Sunday, April 19, 2009

Swearing in Norwegian, and Other Fun Things

In the past week, I have learned a new Norwegian swear word: Hinlopenstretet.

Should you search for this word, you will find that it is actually the strait separating Nordaustlandet from Spitsbergen, but it appears to be a very powerful curse, as well. We are stuck in Longyearbyen still, waiting for the weather on Hinlopen to change so that we can fly a helicopter to Kinnvika. Two boom runs (failed attempts) earlier this week were a bit sad, but it looks as though the weather will change and we will be able to fly tomorrow.

In the meantime, we've been packing, unpacking, and repacking our cargo, sitting around the hotel (and moving from room to room), and trying to keep spirits up. We did go shooting the other day, and we went for a walk up one of the glaciers near town, so it hasn't been all sitting around. The weather here has been almost perfect, which sucks because we can't even bitch about that. Ah, well. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Arrival in Scandinavia and Farewell to Civilization...

Hej all!

I have just arrived in Copenhagen and am sitting around, waiting for information about my flight to Oslo. The overnight flight from Seattle was very nice, and I am looking forward to watching Quantum of Solace on my return to the States...

My apologies to everyone for failing to update you with my exciting life in Alaska over the last several months. The sad news is, I actually have updated you with my exciting life, inasmuch as it has been thoroughly unexciting. School and work have been about it, although I did learn how to avoid bears, shoot shotguns, and even brushed up on wilderness first aid - things that could be very helpful in the upcoming month.

After much strife, I was able to put together 2 camera boxes complete with tripods, and have managed to check them into my luggage and bring them along with me. They will at least make it to Oslo, although after that is anyone's guess. In order to fit the tripods and camera boxes in my bag, however, I was forced to almost completely dismantle them - what had been two tripods is now about 14 pieces, ready to be put back together upon arrival at Kinnvika.

I had thought that I would have a couple of days to acclimate myself to Svalbard before waving adjö to civilization, but I will have about an hour from when my plane lands to when I climb aboard a helicopter and make my way to the research station - baptism by fire (ice?), indeed.

Of course, I'm looking forward to all of this. As I was flying over Alaska yesterday morning, I saw several large glaciers in the mountains below and of course got really excited. I am excited about spending a month in the field, and I'm even telling myself that whether or not everything goes according to plan doesn't matter - much. This feeling was only enhanced when I looked at the flight camera (SAS has cameras on the bottom of the plane that allow you to see beneath the plane - nice when you don't have a window seat) and saw what could only have been Iceland. I say this because it was around 1 AM Seattle time and it was sunny out, which means that (a) we were a long way into the flight, too long for it to have been Greenland; and (b), it was covered with ice and snow. And yes, I know, Iceland is very nice, Greenland is full of ice... but that doesn't mean Iceland is devoid of ice and snow. Especially this time of year. Either way, I saw some fantastic views of the mountains and even sea ice. It was aweosme.

I will put up pictures from the field (once I return) on the same page as always, so be sure to keep a look out come mid-May. They should be spectacular.

Adjö för nu,


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Few Musings About 30 Below...

A few things that I've noticed about cold temperatures:

My car whines in the morning. A lot. When it first starts up, the steering is stiff, the brakes are stiff, and every bump on the road feels 10 times larger. It's fantastically exciting.

In addition, tires deflate when they get cold. As in, look like they're flat. So I've now changed a "flat" twice at temperatures that were at least 30 degrees below (I say "at least" because my car's thermometer doesn't register anything below -22), but the problem was fixed as soon as I put more air in the tires. Excitement.

I can still walk across the street to the West Ridge Cafe wearing a sweatshirt, boots, and a hat. And pants.

The door at the Patty Center pool looks all sorts of awesome with ice covering it.

Oddly enough, I still haven't had any major problems driving on the snow/ice. I guess I'm one of a handful of people from Michigan who remember what happens each winter when it snows and the roads are slick.

Moose are still awesome. So are fox (foxes?). Haven't seen a whole lot of other animals, outside of ravens. Seeing mountains in the morning with a pink sky will never get old, either. Even when the sun doesn't get much higher than those mountains.

That's all I have for now. I'm another year older, potentially wiser, and I'm still loving the winter. Although, that fact may make some of you think that I'm less wise. Ah well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, when it rains, it pours. Probably because I'm still in Chicago.

The plan for "escape" was thus: I would fly in to Chicago, stay with my friend Kim until this morning, when we would drive to Kalamazoo. The plan failed on account of her car not starting. At present, either AAA will come and we'll (hopefully) get her car started and take off, or we'll head downtown and catch the 3:00 train to Kalamazoo. Again, hopefully, because apparently people in the Midwest have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to snow.

The Chicago adventure has been pretty sweet thus far. Last night, after eating at Subway (which incidentally is how I know Chicago is a real Canadian city), Kim and I went to the Hideout, a spectacular bar featuring live music, stuffed fish on the wall, and an enormous portrait of Barack Obama on the outside. Kim managed to pay for drinks with brownies (that's not a joke, she brought brownies and we drank for free), and the band actually made a nice little song out of asking for drinks from the bar. They were pretty sweet, the bar itself is spectacular, and I had my first Bell's since August.

