sholio: (Fireweed blossoms)
Still awake at 2 a.m., and I happened to look out the window and notice the sky in the north was really beautiful, in that odd intersection of dusk and dawn that happens when there's only an hour or two between sunset and sunrise. So I had to run out and take some pictures. This is 2 a.m. on the summer solstice, just south of the Arctic Circle.

Pictures under the cut )


May. 24th, 2017 03:12 pm
sholio: Autumn leaf frosted at edges (Autumn-frosted leaf)
I clicked in a special weather statement and discovered THIS ATROCITY:

... Snow at higher elevations of the interior through Friday...

Snow will develop at elevations above 1000 feet late tonight and Thursday. Snow will melt after it hits the ground in most areas, but above 2000 feet of elevation snow could stick... with 2 to 4 inches of accumulation. This accumulating snow is expected to impact the summits of the Elliott, Dalton and Steese highways and the Richardson Highway through the Alaska Range.

It's almost the end of MAAAAYYYYYYY ...

Well, the summer I worked in Denali Park, it very memorably dumped several inches of snow around June 6 or so, and my husband likes to talk about the year it snowed in his hometown (Glennallen) on the Fourth of July parade, so I shouldn't complain too much or I'll probably regret it. I'm glad I haven't put my garden in yet, though.
sholio: Berries in the sun (Autumn-berries in sunlight)
I drove my husband to the airport at 4 a.m. this morning for a business trip. It was broad daylight when we left the house, and the sun was coming up by the time we got to town -- we live out of town a little ways on the highway. We marveled at the post-apocalyptic feeling ... from the quality of the light, it felt like it should be 7 or 8 a.m., but all the parking lots and roads were nearly empty, the businesses closed.

According to the paper, we had our last official "dark" night a couple of days ago; the next one will be 72 days later, on July 27. (i.e. we no longer experience anything darker than civil twilight -- the nights are now bright enough to perform activities outside without needing extra light.) At this point it's still getting noticeably dim at night, but in a week or two it won't even be doing that anymore. We never really get to the point here where the sun literally doesn't set (we're still south of the Arctic Circle, in other words) but by mid-June it's only dipping below the horizon for an hour or so in the very middle of the night.

Hello, two and a half months of light. We have to fill up our daylight tanks in the summer; we'll need it when the winter darkness comes!
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
We live roughly 20 miles south of Poker Flat Research Range ("the largest land-based rocket research range in the world and the only high-latitude rocket range in the United States" according to their website), which means we're close enough to watch/hear rocket launches if we happen to catch them. We rarely do, since most of what they do is aurora research and it's very spur-of-the-moment -- instead of scheduled launches, they wait for active aurora displays and launch rockets into the aurora itself to study it.

But we got a really fantastic view of one tonight, and they're currently holding for a launch window on another rocket, so we may get to see another. :D btw, you can stalk the rocket range on Twitter, where they often post livestream links. (Tonight's livestream.)

So what does a rocket launch look like? First of all, while they're nothing whatsoever like the scale of a manned launch, these rockets are not tiny. They're as much as 80 feet tall. Even from 20 miles away, it sounds like a jet taking off -- a loud, deep rumble. Watching tonight, we first heard the rumble, then saw a flash that lit up the horizon (I feel as if it should be the other way around due to speed of light vs. speed of sound, but they launched two rockets more or less at once, so we might've been hearing one and seeing the other). After that, there is a very bright orange spark traveling upward, framed against the stars. These are old-fashioned chemical rockets with stages, and when a stage falls, there's another bright flash and then you can see the glowing expended stage falling while the rest of the rocket continues upward.

(PFRR offers a reward to civilian hikers/hunters for finding rocket stages in the woods and calling in their location. It's pretty much all wilderness up here, so you're highly unlikely to have one fall *on* you. I mean, you'd have to have the world's worst luck for that. We hope.)

When the rocket reaches its target altitude, it releases a cloud of chemicals that disperse into the aurora and are used to study the ionization, solar wind, etc etc technobabble. We could see this very clearly tonight, a bright cloud expanding slowly in a curving squiggle as the rocket dumped its payload in the upper atmosphere. I don't think I'd realized that the chemicals they use fluoresce in the visible spectrum. I've seen pictures, but I guess I thought it was enhanced -- I've never seen the payload dumping in person before. But it's very bright!

