Thursday, March 26, 2009

The end of it all.

Hey everybody, thought I would end this blog with the update that I just took my first hot shower since coming back to NH!  I'm clean again already!!  I have been managing quite well; not wearing my coat to the bathroom, throwing my toilet paper in the trash, forgetting to flush, or forgetting to rinse the soap off of my hands.  I feel like I should take this final opportunity to apologize to Pat for giving him a hard time for not keeping me company at the airport; I thought his flight was 24 hours earlier than it actually was and I don't think they will even let you check in that early.

I'll also take this chance to promote my new blog which I'm hoping will acheive the "average" of 1 reader (if I can only remember to reread it from time to time): 

Maybe some of you would like to peruse it looking for inappropriate pictures; sorry guys, I did not choose the 18-and-up rating, this blog will be appropriate for general audiences. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Misery in Portland.

So that was crazy, for the first half of the flight from Anchorage to Portland I thought the lady next to me in the middle seat had no lower legs.  Then she asked to get up for the bathroom and walked there all by herself.

That flight somehow made me feel about 500 times worse than I did in Anchorage.  I managed to find some cold medicine - not sure what it will do for me - and coffee which I figure I may as well be drinking since I won't be sleeping anyway.  Whine whine whine...


So here I am sitting on the floor at Anchorage airport which is super busy today probably because of the flight cancelations yesterday.  No, I'm not crying, just a little bit worse for wear because of this cold.  Symptoms include tingly, watery everything.  And I thought germs couldn't survive the coldness of Alaska.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Going home! I think.

Yay! It looks like I'm going to get out of here, Alaska Air has resumed the flights that were cancelled yesterday because of the volcano. I will be VERY happy to get back to NH--no offense to Glenn who won't get to hang out with me and Pat who won't get another chance to not hang out with me--because I'm starting to get sick. One of these people I've been around should be a little bit less liberal with their germs in the future.  Meghan (who's also sick) and I think it was Hickman based on his face-rubbing performance of what NOT to do to avoid spreading germs.

When Kristina and I were looking at optical data last night we noticed that I made an appearance in our UNH camera footage at around T-2 minutes when I went to open the dome box.  At least I was quick about it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Trapped by a volcano.

So I'm finally updating the blog now that it has been long enough that nobody is reading it anymore and nobody cares.

Today Kristina and I spent a good part of the day at the Geophysical Institute at UAF burning data to DVDs and shipping equipment and whatnot.  About midday we got the exciting news that our flight was cancelled due to the 5 volcanic eruptions which happened throughout the last night.  I have reschedule my flight for 10pm on Tuesday so we'll see if I ever get to leave Fairbanks (*fingers crossed*).

Pat won't hang out with me anymore because I'm too much of a girly-girl or something but Toolik Glenn is working on getting to Fairbanks (after being stuck at TFS for a couple days he says "if it's not avalanches it's ash....welcome to Alaska...") and might just be able to socialize at some point tomorrow (or the next day if I get trapped again).  Well, we'll see.  Tonight was a napping night and hopefully is an early bedtime night if I can muster the strength to get there.

Volcanic eruption count for Fairbanks night2: 5 eruptions

Church, mushers, belly dancers, and dinner.

Sunday morning I was way more tired than I had hoped considering all I did the day before was sit in a car dozing off for 9 hours and then go out to eat and drink.  Although I must have been pretty tired that night because I crawled into bed with all of my clothes on and a cell phone in my back pocket!  But I woke up like a good girl and went to mass with Meghan which, in addition to some ibuprofen and 16oz of coffee, helped to ease my killer headache.  After eating a cookie we went out to see the dog mushers finishing a race in town and then to the local craft sale where I got Fritos and more coffee while watching the entertainment including an irish folk musician and some belly dancers--not performing together.  (They wouldn't stop moving so they're kind of blurry.)

Jay and Hickman ended up there too and let me tell you, they take their crafts seriously.  Later on the five of us (including us 3 Wedgewood girls) got together for some Thai food; I think I tapped my remaining energy reserves just eating that food so I sat on the couch not moving for a few hours before managing to drag myself to bed at an unreasonably late hour.  Meghan left us late Sunday night so now I guess I'm not a sidekick anymore because there can't be a sidekick in a party of one.

Back to Fairbanks.

So Saturday was the return to Fairbanks.  The plan was to get an early start and be back in time for dinner but it took >3 hours to start the truck so we ended up getting back closer to 10pm after stopping at the Silver Gulch for dinner.  This meant that I did not get to go to the after launch party but at least was able to get cell phone reception early enough to text Meghan a question for Hans.  Thankfully he gave the go ahead for leaving the hundreds-of-pounds heated box in the Toolik truck for the weekend.

On the way we saw a ptarmigan and four moose.  Gus and his wife, who drove me back, dropped me off at the Wedgewood and I took a 3 minute shower, spent about 20 minutes looking for Pat's phone #, and then got him to come meet some of the gang at a local bar.  At least I didn't miss out on all of the fun!  We have some pictures but I'm not sure that I want them in the public domain.

However, please check out this link; Pat is now a Youtube star:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ptarmigan: Alaska state bird.

So we did launch last night and the camera steering did not go as I had practiced but was not a complete disaster.  Also, I was able to see some really amazing aurora looking directly up the local field line for quite a while before the launch.  I even saw some really cool "vortex streets" in the aurora which hopefully I will have a picture of at some point.

