Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yukon quest

This year, I missed seeing the top finishers of the 1000 mile Yukon Quest, which this year started in Whitehorse and finished here in Fairbanks. But, I did go out today to see the fourteenth team finish, of Luc Tweddell. Amazing. What separates him from the top finishers (besides two days on the trail) is an average speed of 5.4 mph instead of 5.9 mph for the top finishers. I could do that speed, but only for an hour or two, not hours on end. It was pretty cool to watch the dogs run smoothly towards the finish, another half mile or so further. And (in the video below) I am wrong: it was not the 10th team, but the 14th team that finished. I just had not kept up with things.

[Luc Tweddell nearly finished - 2009 Yukon Quest]

To remember in summertime how it is to skijor, here is a video for myself: skijoring on Chena with Cooper and Saphira.


As I am writing this, the wind is howling in the trees outside. Very unusual for Fairbanks. This place just does not have very much wind. There was a weather warning forecast for Steese Hwy, if I remember correctly. Some of the Yukon Quest teams are still out there, and have to cross Rosebud Dome, which sounds like it's very exposed. I hope they will be doing well. Iris wood is one of them. I think she is the daughter of Ann Wood, who used to be a wonderful librarian at the GI. Based on the Yukon quest web site profile of Iris, all of her dogs are from somewhere - the dog pound, or unwanted dogs from other mushers. That is cool that she is making a team and doing the quest with it.

Martin also pointed out the hilarious Profile of Sebastian Schnulle, who won the Quest. One funny character!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The days are getting longer

Amazing. These days, we head to work and school. And it is light outside. And we come home. And it is light outside. The sunshine even makes it into / onto our house these days, starting sometime in early February. Pretty soon, we will forget how night looks like.

Going to work and daycare this morning: except when it's very cold and the truck doesn't want to start, we do take two cars. Can't believe we are a two car family. Oh well.

This afternoon it was still light when we got home. Emilie really wanted to hold the handkerchief.

A couple days ago, the sun was shining onto the kitchen counter directly around 6pm... (that tongue is out most days, not just because the sun shines on it)

which was much stronger than the first sunlight that I saw from the house this year: the sun was barely visible through the trees in early February.

And now, with all of that sunsine, I better go and plant some seeds! Just have to decide whether to overtake Martin's windowsill at work (a nice one that faces south), or whether to try to rig up some grow light at home...).

One more note: this winter, we barely saw any aurora at night. Even the poker flat all sky camera near Fairbanks shows hardly any auroral activity. One reason that the nights during the winter this year were less exciting than normal.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fat Tuesday a year ago: Luzerne Fasnach (Carnival)

A couple movies from a year ago, when on Fat Tuesday I dragged the kids for a couple of hours to the Carnival in Luzerne, an hour's drive by train from Zurich. The catholic cantons (states) of Switzerland have Carnival, the big and loud celebration before the fasting before Easter begins. (The protestant cantons don't have it.) In Luzerne and elsewhere, Guggenmusic bands converge on cities and play loud and off-key music. Confetti is everywhere, even on the ground - very unswiss normally. People who watch all the show dress up too. There are some parades, but the guggenmusic groups also just randomly go through the streets. I nearly got run over a couple times by the head maestro of one of these groups, charging through the crowd - with the stroller, it was difficult to get out of the way fast.

Here is one of the groups. Some were dressed fancy. Some were dressed like aliens. Anything went, though each group had a unifying these. These guys...? I don't know what the heck they are:

And here is how the area looked like: onlookers were also dressed up, kids played in the streets (not very good movie, but somehow I like it, so here it is: random shots during Luzerne Fasnacht):

For fat tuesday / pancake tuesday, we have missed the pancakes at Eloise and Kevin's for the past who knows how many years, since they have moved way down south. E+K,Hope you're doing well! Sorry we missed yet another pancake tuesday at your place! When you were apparently doing this several weeks ago:

I was doing this (in Eloise's carharrt suit): taking the dogs for a walk at 40 below. The dog that was loose did not cooperate for the picture.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Alaskan love and Swiss love

Alaskan love a week ago on valentine's day in our entryway. Those mukluks rock! We don't wear almost anything else on our feet in wintertime unless it's ski boots.

Swiss love last Valentine's day on our table (fourth? or more fondue this winter) and at our table (Manuela and yet another Swiss Martin).

Kasper's kicksled

Last weekend, while I skijored with the dogs, Martin met up with Kasper and his dad BJ. First they sledded downhill on the university hill, then they came to watch the skijorers on the university trails. They hooked up Bolto to Kasper's sled, and Kasper rode in the basket, while Sonja stood behind him on the sled runners. Apparently it was a big hit. We might have to get a kicksled now too :).

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Some pics from the last couple weeks: each girl had ponytails at some point. Poor Cooper has some serious one-on-one time from Emilie.

Dorte and Kasper came to visit and play today. Sonja and Emilie loved it, and we hope that Kasper had fun too. We played indoors, and then sledded outside, and went on a small trail through the woods that Martin and Sonja brushed out. I only managed to remember to take a picture as our visitors were leaving. Kasper is wearing outdoor boots, but is taller than Sonja by a couple inches even without them.

Old work, new work

Last Friday was the last day in the temporary job I had, driving a car with an air quality instrument mounted in it, for the borough. It took me all over the place. One of the cool signs in Fairbanks:

A bad day: instantaneous (1 second) values of 600 ug/m3 (micrograms per meter cubed) of PM2.5 (2.5 micron particles) air pollution. If the average over 24 hours exceeds 35 ug/m3, the EPA is interested.