Here's a timelapse/composite image showing the above-mentioned process (those bright white smudges are the payload release, but viewed in realtime, it really looks like more of an unwinding spiral or S curve -- also notice the slightly alarming, flaming "ploofs" in the bottom right-center where either the rocket stages or part of the rockets themselves have fallen back to earth). And here's another image showing what a launch looks like to the bare eye, though we're too far away to see details, so all we can see is a rising orange-white flare.

PFRR offers weekly tours of their facility and we took one of the tours last fall, so we got to walk around the launch gantries and see the control room and bunker (of course they have a bunker) and all of that. :D They're super friendly and delighted to talk about their work with civilians, and during our tour we were fortunate that the facility manager was on site and conducting part of the tour, which apparently is rare, so she was able to answer even the most technical and esoteric of questions.

My tax dollars at work! Take my money, NASA!

ETA: Sweet, here's a photo of tonight's payload release. That's what it looked like -- the curvy pale smear in the center of the two arms of the aurora.
sholio: Jack and Peggy from Agent Carter (Avengers-Jack Peggy)
Somehow on tumblr I ended up writing some bits of an Agent Carter YA paranormal romance AU. (I'm linking to one of the reblogs instead of the original because the reblog notes are GOLDEN. I also love this reblog speculating on werewolves with three legs. Please tell me I have many things to write and I do not need to write an Agent Carter high school paranormal AU.

My Agent Carter season one rewatch stalled out after two episodes because I've been too busy to watch TV. If you judged me based on the general content of this blog, you might think I never do anything but watch TV, but in actual fact I watch very little. It seems to go in cycles; I'll get hooked on something and watch a bunch of it, then lose interest and won't watch anything for a month. The last couple of weeks, I've been in a "not watching anything" phase. However, I've now gotten the next Lauren novel off to beta, and cleared a bunch of other "to do" stuff off my plate (WHY ARE TAXES), and I'm looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks in a more leisurely mode: catching up on stuff, spring cleaning, working on my Kismet page buffer, rewatching more Agent Carter, and so forth. But most importantly, not being under a huge brain-consuming deadline.

Other things I have neglected to mention lately: [ profile] ellenmillion has a Kickstarter you should check out - (More!) Fantasy Coloring Books for (so-called) Grown-ups. I did the editing on the video, featuring Ellen's acting talents. I am especially proud of the 1960s-Batman-inspired special effects and the cheesy logo morph at the end.

Finally, I give you a very Alaskan photo. (Link goes to Facebook; I don't think you have to be logged in to see it.)

ETA: Picture of migrating trumpeter swans that I took this afternoon at our local wildlife refuge and posted to Tumblr. We are having record numbers of them this year. It's the first time I've been out there this spring and I think I missed Peak Swan, but there were still a lot of them, mostly traveling in pairs.
sholio: Snow-covered trees (Winter-snowy trees)
We had a roughly 6-hour power outage last night, always slightly nervewracking in below-zero weather. It's fascinating how much more appealing going to bed suddenly becomes when it's pitch dark, there's no Internet, and the only heat is the residual heat remaining in the hot-water radiators. At least it was closer to midnight than to, say, 5 p.m. (It gets dark about 4 in the afternoon, these days.) I tried doing some art by the light of a small LED lantern, but it was too dim to be fun, so I read a little and went to bed. Power came back around 5:30 a.m.

I grew up without electricity -- we didn't get it until I was around 13 or 14 -- so all my winters were like that once upon a time, long and dark and lit only by kerosene lamps and the flickering of the fire. Now? Now I complain if I have to go for half an hour in the darkest heart of winter without my bright overhead fluorescent lights and my Internet.

