Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lazy Sunday

This morning as I was boiling tea water and getting the fire going while still in my fuzzy pajamas, I was mildly surprised by a knock on the door. It was my young neighbor, Miss L, bearing this:

My friends, if you would like to share the goodness of your religion with your friends and neighbors, this is the way to do it: a friendly visit on the more joyful of your celebration days, a subtle nod to the religious symbol, and marshmallows. Also: butter.

After we got back from our morning ski, I decided to spend the majority of my day at home today, for the first time since... maybe 2009. Evidently, the dogs spend all day doing this:

When the sun moves, there is no reason for them to:

However, they still feel obligated to escort me to pee, and also move about throughout the day.

They still sleep sometimes like outdoor dogs, covering their noses against the nonexistent cold:

My goofy-ass wheel dog is pretty danged cute, if I do say so myself. :)

Autumn is just a lovely, dignified wolf-beast:

Saturday, March 30, 2013


After this week's earlier brrrrrrrr, we saw the second biggest single-day temperature swing in haole history. On Thursday, I left for work bundled up in my turd coat and came home sweating in my shirt.

This is my first truly "yay-I-don't-have-to-do-anything" weekend since my defense, and I'm so happy that I can still ski! Although I can't sleep in. I woke up this morning to this:

Good morning! It's 7 a.m. and it's morning and we are fourteen years old but we feel AWESOME! It may be Saturday, but we think mornings are AWESOME! Hi there! Good morning! The sun is up, and so are we! Yay!

Skiing was perfect. The week's earlier storm had covered the overflow ice on Rosie Creek, and I happily skied across it. The girls were happy to run and sniff about:

And all I have to do now is prepare lectures and do my taxes! Yay for a relatively work-free weekend!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Buying Nenana Ice Classic tickets this weekend!

Due to my really tight recent schedule, I have missed out on a lot of spring traditions, such as the Ice Park and raising of the tripod. But I will be buying tickets this weekend from a store here in town. Let me know if you'd like to send me a guess, and if I win on your ticket, I'll split the winnings with you! Deadline is April 5, but my deadline for you is April 4, so I have time to purchase accordingly!

Information here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Sorry, Fairbanks folks! I ordered this up when I wished for an extended ski season! My fault, entirely!

But the geese are already arriving!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring is springing!

I've put away my headlamp. Morning runs are after sunrise. Evening walks are by full moon, and by the next new moon, it will be light at night by sunlight.

Linden has decided to rise with the sun, so I now wake up like this:

I don't recall whether 6:30 a.m. is a normal time to see daylight for the Silicon Valley. I do remember (and treasure the memory of) driving Eastbound to my 7 a.m. classes at Santa Clara University, and watching the sun rise. It was glorious. That must have been in winter, because I'm sure that the sun is up by 6:45 a.m. in California in spring and fall.

We got 2-3 inches of snow in the wee hours of yesterday morning, and I shoveled my driveway carelessly last night, knowing that I was NOT Laying The Foundation for Shoveling for the Following Six Months. And temperatures are still cold. -10F/-23C in the mornings and evenings. I don't mind. More skiing for me!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I had planned not to post for a few days so my defense announcement would be up at the top for a while, but you people neeeeeeeeed to see this.


You're welcome.

And happy Equinox! For the next six months, we will beat you Lower 48ers for daylight hours!

Edited to add: Since I'm at it... BEHBEHPOLARBEAR!!!

Photos by John Gomes of the Alaska Zoo.

More at Alaska Dispatch.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

So the defense went well...

I had many fortuitous circumstances. First, some long-term family friends were in town photographing the aurora, so on a lark I asked them to watch me do a dry run of my presentation. J has a PhD in nursing, so she was kind of perfect--she knows the process, she's technically and scientifically minded, but in a different field so she had no background information. They day before the dry run, she asked to see my thesis. That made me nervous, but also happy that she was going to do a genuine review. As I gave my presentation to her, R, and the Bs at the Bs' dinner table, I actually felt nervous! At the end, she gave some really excellent feedback, and I made the additions to my presentation. When I gave that new, improved presentation, my committee members said that they really appreciated those slides, mentioning her suggestions in particular, and asked me to add them to the thesis! So... thank you very much, J!

I got to the presentation room early, to make sure that the logistics would work okay. I have one committee member, D, who is on sabbatical in Spain, so he was going to join via Skype. It would be 11:45 p.m. for him, but he's a very nice man, so he agreed to it. When I got to the room, I realized that its ethernet cable wouldn't reach where my laptop would sit to stream in D. So I was very happy for an excuse to drop in on the engineering IT department to get one. They wished me luck, and I went to my old lab, retrieved my new lucky teacup, made myself a cup of tea, and went back up to the conference room.

Friends and colleagues trickled in. Some I don't see but once a year, but they came to support me. One of my coworkers had made a beautiful platter of three kinds of cookies to share and keep the audience awake! Several friends from physics said hello to D on my laptop. Some of my students came, too. They made me feel a lot less nervous--I'm used to talking at them, after all! A lot of long-term friends from the physics department were there. By the time my adviser introduced me, the room was packed, and some final people trickling in were dragging in additional chairs from across the hall. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have guessed that a larger crowd would have made me more nervous, but when it actually happened, it made me feel loved and respected. C had apparently hobbled all the way across campus on a sprained ankle with a crutch, and my extremely busy second-level manager was there, too! So I relaxed.

The presentation went well, and the questions were good. My thesis will definitely be improved based on my audience's and my committee members' feedback, and there were no random hecklers who asked mean-spirited questions just to be ornery. I walked away feeling that it was a very good experience.

