Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bleak day for cycling and northtoak breaks 100!

Today, the Phonak cycling team has been rejected for a Pro Tour license for next year. While after seeing how the UCI has handled the Hamilton scandal and other issues lately, it does seem like it was inevitable.

While I can't for sure say that Tyler is innocent, I do believe that the UCI acted pretty immaturely in convicting Hamilton in the public arena and jerking around his team about licensing. UCI won't even disclose the official test results for review. The fact is, the team is serving as an example and the decision was made beforehand.

So I applaud the UCI for finding their example. I'm sure that Floyd Landis and the rest of the distraught Phonak team really appreciates it.

On a more positive note...

Today, the number of unique viewers of this log since 11/10 has been 100 people! How cool is that?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Weekend Thoughts

Some thoughts from this weekend:

Lori's Official Saturation Point for Basketball is...
..about four days, or ten games. At that point, all the games seem to look the same. You know, some guys running back and forth, every once in a while this is broken up by a foul of some sort or various media time outs. Saturation does not seem to be alleviated by eating different vendor foods, nor by sitting in another area of the arena. I think if we hadn't left before the Alabama/Minnesota game on Friday I would have combusted during the final "Are you ready to RUM-BULLL?" on Saturday night. By the way, the Huskies won over Alabama, and UAA miraculously beat High Point to take 7th out of 8th, which is a positive.

A few cool things that I hope I will remember:
- My favorite players, including Nate Robinson (short guy on Washington), Double-0 (big Honduran center for High Point), Bogut (7 footer at Utah State), and Severson-Severson (UAA guy who got his first shot at playing, his fan club shouted "severson-severson" every time he went across the field).
- After completely missing every shot possible for multiple prizes, Vito's auto sales gave the contestant another shot to win an antique Ford Mustang, which he made. I thought that was really nice.
- How the high schools gave up practice space, cheerleaders, entertainment, and pep bands to perform during the Shootout. What a great gesture of hospitality!

Next time though, we will probably only get a few session seats instead of the entire thing.

Do we REALLY need an apple that tastes like a grape? I guess someone thinks so. I for one, don't get it.

Is it Winter yet?
Despite all the winter storms in the lower 48, the weather here has been terribly warm. This weekend, we had highs in the 50s, melting practically all the snow. Then, on Sunday morning, we did get snow, but it was too warm. This makes a huge mushy mess in every parking lot. Our nordic ski lessons were cancelled today because here, in late Nov, there is not enough snow to ski on. What gives?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

For those of you looking for something challenging this Holiday Season...

Why not try to cook a Turducken?. That's a Chicken in a Duck in a Turkey.

In another stuffing nightmare, there is also a whole stuffed camel recipe.

Thanksgiving Pictures

For Thanksgiving, Frank and I celebrated by going to Mick's at the Inlet downtown. I'd heard that the restaurant was really good but not well known, and both of us were suprised at how good the meal was. We certainly will be going there again!

Afterwards, we decided to spend some time "sightseeing" since it was such a pretty day. Here are some of the pictures:

Anchorage from Westchester Lagoon

Frank at Westchester Lagoon

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

O'Malley and Seward Intersection shot

We eventually drove up to Glen Alps trailhead, which was quite busy with nordic skiers and other outdoors folks:

Glen Aps Sky Shot

Glen Alps overlooking the arm

We were up so high that it was snowing below us in this "Peachy" cloud:

Peachy Snow Storm

Another shot of the Peachy snow storm

Anchorage Shot

Sky shot over the arm

There were a few people hiking blueberry hill:

"Not Us"

I got to help a couple making a picture for their Christmas card overlooking this mountain:

Sliver of sunlight

Shadow of a mountain

As we drove home, I noticed a strange rainbow type thing on our right hand side. Frank and I pulled over into the police parking lot to get a shot of it:



For Thanksgiving, I am writing a postitive entry, since the last entry was a little "curmudgeonly". In the spirit of the day, here is a list of 3 things I am thankful for today:

1) Family and Friends: Certainly on top of any list of thankful things, people are number one. It has been a pretty stressful and "game-changing" year for Frank and I, and I for one am very grateful for the support that we have received from everyone this year. Also, perhaps it is living far away that does it, but everytime we get a chance to talk to our loved ones is so much more appreciated, I think.