There was something strikingly peaceful about it, though .... reminiscent of my cabin childhood. The house gets so shockingly quiet without the background hum of electronics and the refrigerator. We're far enough out in the country that there's little traffic, and the handful of neighbor lights normally visible from the windows were out as well. The moon was very bright, the night very clear. No distractions, no Internet, no temptation to turn on some device. Orion went to bed immediately, like a sensible person, so it was just me and the moon (and a rather anxious dog) until I got tired of straining my eyes trying to read, and went to bed myself.
sholio: Snow-covered trees (Winter-snowy trees)
Nov. 24: art installation consisting of 85 incredibly disturbing and painstakingly constructed human figures is installed on the beach at Cook Inlet, near Anchorage. Official opening is set for Dec. 5. I should note that the Alaskan ocean coast, as you might expect, is known for terrifically destructive winds, tides, etc. This is also just about the creepiest piece of art I've ever seen, omfg.

(Orion and I, watching the video of the installment of the figures, as the tides visibly cause them to wobble and tilt even while they're being put in: "Wow, that's not going to last long.")

Nov. 25, i.e. the very next day: All but 11 of them have been completely demolished.

Even 11 statues erected at the top of the bluff, high above the water, were affected. Of the four closest to the Point Woronzof Park parking lot three had pitched forward, their rebar supports bent at 30 to 40 degree angles. One’s first reaction was that they had been vandalized, but as this reporter and an Alaska Dispatch News photographer watched, the fourth, touched only by wind, slowly leaned over and joined its companions on the ground.

I am laughing so hard right now. I know I shouldn't be dying of laughter at the wreckage of an artist's hopes and dreams, especially a ~serious art project~ about depression and mental illness, but ... THE VERY NEXT DAY. They didn't make it to the exhibit opening. They didn't even make it to the end of the week! Alaskan weather does not mess around. And apparently it's an art critic.

My hopelessly inappropriate laughter is not being helped by the photo they used to illustrate the second article:

oh the humanity
sholio: Autumn leaf frosted at edges (Autumn-frosted leaf)
This article in the Alaska Dispatch News on Attu Island (site of the only WWII fighting on American soil) is worth it for the slideshow of the island's fascinating post-apocalyptic wilderness. Well, I guess some people's "fascinating post-apocalyptic" is someone else's "appalling environmental horrors", but I thought it was interesting to see what 70 years of Aleutian weather looks like on buildings, fuel tanks, and other war debris, with its own kind of weird, terrible beauty.

In other Alaska-related linkage, I recently fell down the nostalgia pit at this site: Growing up in Anchorage. A lot of the posts on the site are before my time, since I was born in the '70s, but the part of the site that really sent me down the nostalgia hole was the memories of the owner/founder of Chilkoot Charlie's, a notorious bar in a notorious part of Anchorage where I lived, at various times, off and on through the '80s and early '90s.

My childhood was largely spent in Bush Alaska in a cabin off the road system, but my parents were separated and my dad lived in Anchorage, invariably in the worst parts of Anchorage since he could never afford rent and was perpetually getting evicted from various apartments and trailers; so I spent quite a bit of time there, especially after I started having chronic health problems when I was around 8 or 9 and therefore needed to be in town a lot. A number of those apartments were in Spenard, an Anchorage neighborhood which had cheap rent because it was, well, terrible.

... or at least very unique. It's gentrified somewhat over the last couple of decades, but when I was there, it was full of low-rent motels, biker bars, strip clubs, and X-rated bookstores, as well as a lot of strip malls with more normal sorts of business, such as Anchorage's only comic store (a favorite haunt of mine as a kid) and Blaine's, the local art supply store. At one time we lived just a couple of blocks from Chilkoot Charlie's, just behind its famous windmill. The comic store was across the street and I used to walk past the bar to get there.

A few select posts from the Chilkoot Charlie's guy: trying not to get murdered by bikers (the bit about the guy with the shotgun on the roof, good lord); Anchorage's second gay bar (burned down by the owner of Anchorage's first gay bar); a somewhat less censored version of the windmill story linked at the ADN site above (and now I know why there used to be a two-headed pig on the old Chilkoot Charlie's sign; somehow people never seem to talk about these things with 10-year-olds).

... Anchorage in the '80s, man. I think it was just in the last few years that I realized how different the '80s were in Alaska than everywhere else in the country. The 1980s in most of the U.S.: hair bands, bubblegum pop, and multicolored leg warmers. The 1980s in Alaska: recession, concrete architecture, unemployment, and strippers.
sholio: brightly colored Christmas cookies (Christmas cookies red-green)
First use of my Christmas icons this year! \o/

Santa Claus wins seat on North Pole City Council.

