Thursday, February 28, 2013


This week, I have been in our Nation's capitol, attending the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, and going to meet some folks at the DOE to discuss our mutual interests.

The conference was at the very posh Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center:

And I thus found myself in the new outlet suburbia development of National Harbor. It's a lovely setting, very picturesque:

But it's also a weird, surreal place. At first, it looks like any other suburban pop-up community. But after a while, I came to realize that although there are thousands of people here, no one lives here! It is a community composed almost entirely of conferences, the hospitality industry, and conference attendees! So there is no grocery store, no coffee shop, no school, no auto mechanic, no gas station, no crime, no children, no dogs, no idle or unscheduled people, no old people, no young people, and no one in jeans or Carhartts. What there are instead are a bunch of people in suits with their noses shoved into mobile computers, and a bunch of people herding them around and feeding them. It is probably the most surreal place I have been in recent memory.

Huge conference:

ARPA-E Deputy Director Cheryl Martin:

My unscientific and unofficial scanning around indicated that this conference was about 1/3-1/4 women.

The DOE booth had a star on Fairbanks:

Of course I had to approach them and ask what it was all about. Did they have a little satellite office in Fairbanks of which I had been unaware? They said, "Ah, yes, our Fairbanks association! We support a professor up there! One David Newman!" So I took the above photo and emailed it to him and informed him that he possessed his very own star on a DOE map. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top o' the Minor News

Local woman sees common bird in a different color.

I once saw a brown moose with blond forelegs. I should have called the press!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Remind me if I ever attempt this again that working two different jobs while trying to finish a PhD dissertation is... suboptimal.

On the other hand, I don't see how I could have avoided this situation. The timing on my primary job was such that I had to accept it when I did, and it's a great job and a great fit for me, so I'm glad I took it. As for teaching, I am really having fun with it, so I'm also glad I took it. Finally, finishing my thesis... well, I don't enjoy it at all, but after being 95% done with my PhD, I might as well finish the danged thing!

So I'm freakin' busy, but I have several non-negotiables:
1) Sleep. I need 7 hours, min.
2) Doggies and outdoor time. We still do the daily runs and walks, and weekend skis, to the tune of 40 miles a week! That is when I do my best thinking, and it is also the Prescription for Fourteen Year Old Dogs to Remain Acting Like Puppies.
3) Food. No ramen or pizza for me, thanks! I still cook and eat proper meals.
4) Chores that are non-negotiable: Shoveling the driveway, replenishing firewood, laundry, etc.

What has taken a back seat?
1) Leisure reading.
2) Cleaning. I haven't swept my cabin since... mmmm... hmmmmm...?
3) Social life. I had lunch with a few friends yesterday, but other than that and Chinese New Year, I've been pretty much a hermit. It helps tremendously that I am genuinely fond of most of my coworkers. Spending days with them almost feels like I get to check 'socialize' off my list. :)

I also take breaks to fantasize about my post-thesis life and look at stuff on the internet. Until now, I'd never been served well by retail therapy, but now I use it as a basis for fantasies about my "after thesis time". In the past month, I have purchased:

1) A new splitting maul, beautifully hand-forged in Sweden by a blacksmith who stamped his name on the head. This summer, I will order hella green birch and split and stack it nicely and prettily before it gets covered with snow.

2) Peach satin ballroom dancing shoes. Because I will take ballroom dancing lessons!

3) A Steripen. Because when I go backpacking, I don't want to carry around a wet, giardia-infested filter whose components like to disconnect themselves and fling cold water in my face while I am pumping. Harumph!

4) A blue silk blouse, a tan linen skirt, a black wool skirt, and a brown wool skirt. Because when I will be working a mere one job instead of three, I will have no excuse not to look decent!

5) A raspberry pi. Because nerdiness doesn't come free.

6) A new American-made fixed-blade EDC knife for hiking. Because salami and cheese.

I guess I don't get to buy myself a graduation present. I done spent all that money already!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stress relief...

... cuddling!