2) The beauty of Alaska: I am grateful to be living here. Sure, it is far away during holidays, but the beauty that surrounds us is magical. Yesterday, we had a beautiful peachy-to-hot pink sunset followed by an almost full moon up over the mountains, making the moonrise almost as dramatic as the sunset. The moon when we came back to the house last night was shining so bright it was casting moonshadows through the back door. This morning, I am thankful for the dusting of snow that we got, which covers the icy roads and gives me hope that we can take our ski lessons next week. I am thankful for the relatively mild weather here -- tornadoes are nonexistent, and lightning is so rare that it makes headlines in the newspaper.

3) I'm thankful for community: Despite my silly attempts at humor, Anchorage is a pretty cool town to live in. It's a funky mix between an Alaskan Lake Wobegon and a large city. To see the entire borough come out to not only see the Great Alaskan Shootout but to actively participate by hosting schools, supplying pep bands, cheerleaders, and halftime entertainment is huge.

Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving to our far-flung Friends and Family! I hear that the weather is rather unpleasant in the midwest in some areas, so take care!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Great Alaska Shootout, Day 1 Report

This weekend, Anchorage hosts the Great Alaska Shootout, consisting of 16 games of basketball in 5 days.

Before I get to that, I heard that Purdue was perhaps beaten by a fairly good Miami team! Ha!

Yesterday, we had two women's preliminary games, neither was particularly spectacular (of course what can one expect from early season?). ADN has excellent coverage for those of you who want to know the technical details, but I've added some "supplemental coverage" of my own.

Game 1: University of AK-Anchorage (hometown school) Seawolves vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

I think we got to the arena about 5 minutes into the first game. The Seawolves were already behind I believe at that point. I was suprised to see a smiley mouth in on the new basketball floor under the basketball hoops. Frank explained that this was some new line to help with calling charges and things. I thought perhaps they were trying to make the floor more pleasant :).

The Seawolves, which the program lists as a mascot based on a mythical sea creature that was lucky if you could see it (tm), are having a rebuilding year. They lost nine out of twelve players last year. Some of the interesting players include a slow-footed center and another "black hole of basketball". A "black hole" is a person who once they get the ball, never gives it back up even under serious pressure. This and the fact that they could not transition very well had to be the biggest problems of the team.

The Cajuns, on the other hand, played an uninspired but less-sucky game of basketball to win the game. Once it was obvious they were going to win, their second string went in. They had an enthusiastic second string center, who was sprinting down the court, running even her own players down. I thought she did a great job.

Anyways, so ho-hum, the Cajuns won by a lot.

So, enough about the game, what else was going on??

As someone who drifts during long basketball games, I always find time to critique the courtside entertainment. For the Great Alaska Shootout, teams do not send their cheerleaders, so Anchorage High schools sponsor a team and provide cheerleaders and entertainment. This makes things interesting, as squads must create uniforms for themselves and create cheers for their teams that they don't really have a connection to. This makes for a kind of self-absorbed cheering section, who seems more interested in what the next cheer is and being self-conscious than actually cheering for the teams. What really made me sad though is that these girls put so much effort into their floor routines and "spirit finger" expressions, and the spectators were just not going along. There is very little sadder to me than silence after a "when I say red, you say white, -- RED!" shout. To make it more dramatic, they were doing really great basket tosses (things that can't be done in many states at a high school level anymore), flips, and all sorts of stuff. So I had to at least clap and pay attention to them, because they were cheering their hearts out.

