30 August 2007
The town is emptying out. By next weekend there won't be an RV to be found anywhere in the state. They're like snow geese, they're all flying south for the winter. I won't miss the RV's to be honest, but with all of the people going the shops and restaurants close down and the docks will become empty and the town looks a little forlorn. The birds are flying south. The fish are spawning. The fireweed is almost finished blooming. Time to buckle down and prep everything for winter.
29 August 2007
27 August 2007
Lately, we have been necropsying lots harbor seal stomachs. Native hunters have kindly donated us the stomachs and various organs and guts from seals they have hunted (others are not allowed to hunt seals). These donated tissues are windows into what constitutes a "healthy" seal as they did not die of an illness. All of the other tissues we receive typically come from animals who die a "natural" death which usually means they weren't doing so well.
24 August 2007
Breakfast Items That Are Critical To My Happiness: On weekdays Grapenuts cereal with blueberries & skim milk warmed up. On weekends it varies but I like to have a big breakfast every now and then with either pancakes, eggs, and bacon or a breakfast burrito.
People I Would Most Like to Share a Table With (okay, I am limiting this to people not in blogland nor with whom I have shared a table before or the list would go on and on):
George Shaller (a biologist who actually went to grad school with a close friend & mentor of mine)
Marie Currie (a fabulous chemist)
Jimmy Carter (who created most of the National Parks in Alaska)
Teddy Roosevelt (who came up with the National Park system)
Ada Blackjack (an amazing Inupiat, i.e. Eskimo woman who was a lone survivor on a far northern island)
Georg Steller (the naturalist for whom many things have been named - he might be a bit cantankerous but let's hope he'll have stories to tell)
Wangari Maathai (Kenyan activist & the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize)
Monica Turner (a spatial biologist in Wisconsin)
Danny Wright (a composer & musician)
Brian Andreas of Story People (I didn't cheat! It's not a blog)
Rudest Thing Done To Me This Week: Drag racing in front of my house (a 15mph zone) while my dog was outside! Oooo - that made me angry.
Jobs That Have Made Me Go, "Huh?" hmmm....amazingly I can't think of it. Usually it's the bosses that have made me go "huh?". Nothing gets under my skin like supervisors who don't look out for their people or who are unable to delegate.
Jobs I Have Had That Concerned and/or Confused My Mother: I think every job I've ever had concerns my parents because they tend to be potentially dangerous, but they are still pleased I do them. As for that though, nobody in my family ever expected me to study and become a scientist...they all thought I'd study English. It was a big surprise to them, which in turn surprised me.
Curse Word That I Use Most Frequently After Leaving the Children: Bullshit. I use this mostly when I feel someone is well, bullshitting me, or themselves. Since grad school I have a low bullshit tolerance. I don't usually use it in a mean way, just a statement. However, I'm not much of a curser...if someone offends me I'm likely to get all super polite and sickly sweet but if I stumble very hard into something I might just say "bloody hell" which is, for some reason, very satisfying.
Most Honest Bumper Sticker I've Ever Seen: "I club baby seals" with a club picture for the word. Granted, I didn't exactly appreciate the sentiment but it was honest.
Changes I Would Make If Money Were No Object: To what? To my life or to the world? This is a very large question....hmmm....but I think, if we are just referring to my life, I would run my own research and forget about grant writing and I would probably travel more, and I would donate more money to my pet causes because really, there's not that much I would change.
Favorite Piece of Technology: Well, everything is technology these days right? I'm awfully fond of running hot & cold water (showers & washing machines) but I suppose you meant some sort of electronic gadget ... but I've lived without all of them and I have to say the one that gets me the most excited when I rejoin civilization is the showers.
Oh, and, tagging? If you want to do it, consider yourself tagged. If you do please write that you are in the comment line so we can follow you.
23 August 2007
22 August 2007
21 August 2007
Girls for Glaciers (http://girlsforglaciers.wordpress.com/) is a blog about two girls trying to change their habits to be more globally friendly. It's an excellent place for those who don't know where to start. For more ideas check out the Environmental Defense webpage (http://www.fightglobalwarming.com/index.cfm?source=banner_search). Here you can find out which machine is the most environmentally friendly before you buy and you can even sign up for weekly email tips. Check out the Global Footprint Network, Advancing the Science of Sustainability (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/) to learn about new technologies working towards a better planet. And finally, don't forget to estimate your global footprint (http://www.earthday.net/Footprint/index.asp) to find out your personal impact on the planet and to help your resolve to do better!
16 August 2007
Changing winds have increased the impact of mosquitoes on caribou & reindeer on the north slope as these animals are finding less and less relief. More die from insect harassment and from the energy required to keep moving to keep them off.
