketchikan photos!

Ketchikan is built into an improbably steep hillside. There are 1-3 streets on the waterfront running parallel to the sea, and beyond those several blocks, the land rises steeply, and the streets farther back are balanced precariously on wooden pilings. Keeping in mind that this is earthquake country, I decided I did not like it.

I have no idea what this means:

During storms, they only plow this street for safe passage?

We visited a lumber mill. After making boards, they process the scrap into pellets. They have a lot of scrap:

And that's not even counting the woodpile outside:

Here are the pellets:

The new library is beautiful:

And will be heated by those pellets:

Lovely view of Mount Somethingerother:

A fish ladder!

At this point, it is 124 steps in between adjacent parallel streets:

My talk (you'll notice, of course, that GARN boilers burn cordwood instead of pellets :) ):

The harbor by night:

Since this is America, it's a harbor, not a harbour. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Prince of Wales Island Photos

Prince of Wales island has little bitty black-tailed deer instead of meese:

They also have real, honest-to-goodness, full-sized trees:

Which A and I hugged, since we are tree-huggers:

And greenery in fall:

And sweet little doggies:

And fossils from an ancient seabed:

Since there are effectively no restaurants on the island, the local school kids made us lunch--salmon chowder in home-made bread bowls. Their bread... it was phenomenal.

They also decorated with little ships--the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, we were informed--because it was Columbus Day!

The islanders seemed completely unaware of any controversy in celebrating Columbus Day. (The superintendent also informed us of parental complaints about the introduction of "Eastern mysticism" into the educational curriculum when he began offering a yoga class. The parents were mollified when yoga was removed, and the class was replaced with "stretching".)