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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Portland Conference

Weeping willows and downtown Portland

On my way back from the roommate reunion I stopped off in Portland, OR for a work-related Arctic Horizons Conference at Portland State University.  The point of the conference was to discuss the status and future of Arctic Social Science with a eye towards what the National Science Foundation should be funding - an attempt to set the priorities so to speak.  The National Science Foundation is holding a number of such meetings around the country and hopes to come up with a document to help guide future funding and work.

Anyway, I had a great time and got meet a number of arctic researchers I had never met before.  I also got to hang out with a number of old friends.  It made a strange contrast with the roommate reunion - a reunion of work related friends.

Once the conference was over I took a walk around Portland.  I crossed a really cool bridge and walked along the river for a couple of miles.  Downtown Portland was reflected on the Willamette River. Then I had a pizza and beer and wandered back to my hotel through downtown Portland.  I don't often get to explore in cities.  Patrick

Dramatic view of willows by river (same as pictured above)

River walk along the Willamatte River

Downtown Portland

MOD pizza for lunch

New pedestrian, bike and light transit bridge across the Willamette River

Skiing with the roommates

Packed powder at Taos

Last week my college roommates and I spent 3 days skiing at Taos,  New Mexico.  All 8 roommates made the road trip, and this is some 28 years after graduation!  Even more impressive is that everyone - all of us pushing 50 - skis.

For this year's trip we decided to drop in our roommate Mark G's world at Taos where he is the bartender everyone seems to know. We started to call him the 'mayor'.

The skiing was excellent.  A few days before we arrived it snowed a couple of feet.  And while we were there it was sunny every day with no wind.  However, I was impressed with how cold it gets in New Mexico.  There were single degree temperatures on the mountain. Still it seemed to warm up into the 20s every day, and it never felt cold while skiing. Just Perfect.

Now those are some big beers and we did ski afterwards

Whitney the waitress picture - 'you're all so adorable'

Top of the mountain

Tomas, Mark, Eric, Tom, Sven and Lanny - Larry joined us the next day

Eric and his little 'ISIS' friend

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Groundhog Day On Kodiak

Not sure what it means on Kodiak when you see your shadow on Groundhog Day.  The sun did shine in the morning.  Later in the day there were no shadows while skiing on the mountain and it was snowing.  Ordinarily 6 more weeks of winter would mean an early spring.  But this year we have not had winter yet either.  On top of that there are no groundhogs on Kodiak - so I am pretty sure that none saw their shadow. So it's complicated. Hopefully all this means is that winter will come, and it will stick around until at least Mid May - that would be 14 more weeks of winter!   Patrick

Let it SNOW!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Boneyard

Doggy and Elk Bone Taphonomy in action

As an archaeologist I love watching what our dogs do to the bones in our yard.  Archaeology is all about learning about people's past behavior by studying what they left behind.  And a big part of that is studying food bones in trash heaps.  By studying the bones archaeologists can learn what people were hunting, and even a lot about how they were doing it.  For instance, were they bringing the whole animal back to camp?  Did they focus on hunting a particular age class of animal?  Did certain people in a village eat higher quality food than others etc?

However, archaeologists also have to be aware of what happened to the bones they study after they were thrown away but before they were dug up in an archaeological excavation.  What processes might be skewing the patterns archaeologists see when they analyze the bones? Taphonomy is originally a term used by paleontologists to describe the process an organism goes through before its bones ended up in the fossil record.  Archaeologists have borrowed this term to describe the processes occurring to animal bones before they are discovered in an excavation.

So to get back to my yard - what would an archaeologist 200 years in the future make of the trash in my yard?  Just judging by what is shown in the picture above the archaeologist would think the inhabitants drank soda, beer, and soup purchased from a store (the cans blew out of the recycle bin), and ate a lot of elk and a little deer (I see 4 large elk and 3 possible deer and or goat/reindeer bones).  If they were really good they would also notice that there are no axial skeleton bones in my yard.  This would indicate that the animals were butchered in the field and only the 'bone in meat' was carried back to the house.  But I wonder if they would be able to account for what the dogs do to the bones in my yard?