The oceans are not freezing as completely or as securely to the shore. Fast ice, which allows both polar bears and people to get out on the ice is disappearing stranding polar bears on land causing an increase in bear/ human conflict.
The rivers are not freezing as completely for as long. Rivers are the traditional method of getting around bush Alaska and the time that they are unstable - where you can not dog mush, snow machine, or boat on them - is increasing making communities more isolated.
Snow is not what it used to be. It falls later, it melts earlier. If you question this note that the last 3 years the famous Iditarod sled dog race re-start location has had to be moved north from it's traditional location as there is not enough snow.
Parasites are showing up in Alaskan wild animals that have never been seen in Alaska before.
The arctic is the place where change is happening fastest. Look around you, every where people are saying "This is really abnormal weather" or "Record year for this (fill in the blank with the weather in your area)". This is happening everywhere the world over. The climate is changing folks. And it is our habits that are doing it.
15 August 2007
13 August 2007
"AFS enables people to act as responsible, global citizens working for peace and understanding in a diverse world. It acknowledges that peace is a dynamic concept threatened by injustice, inequality, and intolerance.
AFS seeks to affirm faith in the dignity and worth of every human being and of all nations and cultures. It encourages respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language, religion, or social status."
My Dog & Cat in inter-species communication
One of the things that makes me very proud of AFS is the organizations reaction to the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. This event showed AFS-USA that there is clearly a huge rift of understanding between Muslim & Judeo-Christian cultural groups and nations. We discussed how can AFS increase understanding between these groups? We decided to create a scholarship particularly aimed at exchanging students & teachers between nations that are predominantly one or the other, in other words, encourage non-Muslims to go on exchange to Muslim based nations and non-Judeo-Christians to go on exchange to Judeo-Christian based nations. These students will learn amazing things about the other cultures and their own but more importantly is that they will connect with people and when they return to their home countries they will share those connections with their communities. These connections make it harder to generalize and scapegoat the group because the group has a face and a name and a history.
10 August 2007
"Culture is a mold in which we are all cast and it controls our daily lives in many in suspected ways...Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from it's own participants" -Edward T. Hall
So what are some of the things on the iceberg above the water? Food. Art. Style. Sports. Literature. Music. Holidays/ Festivals. Religion. Language. Etc. And below the iceberg? Fine details such as, what constitutes cleanliness, is hard work rewarded, how do family members communicate, who makes decisions, what kind of emotional expression if considered appropriate, what is considered polite/ rude, is cooperation/ competition rewarded, dating customs, gender roles, family member responsibilities, what are the notions of timeliness, etc. You get the idea.
One of the most interesting thing about living in another culture is how much you learn about your own - the things you never noticed before. It's like in the Wizard of Oz when everybody is wearing rose colored glasses - we all wear glasses tinted with our own cultures and we never notice it until someone points it out to us or we go somewhere where we take them off for the first time. The difference between traveling and living someplace is the difference between seeing the tip of the iceberg to understanding some of what lies hidden below the water.
Tell me, what do you think constitutes some of your hidden iceberg?
09 August 2007
I love meeting these groups in the beginning and then watching them grow and change over the year. They gain confidence in themselves, they learn to be independent thinkers, they learn how to solve difficult problems, how to deal with new situations, etc. I know that this group will be nervous, many of them did not think of Alaska when they signed up for this thing. To them the USA meant Florida, New York City, and California - the world portrayed by Hollywood and by the view-the-states-in-a-month tours that people they know may have gone on. They will be freaked out about how they will survive the cold, the dark, and sometimes the isolation of small town life. They will be freaked out by all the dogs in this place. And they will have a blast. By the time they leave they will laugh at their worries. They will have done things they never dreamed of doing: skiing, dog mushing, kayaking, camping, hiking. Many of these outdoor things that Alaskans take as a normal part of life are completely alien to these kids who live in places where there isn't quite the same wildness left so that even when you are recreating in it you are always on a well marked trail (most of Europe) or in places where the wild is seen as a dangerous place that you strive to conquer or get away from (much of Africa, Latin & South America, & Asia).
Wild Geranium (Geranium erianthum)
When I lived in Northern California I used to take the kids and their liaisons on a backpacking trip about 3 months after they arrived and I would tell them that it was a metaphor for their experience. In the beginning you are scared, nervous, not sure you are going to like it and it seems like a huge trip. In the middle you are tired, you have blisters, you may be grumpy, you think it is never going to end. At the end you are having so much fun you don't want to go back even though you are looking forward to showers and your own bed but you know you will be leaving fine company who knows you in a way that other people don't because it strips you down to your essentials and you can't believe how quickly the time passed. When you leave it changes your outlook and you look back on it as one of the best things you've ever done and you have a wealth of stories and memories from it.
