Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How I spent most of the lunar eclipse

I faithfully set an alarm for 4 a.m., and DL and I stumbled downstairs in the dark. I went out to the porch, looked at the red moon, and said, "Oooh pretty." Then I recalled that I owned astronomical binoculars, so went inside, grabbed them, and went back out. Looked at the eclipse through them, said, "Ooooh pretty", then passed the binoculars to DL and went back inside. The dogs were luxuriating on the couch:

So I joined them for a bit and cuddled:

Then I went back to bed.

The lunar eclipse is so much more interesting when it's during suppertime.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Misc photos

Do you think Cricket is comfy? I sure hope she is comfy.

The ladies sitting pretty:

And cleaning their fangs!

The deep cold brings ice fog. This was the view from my office yesterday:

Today has cleared up. Here is the view from our stairwell:

I can't decide which framing I like better:

A sunny shot from our porch!

One of our student interns and me, at a test installation of bifacial solar PV panels:



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Car Emergency Kit Contents

So after my crazy incident of having to leave my car in an ice storm and walk home, I concluded that I got an 'A' for preparedness and a 'C+' for organization. It was cold and awkward and frustrating, fumbling and rummaging through my giant plastic tote and my duffel bag for my emergency supplies. Also, as I walked home, I realized that if I had farther to walk for help, for example if I were to be stranded in a more remote area than my own neighborhood, I'd want to pack some emergency gear with me, so I wanted to get a real backpack instead of a duffel.

Thermal cycling is not great for plastic; it tends to get brittle and then fracture at the sharp corners or where the fabric bends. So I decided it had to be waxed canvas (which is water-proof). I decided to spring for some very well-made, very expensive American-made Frost River packs. I had been intrigued by these for years. When I lived in California, my day-hiking pack was a military surplus canvas rucksack. It was sturdy as heck and covered some thousands of miles of weekend jaunts with me. But when I moved to Alaska and needed to carry more emergency gear and more cold-weather clothing, I upgraded to a modern nylon pack from REI. A canvas pack of the size I need now weighs over five pounds, which was maybe reasonable in pioneer days, but not today. We have miles to cover!

But for a car emergency pack... sturdiness trumps weight. So I sprung for my long-admired waxed canvas backppack: the Cliff Jacobson Signature Pack, in which to pack all of my "bug-out" equipment:

For my car emergency kit that stays in the car, I chose a bigger waxed canvas pack: the Prairie Boot Bag. It has a separate compartment intended for muddy boots, and that compartment is perfect for quick-access items, such as flares, jumper cables, and rags:

Finally, things that fit so nicely in their cubbyholes in the car, or that I use frequently, stay where they are:

Look how much more tidily everything fits!

I love how accessible the bags are, and how much more ergonomic it is to grab them than it is to grab the giant plastic tote! After all, the last thing I need to have happen in an emergency situation is to throw out my back! My one misgiving is that my emergency warm clothes are in the "stay in car" bag instead of the bug-out bag, but I'm sure on a cold day I won't forget them!

Friday, January 26, 2018


Starbuck sez, "It's my birfday! I went for a morning run with my sister, then we got rawhides, and now I'm snoozing on the couch. I'm 11, and life is good! I still go for a run, hike, or ski every day, and I still visit my friends at the hospital. My only trouble is a bum shoulder, but my humans help me manage it (with acupuncture, CBD oil, and LOVE). I still have lots of fun!"

Brrrrr it's been cccccoooolld!

We come back from our morning run quite frosty!

Cricket selfie!

Roo selfie!


In honor of Roo's birthday, I would like to remind you that she is very soffffffft:

And she has lots of paws:

Look! When she lies down, the white patch on her chest makes a heart. And she likes to hold hands.

NNNNNGGGGGgg..... *wibble*

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Scenes from Home

Look! They snuggle!


Sous-chef #1 is all ready to do quality control on my veggies!

Roo: Nnnnngggg coooowch... so soffft...
Cricket:Nnnnnnnngggg sister's butt ... so soffft...

It was cold this morning! Brrrrr!

After breakfast, my fuzzies retreated to the couch, but I know they are still excited to go out for an adventure! They jump to life the second I touch my boots!

So a few weeks ago, the ribs from the hippie producer were on sale (free-range, hormone-free, vegetarian-fed, humanely-raised, organically-produced feed, etc, etc) were on sale, so of course I had to get some. I put them into the freezer to await an appropriate day, and this weekend, as temperatures dropped, I decided it was rib time! I had never actually made ribs before. But Irma's instructions were awesome, and they came out perfect--so tender!

Giant plates for a cold day!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Scenes from a short ski

The night after the ice storm, several inches of snow came down. I opted to work from home until we got plowed. I also opted out of the morning run-in-the-dark-by-headlamp in favor of a midday ski instead. :) We were the first to break trail.

Roo was SSSOOOOO happy to see fresh snow that she immediately did a face plant and shoved her face all over in it!

Hitting the trail!