So... I guess that all sounds quite anti-climactic, but it was also the best I could hope for. I spent much of this morning sending out thank-you emails, because, as they say, no-one ever climbs alone. Here is my final slide:

So... thanks! A lot.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I passed!

I done earned me a PhD. NOW let's see if those moose can outsmart my bird feeder designs!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tomorrow is my big day!

The days leading up to my defense, I will likely remember for a long time. I will remember:

* The worst cold I had had in adult memory
* Absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning aurora
* Writing my students a midterm the day before my defense
* A visit from old family friends, and all sorts of indulgent foods spontaneously appearing in my refrigerator.
* Face planting while skiing across the same patch of overflow on Rosie Creek, two days in a row! But making it across on the third day and patting myself on the back.
* Lots of fuzzy doggy cuddles as I did my usual mourning as winter drew to an end.

Autumn sez, "I'm a dog and will love you the same, with our without a PhD!

After conquering Rosie Creek, I must conquer my defense! After my thesis is finalized and submitted, I will try bird feeder 2.2 moose-proofing! When I have a PhD, I might be able to outsmart meese!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Four Days and Counting

I defend my thesis on Monday. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Bird feeder 2.1 has been ripped from the tree. I cleverly tied it to the board with several lengths of string, so she ripped the board from the tree!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

The moose and the bird feeder

This was my bird feeder 1.0:

It is all plastic, but I figured, who cares? Bird feeders do not lead high-stress existences. A cheap bird feeder is fine, right?

Hahahaha. The bird feeder got knocked down and nibbled and cracked by squirrels, and one day a moose stamped it to its sad demise.

This is my bird feeder 2.0. You'll notice that it's all steel, even the wire from which it hangs:

The other morning, it was lying on its side on the ground, its contents robbed. Moose tracks led to and from it, and there were moose turds nearby. Hmmmmmm.... Very suspicious!

And my compost pile--it was plumb gone!

I hung the bird feeder back up but figured it was a one-off event. Moose are not known for stealing from bird feeders. Google doesn't turn up a lot of cases.

Then today--this morning!--I glanced out my window to this!

The little reprobate was sitting smugly under where the bird feeder used to be! Uh-huh! Just batting her eyelashes at me like, "Oh, gee! I have no idea where the bird feeder is! It's certainly not lying on the ground, divested of its contents, which are now in my belly!"

Mamamoose was standing nearby, pretending not to notice. SURE, AMERICAN MOMS. LOOK THE OTHER WAY. This is why today's youth are such delinquents. Continue looking the other way, you overindulgent parents!! While your reprobate children continue STEALING FROM BIRD FEEDERS!!

As I stood on the porch and told behbehmoose exactly what I thought of her, she stood up, delicately stretched each leg, and walked off toward her mama, stopping to turn around and give me another innocent look:


Mama tossed her head at me and led her little precious angel away:


I refilled my bird feeder, hung it back up, and tied it into place with rope. I'll call this bird feeder 2.1:

Let's see what happens now!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to prevent insomnia

I highly recommend sleeping like this:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Being gone for 5 days near the Equinox means that when you get back, the change in daylight is shocking! I don't believe I'll be using a headlamp any more this year! 35 minutes more of daylight than before I left for DC!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I love my fuzzies! I squish 'em and I 'quish em!

Here is the harbor in Seward at dawn:

Lovely, isn't it? I'm just sorting photos and found it from a few weeks ago.

My friend (and now colleague) and me with our theses:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hey check this out

It's all official-looking n stuff:

So dignified!

Skiing today:

10 a.m. looks different nowadays! And look--someone has groomed our neighborhood trails!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fun in the sun

This weekend, my friend (and now colleague) Amanda is racing for her home country of Australia in the IFSS World Championships. It's a sprint race, with lean, sleek, unfuzzy hound mixes leaping and dashing in the sun.



As they lined up into the starting chute, all of the doggies were very excited and strained against their brakes:

Amanda taking off!

While she was out, I ran to pee, and by the time I was done, she was on her way back! Sprint doggies are FAST!



I walked around and was delighted to see some fuzzies as well:

While some dogs were running for their countries, some other dogs were at home snnnooooozzzing:

They ran free while I skied this morning:

Here is my new slightly-more-study bird feeder:

By the way, one of my crazy neighbors has made it into a National Geographic video.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Steven Chu

One of the greatest pleasures of the ARPA-E conference was seeing and hearing ARPA-E's founder, outgoing US Energy Secretary Steven Chu speak. He is an excellent speaker, and he gave what was essentially an encouraging pep talk to the folks in the energy sector who were present. He pooh-poohed some dire predictions about energy technology development, and pointed out that (1) we were still doing well with producing petroleum, but (2) that we are nevertheless poised to do awesome things with renewable energy development. He threw out a quote from Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the near-mythological Saudi oil minister during the 1970's, that has since become an aphorism: "The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil." "Better technology" was how Chu paraphrased it. Better technology was on the horizon.

He even delighted in his own mention in The Onion, placing a screenshot from the article across the giant screen in the lecture hall:

and reminding us of how he had addressed it, via Facebook:
I just want everyone to know that my decision not to serve a second term as Energy Secretary has absolutely nothing to do with the allegations made in this week’s edition of the Onion. While I’m not going to confirm or deny the charges specifically, I will say that clean, renewable solar power is a growing source of U.S. jobs and is becoming more and more affordable, so it’s no surprise that lots of Americans are falling in love with solar.

I had recalled reading about the entire exchange in my hometown rag, and being impressed with his humor and aplomb. I like this brave new world we live in, where government officials are not only brilliant, highly educated, and likeable while lacking in any false modesty, but also humorous and human. I'm very sad to see Chu step down.