15 October 2007

Going on Vacation

I'm headed off for traveling adventures tomorrow and it's likely that I will be completely out of touch (& yes, that means not blogging or reading blogs) until I return the 1st of November. When I sent my itinerary to my sister she asked "And where aren't you going?" and it's true, I'm doing quite a bit of moving for such a short trip. But oh(!) I'm so excited. Here is the sketch of my trip:

SCOTLAND: Here I will be visiting a dear Swiss friend who is pursuing a Post Doc in Aberdeen. We will be joined by her boyfriend who is originally German but lives in Switzerland, another dear friend. We met when they became my housemates in Fairbanks, Alaska where they had come for his post doc and a portion of her PhD. There she fell head over heels in love with the Disreputable Dog despite the fact that the first words out of her mouth to me were that she did not like dogs.

All map courtesy of Meriam-Webster's Geography

MOROCCO: This is the original pupose of the whole trip. I will be meeting up with a very dear Dutch friend who I met in Ghana. We're making this a girls trip. We both like to travel footloose and fancy free and we haven't made and determined plans although we have vague ideas in mind. I've never been to Morocco and am terribly exited about seeing the architecture and the textiles and to feel the heat of the desert.

HOLLAND/ NETHERLANDS: I will head back to the Netherlands with my Morocco traveling friend to met her family, her husband and two children of whom I have heard many stories and whom I have yet to meet. I suspect they're equally curious to meet me especially since I'm dragging their wife & mother away from them for a week. And I may have a chance to visit the school for mentally disabled kids and talk about Alaska while I'm there.

Does that not sound like a fabulous trip? A little summer in Morocco before returning to the winter of Alaska. Exotic sights and sounds and smells and yet the comfort of seeing very good long held friends after a long absence? And there's sure to be a little adventure and some unexpected, unplanned events in there to boot.

12 October 2007

Meet Chukchi the Walrus

Recently, co-workers rescued this little guy from certain starvation in the Chukchi Sea. It would seem that his mom never made it back from a foraging trip. As he is a yearling he is not able to live on his own yet. He is currently getting cared for in our facilities and because walrus require constant attention will not be able to be returned to the wild and will instead go live out the rest of his life at Sea World in San Diego. Edited to add: He weighed in around 400lbs and alomst 5ft long with 9inch budding tusks.

Picture taken by Amy Haddow

Fun Facts about walrus:

1) The plural of walrus is walrus

2) Walrus can live up to 50 years and spend 3-5 years being raised by mum, nursing for the first 2 years of their lives
3) They are circumpolar in distribution, living in the high arctic and are dependent on the seasonal availability of the ice pack.
4) They are prefer shallower waters and eat primarily mollusks (clams, etc.)
5) They have amazing suction mouths...a walrus can suck up a bowling ball with it's mouth and move it. This causes havoc with captive animals as when they get bored they suck bolts out of cages and move entire gates.
6) An adult male can weigh up to 2 tons!
7) There are 3 sub-species of walrus but they are the only living members of their family and are thought to be related to bears.

11 October 2007

Top 10 Ways to Get Through Winter

I am inspired by some of the comments from my last post to post a partial list for you on things I find key to making a long, cold, dark winter a success. If you live in a place that experiences winter, what's on your list?

The Disreputable Dog sleeping after a hard ski in 2003

1. Get outside when the sun's up. It's in the middle of the day? Take a long lunch break. All that office work will still be there when it sinks but if you wait until the work is done the sun won't be.

2. Be active outdoors. That lunch break? Go skiing, walk to the post office, ice skate. Moving in what daylight there is can make a world of difference to your psyche.

3. On a nice day take a minute for the sunrise. Go find a window. Watch it. Breathe it.

4. Light your house well. When you wake up turn on all the lights it will help you wake up. Use light to help you keep your circadian rhythms from wandering too much as in my star light on a timer. A good reading lamp is also very essential.

5. A good potluck recipe! Potlucks are huge in Alaska, particularly in the winter. Winter is the time for socializing, for cookie exchanges, craft nights, movie nights, sauna nights, etc.