Happy, happy!

Joy, joy!

They are constantly exploring:

The sun only hit the tops of the trees:

They run far ahead when they get a burst of enthusiasm:

Light on the ridge:

Starbuck looking WOLFIE!

Cricket on the move!

Ice drips!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Not a n'ice incident!

Climate change has really sunk its teeth into us in Fairbanks. Last night, it rained while temps were up near 32F/0C; covering the roads with ice. I was on my way home, driving super slowly (usually okay with my Subaru and studded tires). But when I got to our road, I saw lights flashing up ahead. A car was in a ditch, and two cars were standing still behind it, unable to go around it since the road was so slick they could not drive up the slight grade. I stopped in line, threw my car into "park", and while I pondered our predicament, several other cars accumulated behind me, all equally befuddled. Eventually, I put on my ice cleats, came out and began communicating with the other drivers. We put out signal flares to stop further accumulation of stuck cars, and one guy started directing drivers to back slowly back out to the highway. Another young lady and I knocked on the nearest door and found that it was acquaintances of mine! So I asked if the two of us could leave our cars in their driveway for the night. They agreed, and even came out to help, tossing sand into the road.

In the meantime, I had called DL, who had already made it home before the rain had started. He tried to call for help for us--the Troopers, tow trucks. No one would come. The Trooper Dispatcher told him that they would not send anyone out since none of us was hurt. So after I had slowly, slowly moved my car to those nice folks' driveway, I called him back and told him I was walking the last two miles home. He walked up to meet me and we walked home through the icy night, him carrying my work bag, and both of us wearing ice cleats. Who says romance is dead?

Lessons learned:
1) Always keep emergency signal flares in the car (I was one of the heroes of the hour that was able to help block further buildup of cars!).

2) Always keep ice cleats in the car (enabling my walk home... and when are you stuck unable to drive? when it's icy, of course!).

3) Always keep gas in the car. I never let my tank go under 1/4 a tank. That sure paid off.

4) Always keep a good flashlight on your person. My favorite is the classic Maglite. It's American-made, and I got an LED version that lasts years between battery changes. It's in my handbag at all times! It's also come in handy for power outages in buildings.

5) Charge your cell phone every night.

6) Always make friends, be kind, and reach out. Who knew that the kids that used to trick or treat at my house, would have such kind parents who would reach out and help us in a crisis?

Look! A Climate Change outfit! Summer pants, snow boots, short-haired husky!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Office Camera Timer Selfie!

The Very Important Meeting I had planned to attend today had its time change mis-communicated to me. Good thing I have that invitation email showing the incorrect time, so when I did a "reply all" on my apology email for missing the meeting, it's obvious that it was not my error. The upshot is that I am at work on a holiday, and I combed my hair and put on a nice outfit and tasteful makeup for pretty much no reason. So here is a camera timer selfie in my office! And my office is so tiny this is the only way I fit in the frame! See! I clean up good!

And just as a safety hedge against me becoming all self-absorbed, here is a photo of the dogs watching me eat cheese. Not that they beg! And no, I don't feed them from the table! (only rarely... maybe... sometimes...)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Arvay's Life Lessons

Last October, I turned 40. I wanted to write a commemorative blog post involving Deep Thoughts, but I couldn't come up with any. What I have been doing is trying to become a Better Person, by being more self-aware, more deliberate, more forgiving, and better with setting boundaries.

Believe it or not, I started with aphorisms. Here is one that has served me well:

Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.

It helps when it seems that someone is being mean or rude for no reason; well, you have no idea what their reasons are. The classic scenario that people use as a talking point is "suppose they are on their way to visit a family member undergoing chemotherapy", but I interpret it even more broadly. Suppose they are people who have always had ugly lives, or have always had ugly personalities for no reason. Aren't they being punished enough?

Here is another one. This is huge, and believe it or not, I learned it from an advice column:

Avoiding conflict is not the highest goal of a conversation or a relationship. Sometimes a fight needs to be had.

How I wish I had utilized this earlier in several of my bad relationships! Years of your life can be wasted with someone who is not worth your time, because you avoided discussing an important issue because you wanted to avoid an argument. A good relationship can withstand a sincere, fair, and well-intentioned argument. If the argument you are avoiding is one that will involve pointless cruelty, it's time to go. Which brings me to...

You have the right to ask for anything you want out of a relationship. But people also have the right to say no.

And when someone says no, believe them. Don't hope they'll change, or pester. Then act accordingly. Decide whether you are willing to compromise. If you decide you can live with it, live with it without resentment. If you decide you cannot, then walk away.

Everyone loves a "sense of humor". They put it in dating profiles. But being funny isn't a *value*.

It's not worth sacrificing an actual value for humor. It's not worth hurting someone's feelings to be funny. A stunned look on a friend's face at a joke made at her expense was enough to seal this deal for me.

Sarcasm is a copout. Humor is often used to dodge sincerity.

Sincerity involves sticking your neck out there, and requires courage, even if the biggest risk is being mocked.