Other than that, we had a dance team from one of the high schools come on. Frank's comment sums it up "a nice compilation of bad music from every generation". Other than the music, I did think though that they were very synchronized, and I doubt many spectators could do any of those moves. They even had the "cocked-wrist", stylted dance style down that is so popular in college dance groups.

We also had the pep band from Grace Christian there, which was very typical of a small-school pep band. We had a very loud and enthusiastic drummer combined with a brass section with at least one horn that was playing their own tune. They played your normal band songs like "James Bond" as well as interesting choices like "Malaguena" and the theme from Super Mario. I don't know what is scarier -- that I recognized the tune of an old Nintendo game or that they were playing it! What's next, "Legend of Zelda"?

All in all, good entertainment, and I mean even the pep band. I look forward to seeing the kids tonight when ESPN2 is covering them!

Game 2: Stanford vs. Eastern Washington

I was conflicted about this game, since Stanford has an Anchorage-grown star while Eastern is at least in our conference. I decided not to decide, since I would probably root for whomever was losing anyways.

Soon it was pretty apparent that Stanford was going to win, so I started watching for interesting players. On Eastern Washington, there was an overly enthusiastic guard that liked to try to organize things. However, gesturing to teammates on where one is going to pass the ball is perhaps a bad idea, as well as charging into the lane when everyone else is hanging out there also. Stanford had a center who is really good but her knee bends back funny so I was worried for her.

Anyways, we watched the cheerleaders do another participatory cheer, then left relatively early with the other folks.

Tonight, we have the champ game for the women's tourney, plus UAA vs Alabama (remember, the mythical sea creatures lost to Grand Canyon State a week ago, so perhaps this will not be a good game). The other men's game will be Furman and Minnessota.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Hockey Game, Seawolves vs. Badgers

The UAA/Wisconsin hockey game last night was not as exciting as it could have been. Wisconsin and UAA have a rivalry, but since UAA has lost so many of its players, the game was very one-sided.

Once again, I had the joy of sitting next to another quite annoying person -- a student with an overenthusiastic cowbell. I had to put napkin pieces in my right ear to keep sane. It did not help that everyone also had "thunder sticks", which are big round sticks filled with air that they bang together. I always laugh when they all try to "thunder" in time with the music.

As far as the game went, we had four brand new people out there for UAA, and while they were capable of killing power plays for Wisconsin, they were also quite good at killing their own power plays as well.

The biggest excitement came when one of the players flicked a puck into the section beside ours. Unfortunately, it hit the head of a guy who was not paying attention, and it looks like it drew blood. He was walking alright and things, so I'm hoping he is OK.

When we left, the Seawolves were losing 4-1. Go here to hear the catchy Seawolf Fight Song.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Fourty-one, Alone, No Gerbil

Garrison Keillor read this poem on Writer's Almanac today. It reminds me of the late great Badwater Jackson, mauled to death by the late great Peaches the cat after being set free by a strong wind toppling over the empty aquarium we left him in.

My only question is, what does the "faint powerful call" of a gerbil sound like?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sunset picture, looking east over the construction site by our house.

Traviata and other stuff

La Traviata in Anchorage

Frank and I saw La Traviata on Sunday at the Anchorage Performing Arts Center. We were cautiously optimistic after the Philip Glass debacle.

La Traviata is typical Italian opera -- very dramatic. Here is a synopsis:

Lead female is a party girl, has consumption, meets a great guy at a party. Moves in with great guy, but dad of great guy tells her that the only way another great guy (#2) will marry his own daughter is if party girl high-tails it out of great guy's (#1) life. As usual, in opera there is always no other way to resolve the situation, and lead female returns to Paris to continue her party days, very sad of course due to the fact that she misses Alfredo, the great guy. Great guy finds her, gets mad that she is hanging out with another guy and insults her in public. She passes out (consumption) and great guy is challenged to a duel. In a very Greek play sort of way, the duel takes place off stage, and great guy retreats to another country (after victory of course). Party girl gets really sick and somehow at the same time, Dad of great guy feels bad and tells the truth to great guy. When party girl (in bed coughing, kind of like when I get my winter cough episodes, although I did not see enough cough drops) has only a few hours left, great guy and dad come by to make amends. Everything is happy, party girl stands up, says "I feel great" then dies.