The drive would take me down past the now-closed Samson Hardware. I liked that hardware shop, a lot of old-fashioned tools there. Too bad they closed. From what I understood, they had to close due to the realignment of the Cushman St bridge, not due to the recession, but it is doubtful they will reopen elsewhere.

Bad air quality day on the Richardson highway in North Pole.

Jim, the boss. Some of you know him. (ok, one of my two readers, to be exact)

Outside the new work. (I will be doing logistics for scientists coming to do research in Alaska.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A trip to Mary's cabin

Now that I can export, here we go...

Four years ago, at the NAEC auction, we bid and won a trip to Mary's cabin: our stuff was transported in by Mary and a friend of hers with their two dog teams, and we were responsible for getting ourselves the ten miles from the road to the cabin. At that time, she extended an invitation for future visits. We have been taking her up on the offer each year ever since.

This year, after the two weeks of fourty below, when the weather warmed to fourty above two weeks ago, Martin called her up, and she said we were welcome to go. So we did. Jason and Inari came with us. We borrowed the double chariot from Matt and Kris (thanks!). Between the double chariot, two kids, a big backpack with two sleeping bags and all the rest of our stuff, two dogs, two pairs of skis and poles, and two adults, the car was rather full.

At the trailhead, I discovered that I forgot my skiboots at home, so the others got going while I drove back (with the dogs, so that I could catch up to the rest of the party), got the bag with the boots, and arrived at the trailhead an hour after I left it.
The trail was a bit icy in the beginning due to the very warm temperatures, then after a few miles was nice. The dogs pulled like crazy. I caught up with the rest after half an hour. Then, Martin got the dogs (he already had the kids), and we continued on the way. The overflows were not as bad as two years ago when we went (or was it three?). The trail was longer than what we remembered: 10 miles, not 7. Overall, very nice.

At the cabin:

On the way back, I got Saphira to pull me, and Martin was pulled by Cooper.

We also met Celso and Barbara nearly by the car. Those guys tried to go to a cabin, but the Chena River was not frozen, so they went on a day trip instead:

All of that, plus two adults, have to fit into the car.

My love-hate relationship to Photoworks

(or how I solved the problem with the export from iPhoto on my mac after I installed the Photoworks Photostreamer software and its plugin for iPhoto)

Over the last more than five years, we create a calendar of pictures from the previous year and send it to our immediate family, for the most part. We've been using Photoworks because we like the Architect calendar that they offer. But, each year I end up wondering why did I use them - there is always something wrong.

A couple years ago, we ordered the calendar around Thanksgiving, and then were told we won't be seeing them for 8 weeks, until January. In the meantime, my mailbox was being filled with the typical Photoworks emails promising calendars 20% off, still in time for the holidays. At that time, I called the company to ask them to cancel the order, with the intention of putting a new one in that would presumably arrive by the holidays.

Anyways, it has been a love-hate relationship for a number of years.

This year I thought this were actually looking fine. I downloaded the photoworks software, photostreamer, and installed it on my mac. When it asked me if I wanted to install the plugin for iPhoto to export directly to Photoworks, I thought that sounded like an OK idea, so I chose that.

Unfortunately, after I did that, I could no longer export anything. At all. The export window of iPhoto did not come up when I went to File > Export.

I finally decided to call Photoworks a week ago. They said they are aware of the problem (so why don't you have a disclaimer there????), but the only solution they have is to remove Photostreamer and reinstall iPhoto.

I am a bit wary of reinstalling iPhoto since I don't know whether the whole Mac OS has to be reinstalled (it is I think in the bundled software), so I checked around the web. I found this discussion: Photoworks Plugin on the apple web site. Someone said he thought may be the picasa plugin was interacting badly with the photoworks plugin.

From that, I got a partial solution: the export window now works.

What I did (with iPhoto closed):
-remove Photostreamer, the photoworks software
-in a Finder window, under applications, click once on iPhoto to highlight it. Then choose the gears button (what is that called?) to select "Show package contents". In the new window, double click to get inside, then go into plugins, and drag the picasa plugin into the trash basket.

Voila. Now I get the export window, and can export pictures. There is a photoworks tab still there, not usable, but that doesn't bother me.

I hope this helps others. As for photoworks: before releasing software, please try to install it on a computer that already has other software that people likely have installed. If I knew I would not be able to "export" anything at all, I would not have chosen to install your darn plugin. This sure was annoying. Did not make a good impression of your company. But guess what. Since I do like your calendars, I am likely to order from you next thanksgiving again. Love-hate relationship.


Yesterday afternoon, Martin felt he has not increased his cholesterol in a while, so he called up Keith and Susan to see if they wanted to come over and have some fondue. Fondue is a bit of a social meal, better in company. Luckily for Martin, Keith and Susan were interested (though my impression was we were going to have fondue no matter what).

After Keith and Susan arrived, we had a slight moment of "oh oh" (as Emilie would say these days) when Martin realized he had no more jell to put into the burner. But, in a moment of brilliance, he suggested we use tealights, and so we put four of them below the pot and it worked just fine.

As we sat down around the table, Emilie showed us that she knew what one does: she immediately put a piece of bread on her fork. It was hilarious. And she chowed down several pieces of the bread dipped in the melted cheese.

After dinner, Sonja very easily managed to get Susan to read to her and Emilie and to play many games - Chutes and Ladders, Feed the Kitty, and Memory. A fun evening was had by all. And, amazingly, Martin did not overeat.