I've noticed that racing dogs, even distance dogs, are getting more and more hound in their bloodlines and are getting less and less fuzzy, and that makes me sad. I hope people continue to make fuzzy huskies, too! Not all dogs need to race! We still need farm dogs and recreational mushing!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Top o' the Minor News

Front page breaking news:

Every member of the Minor News staff samples vile-sounding potato chips!

Thanks, Minor News! Thanks! Now I can sleep better at night!

Here is a photo I snapped outside the Department of Natural Resources building yesterday around 2 p.m.:

It was -30F/-34C that morning, but warmed up to -10F/-23C by midday. There comes a point after solstice where it's impossible for the weather to report, "Low: -40, High: -40" because there is too much sun, and it has no choice but to warm us. :)

Adventures wth Flat Stanley and Flat Stella

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Just because

I'm supposed to be working on my thesis, but instead, I am crying and shaking and clutching my sides over this:

You're welcome. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Climbed me a Wind Turbine!!

Today is the coolest day of my recent memory. I attended a Wind Diesel Workshop at AVTEC, The Alaska Vocational Technical... something... I can't seem to find even on their own website what their acronym stands for! But it's a vocational and technical school that has really great programs in electronics, cooking, and the like. They have a also have a grid-connected 100 kW wind turbine! It is a beautiful Northwind 100, with black blades designed to discourage icing.

Here are photos:

The turbine:

Lunch was cooked and served by students of the culinary school:

I was particularly impressed by the electronics educational lab. Look how nicely they do spaghetti management!

It's warm down South. Warm enough to walk through slush and build a snowman:

It's really beautiful. I have loved Seward since I visited as a tourist in 1994!

Now here I am all excited to get to climb the tower:

And up I go:

It's a long way up (105 feet!)!

And a long way down from the top!

What a view!

Is that a... yes, it is! It's a moose!

A lovely blade:

Some of the controls:

And finally, the descent:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Year of the Snake

My Chinese New Year feast is becoming less and less labor-intensive as I learn to outsource labor better! This year, all I did was make jiao-zhe filling and roast a chicken. When my guests showed up, I set them to wrapping and subtlety backed away from the table. :) I assigned to the guests noodles, veggies, and nian-gao, and got additional sides besides!

I think I got my highest ever headcount in my wee cabin--thirteen adult humans, one wee tiny behbehhuman, and four dogs! Eighteen! Eighteen creatures in my cabin! Ah, ah, ah!

Autumn sez, "The presence of house guests does not alter in any way the new canine couchal policy."

Happy Year of the Snake, everyone! It's my year! Ssssllllllthssslllthhhhllllssssssssssss!!! I'll be 36, which is a great number, since it's 6 squared. I love perfect squares! And 6 is a great number since I like to waltz. Okay, I'm getting weird. Time to quit typing! Have a great Year of the Snake, y'all!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I have experienced very little sexism in my career, and have wondered on more than one occasion why so few women go into engineering, and furthermore, why there is so much hand-wringing about how to eliminate such sexism... when I have never seen it.

Today I have an answer. My hometown rag, representative of arguably the most progressive region in the U.S., published an article about a woman engineer who designed and is selling a toy designed to encourage young girls to be interested in tinkering. All well and good, but some of the comment responses are seriously infuriating!

Check this crap out:

Some idiot who calls himself "Bullyawn" says, "Women instinctively gravitate to people- and nurturing-oriented fields like real estate, human resources, nursing, and social work. And that's well and good. Why does every last male bastion have to be invaded by women, simply because it's a male bastion?"

Suuuuuuurrre... little turdbucket! The only reason that I am in my choice of career is specifically because I want to bring you down! Feeling threatened Bullyawn, are ya?

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Avant-ski cuddle:

Something about this time of year makes my metabolism go into super-turbo-drive. The last mile of my skiing, I am always thinking something along the lines of, OHMYGODFOODFOODFOODHUNGRYCHEEEEESEFOODFOODFOOD!!! As we approached the cabin after skiing today, all I could think was NACHOSNACHOSNACHOSCHEESECHEESECHEESETOMATOESTOMATOESTOMATOES!!!, and the same minute I set foot inside the house, I made me some:

Also... there's been quite a bit of snow lately. Fantastic skiing! But a lot of shoveling, including:

A spot for my car:

A path to the house (Linden was kind enough to stand there for scale):

Look how high my berms are now!