Despite the cheezy plot, it was really good. We were almost in the orchestra pit, so we could see extremely well. I can't wait for the next one...The Flying Dutchman (not Italian).

Thursday Weather Report
Yesterday it snowed (maybe an inch accumulation). If it had not been cloudy, we might have been able to see the aurora, which was active. Today, the clouds started to part in a zig-zag, and just like the weathermen tell you, when the warm air and cold air collide it gets windy. The pine tree outside my window bent at about a 10 degree angle in the winds so far. But it is sunny, so that's a positive.

The long awaited Christmas List...
I have commandeered Frank's Christmas list. Here are the items for Frank:
1) New Electric Shaver
2) Sweaters (Large)
3) Sweatpants
4) Soft undershirts
5) Soft cotton turtlenecks: charcoal, black, brown. Frank does not like itchy things, seamless shirts are preferable.
6) Waterproof Hiking Boots
7) Chef's Knife
8) Two Pr 33/32 Levis

Strangely, Frank has also put down these things for me. Apparently I will be cooking next year:
1) Food Processor
2) Blender
3) Rice cooker/holder
4) Canon Digital Rebel SLR

Other things I need are listed on REI still. This includes things like knee socks and long underwear that is not cotton.

About the concern about space in suitcases...we will be bringing a suitcase with presents ourselves and therefore should have space. Things that are rather big, you can either ship up here and just tell us, or we can ship up ourselves.

Although Thanksgiving is not upon us yet, we are certainly excited to see everyone.

And what about you???

Using the "power of blog", feel free to add in a comment what you want for Christmas. I figure many people who are reading would be interested :).

This weekend...
...Frank and I will be going to the Wisconsin/UAA hockey game on Friday. We have lost another UAA hockey player to rough practices, who was slammed into the boards "at a funny angle" and separated his shoulder. Shea Hamilton, one of the stars of the Nye Classic, is out with a broken wrist. At this point, the Seawolves have 10 injured players (one for every game played this season). Can anyone say karma? Perhaps letting "Captain Jawbreaker" back on the team did not do a lot for the team, eh?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

China Joe

This is a fascinating story about China Joe in Juneau, the only Chinese person who was not kicked out of Juneau in 1886.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

News of the North Thursday Roundup

Bazaar Roundup or "Clash of the Titans"

I've noticed that there is a high number of Bazaars up here. They started somewhere in early October, and it appears every community group has one. I am always interested in seeing who is having these bazaars, and which groups they are up against.

The challengers for this week are especially interesting.

We have the the Annual Noel Bazaar at the Anchorage Senior Center, Nora and Sandy's Home Craft Bazaar (at their house), the St. Anthony Holiday Bazaar at St. Anthony Catholic Church, the Annual Christmas Courtyard by United Alaskan Artists and the Village at Ship Creek Mall.

Travelling this week are the Bad Girls of the North (Evangelo's Restaurant, Wasilla) and the I-Dit-a-Bazaar by the Iditarod PTA. Bad Girls of the North will be at the 4th Avenue Theatre here in Anchorage next week.

There are 3 Presbyterian Bazaars this week -- The Immanuel Presbyterian Holiday Craft Bazaar, the Presbyterian Women of the First Presbyterian Church, and also the Presbyterian Women Fall Bazaar. I can only guess why all three decided on the same weekend. Apparently the women of the First Presbyterian Chirch faction are willing to take on all the women as a whole this year. The Presbyterian men, however, are out of luck unless they are from Immanuel, which is not gender biased.