An example is my post on Sam's Club closing! I was going to close it by saying, "And this is my essay on why Big Corporations are Evil. I hope I get an A", or a photo of me squeezing the dogs. But I decided to leave it. Because it's my sincere thoughts, and I won't distance myself from their seriousness with humor. Because I want you, readers, to take that post seriously.

I'm going to keep you posted on my Personal Development. It might involve reading Proust!

I have Thoughts... on Sam's Club closing

Yesterday morning, I learned that the Fairbanks Sam's Club was shutting its doors. I shrugged. I have been in Sam's Club exactly twice in my 11 years in Fairbanks. I could scarcely care less.

But then I learned from my friend Lane. After several years of planning and another several years of running a small stand at the farmer's market, Lane had finally opened his dream taco shop, bringing the style and flavors of his native Texas to Fairbanks. Lane's Quickie Tacos quickly became a hit, winning multiple "readers' choice" awards and winning a devout fan club among both the University folks (who are only a block away), and the military folks (who have to drive across town). Anyway, Lane bemoaned on Facebook, "Sam’s Club is closing its doors in Fairbanks. My taco business is crumbling before my very eyes." And then I read about quite a few local small business owners bemoaning the insecurity of their future supplies.

Would you believe that this is the first time it's actually occurred to me precisely why people believe that most giant corporations are terrible? Everyone says, Walmart is evil, McDonalds is evil, Starbucks is evil, but honestly, while I seldom go to those places (for other reasons), I never thought they were so bad. But now Sam's Club has thrown in my face why giant corporations are not great for small communities.

So, Sam's Club: They move into small cities, use their corporate buying power to undercut pricing for the local businesses, hire some 150 people, and give a false sense of security. In the face of the monolith, a web of dependencies develop around the giant, from small restaurants depending on their bulk food supplies to unskilled workers depending on the "reliable" paycheck. Then they shut down and pull out with no notice, laying off those 150 employees and screwing over other local businesses who had come to depend on them. And now, since no other supply chains had developed organically, a lot of little local businesses will have a supply chain vacuum. Not to mention those 150 employees who likely had little savings built up.

No wonder we are constantly exhorted to "buy local" even though their prices are higher. Local businesses are vested in their local environment, will care for their community out of self-interest, and will know the ins and outs of doing business in their unique circumstances. Consumers who have access to a monolith like Walmart or Sam's Club, who use their enormous purchasing power and multinational presence to reduce prices, get artificially accustomed to prices that are completely unrealistic and unsustainable for a supply chain in a challenging location. Sam's Club thus put the other vendors out of business, and then--surprise!--learned that they couldn't turn a profit at those price points. They also attributed their decision to the complications of managing supply chains in Alaska. Gee, ya think? A local businessperson would be more capable of that, but no local business could compete with the purchasing power of Sam's Club.

Multinational corporations end up being ruthless because they have no stake in the community. As a counter-example, I was extremely impressed when I visited Usibelli Coal mine, located in Healy, the closest town to Denali Park. The fourth generation of the Usibelli family works there, with little Usibelli babes going to Healy schools. They pay good wages, provide good benefits, contribute to the community, even kick in to their employees' kids' college funds. After they complete strip mining on each location, they return the overburden and replant native trees and vegetation, not because the EPA tells them to, but because they hike and camp and hunt there themselves. In this case, self-interest drives caring. That's why it's good when the decision-makers of a company are present in the community.

Here is another example, also from Healy. Three Bears Alaska, the tiny chain founded in Tok, last month opened a store in Healy. The week prior, the Minor News published this report.

Choice quotes from the article include the opening line: "The grand opening of Three Bears Alaska’s year-round grocery story Friday in Healy is such a big deal that the student body of Tri-Valley School — more than 170 kindergarteners through 12th-graders — will attend."

Then it went on:
For the estimated 1,000 people who live here and the remaining 1,500 residents in Denali Borough communities, the new store means groceries and household items are at their fingertips. Typically, everyone drives more than 100 miles one way to shop in Fairbanks. That’s at least a four-hour round trip from Healy, longer for residents of Denali and Cantwell. There will still be plenty of shopping in Fairbanks. But the opening of this store in Healy is generating incredible excitement.

But this is my favorite part! All emphases mine:

For the owners, the Healy store reminds them of where it all began, when the first Three Bears Alaska store opened Nov. 1, 1980, in Tok.

“Healy is very similar,” said Dave Weisz, president and CEO of Three Bears Alaska. He is in Healy this week, stocking shelves. “This is where we started, in towns this size.”

Three Bears targeted a mid-December opening date, in part because they they want local residents to know they are there for them year-round.

All the warm fuzzies from Three Bears!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Funny photos

In our house, every meal preparation is like a cooking show. This is my audience:

They help me sample cheese, carrots, and bell peppers!

Cricket, the scholar:

In other news, we are finally having our first cold snap of the season. January!

Good thing we are snuggly!