You may think this is from a joke website, BUT NO. It is actually from our local newspaper.

North Pole is a town about 15 miles south of Fairbanks. The municipal elections around here are the first week in October, and ... WELL ...

After no candidates officially filed for the two open council seats, Claus launched a write-in campaign two weeks before the Oct. 6 election and took to the streets of the city “Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round” in his red velvet outfit and campaign sign.

The votes were tallied and released Tuesday.

Claus, who legally changed his name to the jolly gift-giver from Thomas Patrick O'Connor, received 58 write-in votes from the 2,200-person city and will join the six-member City Council.

And people wonder why I live here.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Back in Fairbanks! And I managed to dodge most of the goddawful rain/snow/ick and squeaked through in a comparatively stable spell. Except for a heavy fog between Wasilla and Trapper Creek (which is about an hour and a half of a 6-hour drive), the pavement was dry and I cruised through most of it at 75 mph.

It's definitely winter in Denali now:


And a walk with the pets (doing their "Incredible Journey" impression) in the melting driveway this evening. So springlike!

sholio: Berries in the sun (Autumn-berries in sunlight)
I am temporarily sneaking onto my grandma's internet (hiding out in the bedroom XD). I drove down this weekend to have a table at Senshi-Con, Anchorage's anime con (more on that in a minute). I am staying for the next few days to help Grandma move into her new senior-facility apartment and to provide various forms of assistance for my mom in facilitating the process.

Last night I couldn't sleep for awhile and I ended up writing a long report on Senshi-Con, which I did not have Internet to post, so that follows under the cut, and then some late-fall pictures from the Fairbanks-to-Anchorage drive last Thursday.

Senshi-Con )

Denali pictures )
sholio: (Fireweed blossoms)
I love my family dearly, and truly enjoy spending time with them; however, after three weeks of travel/visiting/houseguests, I am greatly enjoying having the house to myself again. I dropped off my mom and sister at the train station early this morning, and have had a very relaxing day of writing, working in the garden, and generally enjoying peace and solitude. And now I have a glass of wine, for a mellow evening.

(Although the wildfire smoke has been absolutely miserable today. I posted this to Tumblr earlier, by way of illustrating why it feels like breathing soup out there. Smoke-flavored soup. It did clear out a bit this evening, however.)

I also have a completely frivolous poll. Crossposting polls is a pain because you have to create them in both places, and there's really no point for a silly little poll like this one, but please do feel free to let me know in the LJ comments if you like any of these, or have any suggestions. :) The thing is, I've been posting my garden pictures periodically to Facebook for a few years now, but I think it might be fun to create a garden sideblog on Tumblr so I have a proper place to put them, and if I do that, I need a name for it.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 23

What should I call my garden blog?

View Answers

5 (22.7%)

1 (4.5%)

3 (13.6%)

4 (18.2%)

11 (50.0%)

4 (18.2%)

something else (suggest in comments)
1 (4.5%)

6 (27.3%)

Should I allow other people to contribute THEIR garden photos, if they fit the Alaska theme?

View Answers

Sure, why not?
13 (59.1%)

No, that is a terrible idea
0 (0.0%)

mmmmmmaybe ...?
9 (40.9%)

ETA: alaskangarden was suggested in the DW comments. I don't know why I didn't think of that one on my own, because I like it best so far! :)

ETA2: Also alaskangardener, which I like as well! Though it's leaning toward the long end of things.
sholio: Autumn leaf frosted at edges (Autumn-frosted leaf)
I am hoooooome -- for a week; got in late last night, and then I woke up this morning and THIS was happening.



It couldn't have held off one more day 'til I could finish getting the garden tucked in? That's wonderful, Alaska. Thanks so much.

(But it is nice to be tucked inside with a cup of tea, a warm cat and an emotionally needy dog while it snows outside.)
sholio: Autumn leaf frosted at edges (Autumn-frosted leaf)
It's so coooooold. You know what the high is supposed to be tomorrow? 52. DEGREES. (That's Fahrenheit, obviously. It sounds even worse in C.)