The largest this week is the Holiday Food and Gift Festival, which will be held somehow at Sullivan Arena. There will be 300 Exhibitors at this one, and the food vendors will offer samples!

Rabbits on the Run

Apparently rabbits allowed to roam free in Palmer irk the neighbors. Now they are taking over the neighborhood. From the article:
By letting them loose, Anna Calton says, at least they have a chance of escaping the terror of predators".

Now see, the dogs and bears are terrorists along with the Geraniums!


A 2.5 Earthquake struck in central Alaska on Sunday. We actually did feel it in Anchorage, but I didn't think much of it.

Global GIS Day!

Today is Veterans day, but did you know that tomorrow we are celebrating globally GIS day? Well, it looks like it's not, but for some reason Anchorage is celebrating early (maybe not to conflict with a bazaar of some sort?)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Challenging the Intellect

As I expected, the Anchorage Daily News says that the reason I did not like Philip Glass is because I wasn't smart enough.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Weekend Adventures

Flashback Folk Music

On Friday, Frank and I traveled out to the Snow Goose Restaurant/Brewery/Theatre downtown to watch Willy Porter. The UK reader contingent might recognize the name -- he opened for Tori Amos on campus (I can't remember when that was and who was there, sorry!). I remember him being good and even have one of his earlier albums.

Just as I remembered, he was really good. Excellent guitar playing, great singing and -- finally -- an artist who has upbeat songs! He did do quite a few songs that he made up on the spot and also told some excellent stories about how his songs came about. My favorite is the story of him and a fellow violinist in junior high blowing up the first chair's mailbox in order to get closer to the cello girls ("who were hot").

Anyways, I believe he's traveling next down the east coast -- if you get the chance, he's definitely worth checking out.

UAA Volleyball

UAA had their final volleyball game of the season against UAF on Saturday. It was suprisingly well-attended, considering the dismal season that UAA has had so far this year (4-11). Although as usual sometimes there were problems especially with spike coverage (both on offense and defense), the Seawolves won against the Nanooks in straight matches.

Adventures in Experimental Classical Music, aka It all goes back to Gamelan

On Sunday, Frank and I attended "Bang on a Can All-Stars featuring Philip Glass". Bang on a Can is a group out of NYC that plays experimental classical music. Bang on a Can was up first, starting off with a forgettable piece by one of the founders of the group. The second piece was composed by the clarinetist, inspired by Balinese puppetry (Here ). The first, third, and fourth pieces were really great, so much to the dismay of Frank (who said "maybe with some hard work, the clarinetist could be come a good composer"). The last piece, by Julia Wolfe, was interesting because it was "big, beautiful, scary and wonderful". The best part about the first act was that it was only 40 minutes long (I don't like really long concerts).

After intermission, Philip Glass came on. Now, I proudly own "Kronos Quartet plays Philip Glass" and a few other Philip Glass CD, so I was eager to hear him play live. The first song, Mad Rush, is immediately recognizable as a piece used in commercials, although I'm not sure which ones. Apparently it was first played at the cathedral in NYC for the Dali Lama. It was very pretty, but it was way, way too long. It kept getting slower and softer so that you would think it was stopping, but then Philip would trick us by starting up again.

This started me thinking -- are people clapping because the piece was good, or out of relief that it actually stopped?

Then it got worse. The second piece and third piece sounded very similar, with these mathematical time changes that are supposed to be interesting. I could not help but think, what if the musicians have gotten lost, and can't find their way out of the piece? After like 30 minutes they stopped playing. Again, big (relief?) applause. Frank and I grab our coats as Philip Glass and the Bang on a Can people came out for their encore. I don't think either Frank or I could have made it through another piece.

So, why the Gamelan reference above? I like gamelan music, and experimental music is very similar. It's simple, light, and irreverent. It has a beat, and I can work to it, if you want to think of it that way. I like how it changes throughout piece but doesn't a whole bunch of things going on to distract your mind in too many directions. Does this make me simple-minded? I'm not sure -- perhaps in music I am.