Myself, a friend, and the Disreputable Dog in Fairbanks around noon 2 winters ago
(That's ice fog you see there - lovely stuff)

6. If you have an outhouse use blue house styrofoam for a seat...it's insulated and thus doesn't get cold (but store your toilet paper indoors so it doesn't collect ice crystals).

7. Layers! It's always cold outside, it's always too hot inside. Be prepared to layer up and layer down and make sure that you don't forget any key body parts.

8. For the love of digits...buy yourself a WARM pair of boots and a good pair of gloves and don't leave your ears uncovered unless you want frostbite.

9. Go camping! Yes, believe it or not, there is nothing more wonderful then snuggling deep into your sleeping bag with the northern lights playing above your head. You don't have to worry about bears - they're all asleep. And you can pack things like ice cream and not worry about them melting!

10. Hot drinks, plenty of firewood, checking your fuel tank & not letting it get too low, covering your window with plastic....and remember not to leave liquids in your car including, but not limited to, laundry detergent....yes, if it is cold enough, it will freeze. Realize that things such as plastics will be more fragile then usual so be careful. Keep a spare key handy!

11. Bright colors! They keep things cheerful and they make you more visible to traffic. Beautiful bold colors, fun socks and scarves, fun stripey long underwear...ever notice how much winter gear is black???? Why?

09 October 2007

Daylight & Layers

At 3:45pm today the sun slipped behind the mountains. It's not really dark at that time however we are losing about 7 minutes of daylight a day. More then that if you count how much time the sun is actually above the mountains. It's very noticeable. I find this time of year harder then winter. In winter there is snow and the reflectance of moonlight off of it. Now the trails are dark and invisible. My body wants to hibernate & I struggle my way out of my warm bed in the morning, clawing my way from the bottom of consciousness. I have little tricks I use to help me adjust to the darkness. I have a light star on a timer that goes on 15 minutes prior to my alarm. By the time my alarm goes off it has started to settle it's way into my subconscious, mimicking the rising of the sun giving off the false impression of warmth & heat.

This morning after my morning walk with the Disreputable Dog, during which I realized my layers were no longer suitable for the weather, I dug out the following necessary items from a box under my bed:
-down vests, down jackets, wool jackets
-my hats, each of a different thickness depending on the cold
-my ear band because no matter the hat it won't keep the cold air off the ears while bicycling in heavy duty wind
-my reflective suspenders for commuting
-my headlamps because it's easy to get stuck somewhere without light at this time of year
-quilted & flannel lined pants
-the 3 layered gloves

I'm ready now...the pockets of all of my coats contain headlamps and handkerchiefs and you will not find me anywhere in this state without a wool hat until May. Now the layer of skim ice on the ponds can freeze over and I will rejoice with my ice skates, the snow can come & I will rejoice with my skis.

08 October 2007

Mt Alice

Mount Alice has gotten her new winter dress and she's as shy as a girl going to a dance as she has been hiding behind the clouds a lot of late.

Today was one of those days where I wondered if I had gone back to bed and got up again would it have turned out differently? I won't go into it, I haven't the words right now and though I've typed 5 posts in the last hour I'm leaving them as drafts for now, to reconsider on a day that weighs a little less.

06 October 2007

Canine Instincts

The other day the Disreputable Dog and I were on our way for our usual evening walk in the woods. I was lost in thought, decompressing from the day, and wasn't paying particularly close attention to my surroundings when suddenly the Disreputable Dog came to a complete stop. His nose stretched up as far as it could, every muscle taut as the string of a bow, one foot paused in mid-step. This brought me to a halt behind him as well. "What's up?" I asked him. In response he tucked his tail down and turned heal back the way we came. I stared at him for a moment then followed suit. I thought perhaps he take another loop but he headed completely out and away towards home. I didn't question him - there's not a lot that gives him pause but I figure if he sensed something we didn't want to mess with he had his reasons. I tried to think of what would make him act like that - a young black bear or moose wouldn't make him react like that. I could only guess that maybe there was an old grizzly or perhaps a wolverine up the trail. But whatever it was, I wasn't over eager to find out after watching the body language of the Disreputable Dog.