Each year I butcher quite a few deer, and their bones along with a few from various other animals such as reindeer, mountain goat and elk make it into my yard.  And I'll add that fish bones go straight back into the ocean!  What's amazing is that year after year all that remains in my yard by spring is the elk bones.  The bones from the smaller animals all get totally crunched and eaten up by the dogs. But not the elk bones - it seems they are too big and robust for my doggie's teeth and jaw muscles.

So if you were to excavate my yard and did not consider the doggy taphonomic processes going on you would get a skewed picture of the animal bones that originally ended up in my yard.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Snow and Ice

I swear there is a patch of blue sky above

The 2 last days here on Kodiak have been gorgeous - brilliant sunshine and very little wind.  A brilliant day to be be out and about in the mild weather.  And yet on the mountain the skiing is terrible - Pyramid is mantled with a big sheet of ice.  Clear skies mean freezing temperatures at night.

Prior to the recent sunshine, I've been battling the elements during my daily climb up the mountain for my afternoon ski.  Rain, snow and screaming winds have been the norm.  And yet the skiing has often been great - as long as you could see where you were going.  Nasty weather generally means warm temperatures and soft snow.

Now if we could just get one of those days where there is BOTH soft powder and sunny skies . .. ... 

Looking pretty clear

Oh well, at least it's snow and not rain

Soft snow and low vis

Kodiak Boilerplate - but excellent visibility and even blue skies!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One that almost got away - Gregg's Birthday

In early January we had an impromptu 60th birthday party for Gregg.  Lisa made Halibut enchiladas and a brownie cake and Gregg wore the traditional Saltonstall birthday hat.  A simple and relaxing birthday party.  Patrick

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Another ski & hike day

 Sunday was another stormy day.  At first light I climbed up the mountain and batted around in a whiteout.  The snow was pretty good, but every once in a while you'd hit an unexpected drift.  I took a few photos of Philip enjoying that 'free falling' feeling you get skiing in a whiteout.  At times it was snowing pretty hard up there.

Then back at the house the family went for a hike in the woods in the rain.  The woods were very green and foggy.  A totally different experience.

At Nora's suggestion we explored Russian Ridge a trail we'd never hiked before.  Amazing to find such a wild place so close to town.  Patrick

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Etiquette Dinner with Troop #118

Sue and Coral serving the fruit kabob appetizers

group photo
 This evening my girl scout troop enjoyed an "Etiquette dinner" where we learned the ins and outs of table manners.

The idea came to me after visiting my in-laws last November where I realized I hadn't ever formally taught Nora and Stuey formal table manners. In reflection, i remember learning many of my table manner basics at sleep over summer camp. On one of the final nights of camp the leader showed us how to set a formal table and use the utensils correctly.

The dinner was complete with fruit/cheese/veggie kabob appetizers, martinilis sparkling cider, salad, rice, chicken parm and jello parfait cups. The parfait cups were such a delight for the scouts.

The girls shared their family etiquette traditions and together we ate with most of our elbows off the table, took bite size portions, put our fork and knive across our table when we were done with our meals....and most importantly~they tried a bite of everything and didn't comment if they didn't like something.

It will be fun to have this dinner as an annual troop tradition-something a little formal and fun!


say "fruit salad!"

setting the table together

Dessert! Woo-hoo!

Stormy Weather

Today in the 'jibber' bowl on Pyramid - snowing like crazy

 The weather really is stuck in a rut.  There is this big jet that's been hitting southeast Alaska and then bending over backwards towards us.  One storm after another has been coming in on the jet.  Pretty much rain and 39 degrees all the time.

Funnily enough for a while there the rain guage at the Kodiak weather station was broken so it did not look like it was raining all that much.  One morning after moderate rain all night, and yet only .03 inches of reported precipitation  I gave them a call and they admitted that it was broken.  Maybe that's why until a few days ago we were still below normal precip for the month of January.

But I have not minded the storms because it has been snowing pretty good on Pyramid.  In the last few days we got 2 to 3 feet of new snow on the mountain.  We now have more snow on the mountain than we had ALL LAST YEAR (albeit not all that high of a bar).

So dismal in town but snow on the mountain - It looks like the 'cup is half full'  Patrick

Spruce Cape today in the rain