Frank, on the other hand, finds both gamelan and experimental music the musical equivalent to water torture. I have to agree that the second half was perhaps as close to water torture as I have been since the sad and off-tune "Porgy and Bess" rendition at Miami two years ago. If you ever get a chance to see Philip Glass, I suggest you don't take it.

Exploring Alaska
This is a really good show, if you get it in your area on your local ABC affiliate. This week it revolved around Soldotna and the pioneers (who are still living) that founded this little town on the Kenai Peninsula. It was fascinating, and gives such a great perspective on how recent and living Alaska history is.

Congratulations to Calla!
I heard that Calla had a super report card this week! Great work!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Snow, Snow, more Snow

For those of you who have been wondering what the weather is like up here today...SURPRISE! It is snowy and cold today!

I say cold, I will preface that. Today, we have a warm streak and weather might get above freezing today.

This morning we had about an inch of snow, but the weather guys (whom I have found are unreliable) are predicting 8-16 inches of snow. You can watch the predictions for the next few days or just revel in snowness watching the AnchorageCam .

Some interesting notes today...
1) Snow really does have different textures. This snow is wetter than the snow from Sunday.
2) They don't plow the neighborhood roads here, although they do plow the main roads (except for the turn lanes which are icy).
3) The Anchorage Airport has never closed due to weather.
4) Only some of the children here take the bus to school. The others are biking down the sidewalks to school today. There are no such things as snow days here, and kids go outside for recess no matter what the weather.
5) The big entertainment news this week in the paper is that Gary V. is coming for a concert this Friday. It's sold out. So is the press meeting at the Chrysler-Dodge down the road on Thursday. This weekend, we also have Willie Porter (started for Tori Amos at UK years ago) and Philip Glass coming this weekend. So you see, there is culture up here in Anchorage, since we tend to be the stopping point between Asia and North American tours for many groups.
6) I am trying welcome the snow, but it will take me some time. Frank and I are planning on becoming nordic ski bums this year, which will help.

Quote for Today: Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ~John Ruskin

Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween in AK

Halloween is always a weird holiday for those of us without children, because it can be a toss up as to when it happens. For example, Oxford's trick-or-treat is scheduled for a convenient 5-7 timeslot on a weekday. This is always on a different day of the week every year, so the only way to know when to be ready is (1) ask a kid and (2) keep a bowl of candy ready a week beforehand for the onslaught.

On our street, we have many children, but the only ones I see outside lately are our dear "Children of the Corn" -- boys here appear to have been shipped directly from the early 70s with long messy hair. They skateboard on a makeshift ramp in the middle of the street, and have recently moved down the street in order to be closer to the girls, who hang around at various houses on Alderwood.

On Sunday, since we had no trick or treaters yet, I thought we had probably missed the night. To add to the drama, we got about two inches of cold, "not going anywhere", snow and the weather was a bit cold (19 degress or so). Yet, all the sudden we started to get trick or treaters of all sizes -- all bundled in these big coats (my favorite was the princess in the pink 150$ North Face Denali jacket), with parents driving them down the street. SUV's and AWD Minivans were bumper to bumper along our snow-covered cul-de-sac. It was pretty funny.

So, yes, even in AK, Halloween occurs -- and it appears here to actually happen on the day of the holiday ;).

P.S. Today I shoveled three inches of snow off of our three-car garage by myself. Granted, it was really fluffy snow, but empowering nonetheless. We are supposed to expect a few more inches tomorrow!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that this is Galileo's favorite holiday. Everyone is coming to the door to visit him, and saying things about TREATS! He would wait patiently on the stairs for the trick or treaters, then sit waiting for his treat at the door. Even today, when the "get out the vote" people came by, Galileo sat patiently by the door waiting for a treat :)