08 August 2007
07 August 2007
So why was this bear going over the mountain? As far as I can tell s/he climbed the mountain because the view made it a perfect place for a latrine. Clearly it had been in use as such for some years as the piles of aged to new feces would attest. And once s/he was there, why not go down the other side? After all, there is a good salmon stream down there and some yummy watermelon & salmonberries along the way. Of course, maybe s/he was going to the other side but the exertion of mountain climbing prompted other bodily functions, we'll never know for sure.
06 August 2007
To the four paddlers of two little red kayaks in a certain bay in Prince William Sound, Alaska seen around noon today.
Dear Kayakers ~
Today was both your lucky day and your unlucky day. It was lucky because you were foolish enough to pull your kayaks right up to that calving glacier and touch it's face without being squashed by a piece of ice carving off and effectively ending your existence. A rather foolish thing, don't you think? To challenge nature for a photograph that might have been the last of you?
It was your unlucky day because you blatantly broke the Marine Mammal Conservation Act (1972). Did you know that when seals lift their heads to look at you it is out of concern for your presence and not to pose for a photograph? I know, dear kayakers, that you must be a bit ignorant, hence the close up view of the glacier, but even you must have noticed the fact that as you approached them, even tried to put your kayaks on the icebergs the animals were resting on, that they fled to the water. You were there on a day when the brash ice was sparse and the seals had to clump together to find space in the ice.
Aerial Image of Harbor Seals hauled out on Ice
What you didn't know is that we saw you on glacier cam and that we have video footage of the whole thing. That's right, we remotely monitor these seals on an hourly basis all summer long. We weren't looking for you but how could we not notice? And there is a penalty for such disturbance of the marine wildlife. Had you merely accidentally scared them we would have let you off the hook but pursuing them? Foisting your kayak on their bergs as they frantically dove for the ice? That was inexcusable and avoidable and I regret to inform you that we ratted you out.
05 August 2007
02 August 2007
* Standing on a balcony overlooking the ocean this fellow says to me "So, what's the elevation above sea level here?" I look over the balcony and say "Well, since the tide seems to be out I'd say about 4ft"
* I was pumping gas when this RV pulls up. This couple gets out and they look distinctively cold being dressed for some other climate than 60 degrees with rain & mosquitoes. The guy says to me "I thought it was warmer in Hawaii! Where's all the sunshine?". II thought the guy was joking but he wasn't. You know how on maps of the United States Hawaii & Alaska get pulled out and put in little windows in the Pacific? Well, come to find out that somehow this couple had managed to get all the way to Alaska while thinking that Alaska was merely the largest island off Hawaii. I think they need a new travel agent and a better map.
* "So how much does it cost to ship an iceberg?" Umm, well seeing as you live in the Carolinas can I just ship an empty box and tell you it evaporated?
* "When do the smoked salmon run?" Let's see....
* "I'm from the United States of America" (best said by drawing out and emphasizing the country name). Umm...guess what dude, you're still in the United States of America. Yeah, really.
* And then there is the woman who is living in a campground this summer. She comes into the coffee shop and tells us things like the mountains around us are invisible (I can agree on a foggy day), that she controls the weather (well, give us a break then!), and to complain that the AK Park Service hasn't installed plumbing in her tent yet (well, they haven't gotten around to that amenity in some of the houses either dear) all in an accent she claims is French but which sound suspiciously like attempted Irish. But this later one is loony enough to possibly be an actual local.
01 August 2007
Los Anchorage was built with absolutely no planning, starting with the gold rush years when people weren’t planning on staying so they built where they could. This continued with the oil rush days and continues today. My friend complained that everywhere in Anchorage looks the same. And it is sprawled. It, like the Russian city Petropavlovsk, is located in a gorgeous setting of mountains and ocean but the city itself isn’t very attractive. That said I am very glad for the extensive network of trails within the city which I retreat to regularly when the sensory overload of the city gets to be too much. My friend from Fairbanks was also overwhelmed, despite Fairbanks being the next biggest city in Alaska, and kept asking me – “How am I going to survive in Boston?”.
We parted ways to go to appointments, various annual doctor appointments for me, in-laws for her. I stayed a little later then I planned because I simply could not leave without taking the opportunity to go to the cinema to watch the new Harry Potter movie. Then DOG and I fled south where we both breathed a little easier and CAT was most relieved when we got home having spent her first night on her lonesome since joining the family. It seems if I had stayed a little longer I might have seen the FBI fun at the home of our Senator Ted Stevens.