I might have to break down and make a fire.

sholio: Berries in the sun (Autumn-berries in sunlight)
We have passed the point where our nights no longer get dark (we won't have dark nights again until the end of July), so I climbed to the upper deck just now to take a few pictures and show you what it looks like at midnight here. :)

How about some CREEPY GHOST TREES.

Two more pictures of our incredibly messy yard under the cut )
sholio: brightly colored Christmas cookies (Christmas cookies red-green)
When I asked for posting ideas (still taking requests if you like, in the understanding that I may not write all of these, or even most of these!) [personal profile] leesa_perrie asked about my favorite Christmas memory.

The interesting thing is that once I got to thinking about it, most of my really vivid Christmas memories are, uh, bad. I really like Christmas, I still get kind of excited about it, and I had the whole "big anticipation of Christmas!" thing as a kid, but I don't remember too many Christmases in enough detail to really talk about them.

I don't want it to sound like all my Christmases were miserable, because they truly weren't! Most of them were great! They just don't stand out all that much ... It's not really specific recollections so much as a lot of little memories of cutting Christmas trees in the woods, or shaking out our stockings by the wood stove in a cold house in the morning. Nothing that really stands out as a "best of" memory.

But then I thought, oh hey, what about 2008! This was one of the only Christmases that I really did anything as an adult. I spent most of December at my sister's place that year. She was living in a little rented mobile home trailer, but we bought a tree and a whole bunch of blue and silver decorations, and we dressed up the trailer beautifully, and cooked lots of tasty foods, and watched tons of stupid Christmas movies and TV shows. So yeah, I think that one is probably it. :D

Another of my really memorable Christmas memories from childhood also involves my sister, although I'm not sure if this would really count as a good memory, but it's one of those things that feels incredibly good once you've done it, I guess? We were around age 15 and 13, I guess, or 14 and 12 (we're 2 years apart), and had been left to watch the homestead by ourselves. Like I've mentioned in some other posts, I grew up in bush Alaska, and there weren't any roads. Our parents went into town to do Christmas shopping and got stuck there by a blizzard that dumped 2 feet of wet, heavy snow. The nearest place where you could land an airplane (small planes, on floats in the summer and skis in winter) was, and is, a few miles from the house. Two days before Christmas, we set out to break trail so that my mom and little brother could get home. (I can't remember if this included my dad as well. I seem to recall parents, plural, but that would make us even younger, and I don't think we were that small; I don't think they ever left us alone out there until I, as the oldest child, was in my early teens.)

Anyway, we had the unenviable task of breaking 3 miles of trail in heavy, dense wet snow. We quickly found out that the snowmobile could not fight its way through the snow; it just bogged down and overheated. So we took a pair of snowshoes with us, and we would take turns. One sister would strap on the snowshoes and break trail, while the other one sat on the snowmobile and rested. Then she'd catch up on the snowmobile and we would trade off. Snowshoeing through wet, heavy snow is absolutely miserable and exhausting, and even with the trail broken out by snowshoes, the snowmobile was still pushed to its absolute limits to wallow through the sloppy snow without falling off the trail. (We weren't very strong and had trouble keeping it pointed straight in those conditions.) It took us literally ALL DAY to make it down to the plowed airstrip, and I think we ended up spending the night at a neighbor's because we were bone tired, it was dark, and there wasn't even a chance that we could make it home that night. But hey, we had a planeful of parents and presents waiting for us, so we still had a good Christmas. :D
sholio: Ice-covered berries (Winter-icy berries)
Yesterday I went for a long walk on the creek in the spring sunshine. (The fact that you can still walk easily and safely on the creek ice is one of the many symptoms that we're stuck in Narnia this year: always winter, never Christmas!) Along the way I heard a birdsong I've never heard before, which made me pause to try to figure out what was making it -- I'm always interested in seeing something new. And it was a really odd song, a cheerful twitter that would occasionally shift to a low raspy tone. Eventually I located the culprit, a northern shrike perched in the top of an aspen on the bank. (Here is a singing shrike - it shifts to the raspy note at about 0:39.) I was ridiculously excited about this, since I knew that shrikes are all over Alaska but I'm not sure if I've ever actually seen one, and definitely not here.

So I had to share this exciting discovery when I got home.

Me: I saw a shrike today!
Husband: What's a shrike?