Here is the pile into which I've shoveled the parking spot:

This is Zeppelin, all growned up from when I last saw him as a goofy puppy:

And Arlo, his new puppy brother:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Two, two chapters of my thesis done! Ah, ah, ah!

First chapter already published in the Journal of Glaciology.
Third chapter already drafted and only needs tidying-up.

Then I need to write an intro and conclusion...

So I've started to dare get excited about having evenings and weekends free. I've hardly known what that is since I started school! I just realized that, from the age of 5 until the age of 35, I have only not been in school for four years! Things I am going to do this Summer:

* Take a lot of road trips and do lots of backpacking, and at least one road trip will be to Chickenstock, and then onward to Eagle and Dawson, both of which I'd like to see!
* Paint my outhouse something goofy. Maybe striped rainbow colors.
* Take ballroom dancing lessons.
* Build a proper wood shed.
* Pick tons and tons of berries.
* Refrain from *eating* tons and tons of berries all at once (learned that lesson the hard way!)
* Other stuff, including lots of cookouts and cheeseburgers. :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Autumn looooooooves the new couchal policy!

And has concluded that it includes the pillows.

Autumn's and Linden's retirement has proceeded in several phases:

1) Retire from sled pulling. Move indoors. Your new jobs: Skijoring, cuddling, supervising humans pee, dragging firewood back and forth, and dragging snow samples around.

2) Retire from hauling snow samples and wood around. Only skijor occasionally. Loosen pee supervisional duties from escorting the human to watching from the porch.

3) Retire from jumping off the couch when your human comes home.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This is what your weekends look like...

... when you have three jobs but also need to maintain affection-based friendships.

Friday night: Go home. Have supper and feed dogs. Go back into town with grand plans to do laundry while getting water while clothes are in washer, and go grocery shopping while clothes are in dryer. Find that laundromat accepts last load at 8:30. Fail at doing laundry, but go grocery shopping and get water.

Saturday: Get up at 6:32. Run dogs. Help at the First Lego Robotics championship until noon. Then do laundry while running back and forth between the laundromat and work. Grade last week's homework and work on next week's lectures until 3 p.m. on the dot. Go home and ski while it's light. Eat supper. Go see Lincoln with friends. Arrive home at 11:30. Collapse.

Sunday: Get up at 8:06. Meet friend to ski the Tanana:

Then drop off doggies at home. Go to Musher's Hall to cheer on a friend who is racing her sprint dogs:

(photo by Amanda Byrd)

Miss the race, but meet and pet her dogs anyway.

Return to work and write lectures and edit thesis until supper time. Then go home, eat, and get back to work from home! I intend to finish the next chapter of my thesis by tomorrow!

Then I will have two! Two chapters of my thesis submitted! And the third (and last) is already drafted! I will be Dr. Arvay by mid May!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Salmon spread quesadillas

Oh. My. God. Why has it taken me five years to develop this?

I am not a fan of the typical Inupiaq salmon spread, which consists of flakes of salmon floating in a mound of mayonnaise. But my friend D2 makes a version that I like very much; it's light on the mayo and has lots of sweet pickles, almost like the tuna salad I grew up with. The other night, I was sent home with a container of it, and I used it to make quesadillas:

Mmmmm.... it was like a tuna melt, only with salmon instead of mercury-laced tuna, and a crispy, bubbly-charred tortilla instead of some disgusting squishy, greasy bread:

I had it with roast cauliflower that loyal reader (and meatworld friend) Rena taught me how to make:

That looks like the meal of a finicky child that eats nothing but White Things, but whatevs. Tasty!

I'm sure it will come as a surprise to no one that Autumn has fully embraced the new canine couchal policy:

Linden sez, "What kind of rude dog gets on the cowsch while humans are present?"

(Actually, this photo is of her concluding a very luxurious yaaaaaaaawn!)