So instead we headed over to the shoreline which has been abandoned by all the RVs and campers. The evening was so still that I could hear the rasp of teeth as a sea otter chewed on a mollusk, hear the clinking as it broke the shell open. The quiet, soulful eyes of a seal peered over the lip of the water starring at us while a playful group of young juvenile male Steller seal lions got up to mischief further up the coast. The Disreputable Dog was playful, tossing sticks in the air and sniffing at the dead fish, gallivanting through the fallen leaves as if he had gotten a reprieve, the cold nipping at our cheeks. I am grateful to the Disreputable Dog for his company, for his alertness when I am less then I should be, for his light playfulness at the end of long days, for always being willing to go on a walk.

04 October 2007

First Snow

It is snowing out....

We remember them

I wanted to share with you a poem that I find comforting. It does not make promises or speak of better places as so many of these things do and which I find empty and of little solace. Instead it addresses what I think of as the essential core of what it means to lose someone one loves.

Photo by Alexander Burdin a Russian colleague of mine

"In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember them.
In the glowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us,
we remember them." *

— Jewish prayer, from the Rabbi’s Manual 1998

*Please note that I am not a member of the faith from which this comes from and I take it in my own context separate from which it may be originally intended.

02 October 2007

In Memoriam: Aunt Belle

Monday morning I was a bit hassled, the way one is when one is running a little behind schedule. I'd been to the doctor's for a routine check-up and was in a rush to turn on the glacier cams and do the morning scans. Then I noticed the red light that was lit up on my phone indicating there was a message. It was my father calling to let me know that my Great Aunt Belle had passed away, rather unexpectedly that morning; 8am my time, noon hers. I sat there stunned listening to my co-workers who were arranging rides up to Los Anchorage for Matt's funeral which is today, feeling disconnected, dazed. Around 5pm a co-worker came to see if I was leaving for the day and I stared at her, unable to comprehend what time it was. She coaxed me to leave, to go home, and I rode my bike through the swirling autumn leaves and walked my dog close along the shore listening to the lapping of the waves against it and finding strange comfort therein.

Aunt Belle was an amazing woman who lived a very full life. I have this picture of her dancing with my Grandmother at my sister's wedding and it is the epitome of who these women are. They are dressed to the nines and they partied that night long after their kids and grand kids had given up and they are laughing, the two of them full of mischievous humor and good natured ribbing. Of her remaining sisters Aunt Belle had seemed by far the healthiest although she was in her mid-80's. She still cooked at her family owned restaurant and took long adventurous vacations to places like Italy. She never lost an opportunity to gussie up, to flirt with a young man, or to dance. So it came as something of a shock that she had passed away although I take great comfort in the fact that she lived a full and rich life.

I'm still sort of numb - I'll be driving north to Matt's funeral this afternoon. I can't wrap my head around these duel griefs at the moment, nor the shocking vitality of life around me.

01 October 2007

October 2007 Scientiae Carnival

A quick announcement before we get to this month’s carnival. CONGRATULATIONS to Jokerine for designing the winning logo for Scientiae (see below)! Please feel free to copy & paste it to your Scientiae post if you have submitted one for this month’s carnival. Thanks very much to FemaleCSGradStudent & to Skookumchick for contributing wonderful submissions! And thanks to all of you who voted!

On to the October Carnival whose theme is Mentoring/ Supervising/ Advising - the good, the bad, the inspiring, and the morale draining. I would like to thank all of the participants in this month’s Carnival – as many of the stories will attest, mentoring & supervising is something most have experienced from both sides of the coin. Great posts everyone!

I have been reflecting a lot on this topic lately because I have had some supervisor/ advisor/ mentor relationships that were particularly disastrous (i.e. resulted in people getting seriously hurt) and because I am beginning to supervise people myself. This has lead me both to think about the working atmosphere that I want to look for in the future as well as to reflect on what kind of supervisor/ mentor I want to be.