I was prepared for this, so I launched into an explanation.

Me: It's a small predatory bird, about the size of a jay -- here, I can get the birdbook and show you a picture --
Him: Could you be a little less specific? Okay, it's a bird. Got it.

Undaunted, I showed him the picture in the book.

Him: Okay, so it's a gray bird.
Me: ... yes, it's a gray bird.

He finds my fascination with plants and animals completely baffling, because to him there are few things less interesting than identifying songbirds by sound or figuring out the finer points of distinction between willows and alders. (But it's fun!)

On a completely different subject, I cannot get over how strange and wrong it feels to reblog uncut spoiler posts about the new Iron Man movie on Tumblr. I know it's how things work over there and people filter things via tags, but it feels like the worst kind of fannish etiquette failure to me. (If you want to follow me there, my tumblr is icefallstudio. The original idea when I created it a year or so ago was that I'd post my art there, but that hasn't really happened - although it may eventually! - so at the moment I'm just using it for reblogging IM3 squeeflail.)
sholio: Christmas ornaments (Christmas ornament)
Our stats for sunrise and sunset today according to Weather Underground:

Sunrise: 10:55 AM AKST
Sunset: 2:52 PM AKST


Adding insult to injury, the sun won't actually shine on our house until early February, because the sun is so low on the horizon at this time of year that it doesn't rise above the hill to the south of us. What this looks like is that the sky gets clear and blue, and the yard gets sort of bright, like a densely cloudy day ... and then sunset happens. Repeat until February.

(The light also has a pinkish cast all day long, like sunset, because the sun never rises above that low sunset angle. On the bright side, we do have awesome winter sunsets that last all day, allowing for the fact that "day" is three hours long.)

Just in case you were thinking about moving to Fairbanks.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)

Short version: homesteader packs up his 22 beloved cats and heads to town for supply run and booty call (yes, really). Lives in a friend's shipping container while attempting to find a woman for said booty call (I cannot imagine why he's having trouble with this part), meanwhile storing all 22 cats in his Toyota hatchback. City confiscates cats. Cat custody battle ensues.

Sometimes there is just not enough *facepalm* in the world.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Not exactly how I was planning on spending part of my afternoon .... I called yesterday about getting a coal delivery -- our heating system is an outdoor boiler than burns coal for heat (it's a long story, and we really would like to replace it with something more eco-friendly and less of a hassle to feed, but can't afford to put in a whole new system). With the unusually cold weather (well, more like usually cold weather, but the last few winters have been anomalously warm) we've really been going through a lot of coal this winter. I left a message, but they didn't call me back to schedule it as usual. So I called again today and discovered that our delivery was already on their books for today -- which, on the one hand, is awesome, because we're almost out of coal and running out of coal means running out of HEAT, but on the other hand, it meant that a dump truck with 10 tons of coal could be rumbling into the yard any minute. And nothing was ready. CRAP. I scampered around the coal shed picking things up (nothing worse than having your coal shovel buried under a few tons of coal) and then discovered that one half of the industrial-sized tarp that we use to cover the coal pile (the part outside the shed) was VERY thoroughly frozen down under a few inches of ice with two feet of snow on top of it. Which means that I couldn't move it out of the way of the coal truck.

Cue 45 minutes of frantic shoveling and hacking at the ice with an axe. MY LUNGS. OW. Lungs do not appreciate intense cardio at -35F. Neither did the rest of me. On the other hand, the coal shed is all cleaned up and ready for delivery. Which hasn't shown up yet, but that's okay -- we're ready and that's what counts.

*cough, hack, collapse*

ETA: Also, wow, now that I'm hydrated, I am craving sugar! I think I really did a number on my blood glucose levels with that little burst of activity, as well as maxing out my heart rate and all those other metabolic things that function properly for people who, y'know, exercise. I actually came pretty close to passing out while I was out there -- I had to stop at one point and lean against a wall for a couple of minutes while I stopped being dizzy. When I came back inside, all I could do for a few minutes was flop on the bed while I recovered the ability to use my body. WHO IS IN TERRIBLE SHAPE? ME! But if my body needs chocolate for glucose recovery, who am I to deny it?


sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)

September 2017



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