Outside of all that, we should be heading home sometime soon, whether by train or by car. If you're already home for Christmas (or whatever holiday you're celebrating at the moment), you're probably not having nearly the adventure that I am. So just remember that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!

It slowly occurs to me that I haven't posted anything new in over a month. I'm going to blame the end of the semester, but you're welcome to blame whatever you feel appropriate.

Today is, as you may know, the winter solstice. And, sadly, that means that it's the shortest day of the year: sunrise was at 10:56 AM, and sunset was at 2:43 PM, giving us less than four hours of daylight. Wahoo! I celebrated by waking up around noon and then biking on the Tanana River in minus 15 degree weather. It was an exhausting (and short) bike ride, but it offered some amazing views of the river and mountains, not to mention some awesome beard icicles.

Other than that, I'll be home sometime between Tuesday night/Wednesday afternoon, depending on whether I manage to escape from Chicago. It should prove easier than escaping from Los Angeles or New York, but I don't imagine I'll have to contend with a postapocalyptic society and rampant corruption. Wait, let's think about that last part.

Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying your break and/or winter, as the case may be. Merry Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Ramadan/Saturnalia/whatever you happen to celebrate at this time of year, and I'll hopefully be seeing some of you soon.That's part of the Alaska Range in the background (and a cross-country skiier). The picture on top is me, after I've returned home (thanks to Mary for taking the photo).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Democracy, Hockey, and Cross-Country Skiing

Wow, I'm pretty bad at this "updating" of the blog. But, in all fairness, things have been rather quiet around here. Although it appears that there was some sort of election recently, and that Alaskans may have been involved in this? I don't know, but this is what I'm hearing.

But seriously, though, when I said that Alaskans would probably re-elect Ted Stevens despite his convictions, I was kidding. Apparently, I didn't have to kid about it, because they were totally going to anyway. And before you go and equate this with the stupidity of Alaskans, understand that the majority of people here could care less what the rest of the country thinks about them, and they like Ted Stevens. Thus, they re-elect him, because they like him and they don't care that everyone else sees him as a crook.

Anyway, I've been to all 4 of the CCHA games that Alaska has played so far this year, and they've been pretty fun contests. They're 2-2 in those games, but since they beat Michigan Friday night 4-1 and lost last night 3-2, they're not a bad hockey team. If only their students were more creative and organized in their cheering, it'd be better than watching Western play. But alas, the students are sadly lacking the same creative anger that is found at Lawson, and so the only real entertainment is to be found on the ice.

I am also now officially an Alaskan. Friday afternoon, I went to the DMV and got my new driver's license and registered to vote in Alaska. Obviously, I was waiting until after the election to do this, because there were important things to vote for in Michigan and I didn't really know anything about the elections in Alaska. One thing that strikes me is the speed with which the DMV runs here. I got to the DMV, saw the person at the counter, took my written test, filled out my form, paid, got my picture taken, filled out my voter registration, and got my license in the space of about 30 minutes. Amazing. Not only that, but I actually had the license - not a piece of paper, but the actual license. If Alaska can do this, why can't Michigan? I mean, it's not that hard to have a little printer there, right? I'm pretty sure the DMV here in Fairbanks is serving the same number of people as the SoS in Kalamazoo, since there's only 1 office for all of FNSB (the North Star Borough, our "county"), and there are many more than that in Kalamazoo. Ah well, I'm over it.

I went cross-country skiing today for the first time ever, and I enjoyed it a lot. I also fell down a lot, and my enjoyment may or may not have been proportional to the number of falls I took. I'm not really sure about this. Ronni and I did see a moose, which was cool, but mostly because he didn't see us. My favorite part of doing pretty much anything outdoors here in the winter time is the large frost beard that you acquire, as well as the frost on the eyelashes and any hair that isn't under your hat. It's awesome, and I'll try to get pictures next time. I hope all is well in your worlds, and I'll be back in Michigan almost literally on Christmas Eve, so I'll hopefully see some of you then.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Electric Cars!

Well, it's been some time and I figured I'd give some sort of an update. After some sort of crazy warm-up at the end of last week, temperatures dropped like stocks and we've been going between highs of 18/19 degrees down to around 0 (all on Fahrenheit, mind you). Then, on the way to work this morning, my car registered -7 degrees, and the "official" temperature is at -4. So it's getting chilly. But, the snow has come back, and our wood pile is quite well stocked for the coming months. The cold temperatures mean, of course, that we all pull out our electric cars and drive those around. And by that I mean we start plugging our cars in at night (and during the day) to cut down on emissions when we start the car (warm engines pollute less), and also to make sure that the car starts. Frozen oil does no good to anyone.

We have a week or so of midterms starting next week, then back to the same old, same old. Most of the people in the office are down at NW Glaciology in Seattle, which means that it's kinda quiet here. Next year, I suppose that I'll be heading there (assuming that I actually do work, of course), which should be quite fun and interesting. For now, I should probably get back to studying sea ice and re-learning Linear Algebra.