Here are things that I think are important in a good supervisor/ advisor:

- regular & clear communication-trusting others to do the job and knowing that they will make mistakes but that is how they will learn

- be sure to let the employee/ student know when they’re doing something write or something you appreciate as well as when they’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t take much and it will certainly make any employee go out of their way for you if they feel appreciated

- looking out for your people. This means their safety, this means their welfare, this means getting their backs. The project will only be as good as the effort your people are willing to put into it, if you have their backs, they are more likely to have your. The safety of your people should be more important than any data point. No data is worth a life. As a supervisor you are more then responsible for the data, you are responsible for people.

- creating a team of the lab; regular meetings, discussions on what everyone is doing, pre-presentations, fostering an atmosphere where people bounce ideas off each other, help each other, etc.

I think a mentor goes beyond all of this…and a mentor is not necessarily a supervisor. They’re someone who helps you keep perspective, who inspires you, who will listen and help you evaluate a situation even if they don’t have the answers, they are a sounding board. They’re someone who helps you find clarity with where ever you currently are with your career and your life. In an ideal world a supervisor/ advisor is also a mentor but it doesn’t always work out that way. Often they are the people you find on your own as you are seeking to grapple with the issues of life & career and how to go from here – where ever your here is.

Okay, enough of my thoughts, here’s the list of contributors to this carnival. Enjoy!

Patricia Campbell of Fairerscience with "
We need a name for it" in which she discusses the powerful dynamic that can occur when mentor/mentee relationships become something bigger and our lack of appropriate vocabulary to use for it.

Cathy Davies of Lab Cat talks about "
Growing up in a sorority" and how sororities, although much maligned, can be a powerful place for mentor/mentee relationships.

Science Woman at her blog On Being a Scientist and a Woman discusses how we go through different mentoring needs throughout our careers and about forming a network of relevant mentors in "
Young Faculty ISO Mentoring".

Veo Claramente of The Ways & Means of the Immune System talks about the characteristics that defined her best mentors and how she hopes to follow their examples in "When the Levee Breaks" In particular she points out what she feels the most important piece of advice is she has gotten over the years.

Jane from See Jane Compute writes about how being a mentor affected her confidence in her field and how it has shaped her approach to being a mentor in "
Lessons from mentoring".

Kate & Cat from A K8, A Cat, A Mission writes about how to deal with the angry student and how this is really an opportunity to be a mentor and how sometimes it’s not all that pleasant but that it can still really make a difference in "
Once upon a time – thinking about mentoring".

Jenny F Scientist from A Natural Scientist gives us an excellent three part discussion on mentoring covering 1) Funding in "
Realistic Mentors Say ‘Chances of Funding Are Slim, Check Magic 8 Ball" and 2) Publishing and Grant Writing in "Realist Mentors Say ‘Play the Game (And if You Want to Innovate, Game the System)’" and 3) a little reality check on future prospects that she thinks your mentor should have told you in "Realism in “Realistic Mentors Say ‘I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good’"

Twice Tenured on her blog Twice gives us a post about a recent interaction with her PhD advisor in "
Some things don’t change".

Saxifraga of Rising to the Occasion revisits her relationships with her PhD advisors after two years of space in "Advising – in hindsight".

Skookumchick on Rants of Female Engineer talks about how what could have been a useful tool for mentors in assisting their graduate students and post-docs turned out to be a farce in "
Mentoring & Supervision: Official Faculty Knowledge".

Female Doc in Training from Kate’s Casebook thanks her first mentor on teaching her how to be a good mentor and making it a positive experience in "
Mentoring: Learning from my Student".

Kathi from Kat on a Wire writes about the differences between what she is looking for in a mentor and what she gives as a mentor and what she thinks she should take from it in "
What I’ve Meant by Mentoring".

Mad Hatter at A Mad Tea-Party writes a tribute to the people she has worked with who influenced her career choices by giving a list of things she learned about being a good mentor from them in "
On Being Mentored and Being a Mentor".

Propter Doc at Post Doc Ergo Propter Doc discusses her dislike of the word mentor & it’s connotations especially when she feels it is part of the job description of a supervisor in
"Thoughts on Mentoring".

Thanks for a great carnival! See you at the November 2007 Scientiae Carnival which will be hosted over at Yami's blog
Green Grabbo. As usual you can find out about the whens & wheres of future carnivals over at the Scientiae Blog.