Today I packed up most of the camera stuff so that I will be ready to go tomorrow morning.  While I was out I saw a ton of three-toed animal tracks.  Three toes should mean a bird but the tracks were pretty big.  It turns out they were ptarmigan tracks.  The ptarmigan have "fur" on their feet (and beaks) so that they don't sink into the snow - like snowshoes.  Pretty cool except the ptarmigan seemed to think of the area behind our building as a toilet - I saw TONS of ptarmigan poop, they must eat lots of grass in the winter.

Friday, March 20, 2009

CASCADES2: Night 5.

Yay, we launched!!!  It is SO time for bed now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

CASCADES2: Night 4, freaky bird thing.

No launch yet but we had several close calls that served as good practice runs for me; heck I'm even starting to feel prepared, it's crazy.  But not much to report as far as the rocket and science go.

Look here.  This in one seriously ticked off tawny frogmouth!  Frogmouths are not to be confused with owls but are more closely related to nightjars, another kind of bird that nobody has heard of.  Is anybody else reminded of Jurassic Park?  I wonder if this is what Marc will look like on Monday if we haven't launched yet.,383,NS.html

Anyway, I have become a (really inefficient) sock making machine - sock #3 is finished and it's a flip flop sock.  Looks like I could use some new flip flops, they are NASTY.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Erik trends.

This is the logbook for the Erik statistical study:

March 18, 2009 2031EST, rated 0.5
Fairbanks, AK:  0F (windchill 0F), wind 2mph from W, pressure 29.88in, humidity 48%, cloudy

March 19, 2009 0030EST, rated 0.5
Fairbanks, AK: 1F (windchill 1F), wind 2mp from W, pressure 29.89in, humidity 54%, cloudy

This is a record of 'events' consisting of Erik being mean, rated on an offensiveness scale of 0-4.  The objective is to identify possible trends.  Please notify me of any possible events.

CASCADES2: Night 3, the story of Sisyphus.

So after last night, trying to focus these cameras alone and in the clouds, I got to thinking of Sisyphus--not much to say about launching the rocket. Paraphrased from Wikipedia, Sisyphus was a king and a real jerk (but he has nice back muscles!) who promoted commerce but frequently killed travelers. His biggest mistake was tattling on Zeus for stealing the daughter of a lesser god. Sisyphus was punished for thinking he was a peer of the gods and thus could gossip about them. Neither was true and he was sentenced to toil in the underworld, pushing a giant boulder up a steep hill. Every time he neared the top of the hill the boulder would roll back down again and the job would start over. My favorite part of the Wikipedia article really should be quoted:

"However, before Sisyphus died, he had told his wife to throw his naked body into the middle of the public square in attempt to test his wife's love for him. Annoyed by the obedience and loveless decision by his wife, Sisyphus persuaded Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, to allow him to go back to the upper world and scold his wife for not burying his body like a loving wife would."ísifo.jpg

On the bright side, I would much rather be Sisyphus than Prometheus, who had his liver eaten every day by an eagle (it would grow back over night).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pictures don't lie.

Pat took this picture last night.  Meghan looks friendly and accommodating.  Erik looks mean and uncooperative.  Is it true that pictures don't lie?  You be the judge.  I finished sock #2 and will be wearing my first homemade (and therefore lucky) pair of socks for tonight's window.  I think we're going to launch, I can feel it!

Update: tonight I learned that my socks are just cute, not lucky.

CASCADES2: Night 2.

Nowhere near as stressful as night 1 but busy until the last hour.  One computer for the narrow field cameras was full, so unable to store images, but I could NOT figure out how to mount the external hard drive.  Hanna saved the night and we quickly got the cameras up and running.  Focusing was much easier as I have borrowed a real flashlight (no more cell phone!), but some pointing directions looked better focused than others???  Today (Tuesday) I took the dome inside to clean with Windex (as Hans instructed) but couldn't find any dome polish to remove the scratches.  :o(  I may have to open the dome cover during launch (15 minutes or so) to get a clear view.  The plan is to get the cameras focused before the window opens for night 3.  Getting closer and closer to being ready!

Sauna sweat bath.

According to a sign on one of the buildings, Toolik Field Station (TFS) is only 150 miles from the coast and is named not after a lake but after a river (what's up with that!?!).  Toolik is an Eskimo name for the common and yellow billed loons.

So Monday was my first day of trying to get cleaned up in the sauna.  I'm not sure how well I performed but I came out smelling more like soap than feet (probably because I didn't rinse well enough) and my hair is no longer totally skanky.  That's probably some sort of improvement.  Below is a not-very-good picture of me and Flat Olivia in the sauna (she's hard to see but she's there).  Of course I didn't bring my own towel, but I was told that during the winter I can use pretty much any towel hanging in the sauna.  I'm now sweat sisters with anyone who has used the pretty lavender towel.

Monday, March 16, 2009

GPS timestamp.

Oh boy, look at this glorious GPS timestamp!  I am so scared that it'll go away by tonight and I'll again be reduced to mechanically unplugging and plugging in the system.  I did rearrange the setup with the GPS receiver in a different window so hopefully that caused this success rather than magic that could easily disappear.

CASCADES2: Night 1.

Last night was pretty rough! Minus 45F and I was outside for a good 1/4 of the launch window making adjustments. Let's just say, focusing a camera by yourself is a pretty miserable job when the camera is outside (especially in the dark using my cell phone as a flashlight!) and the monitor is inside. In fact, I still have some fine tuning to do tonight once it gets dark enough. Also, I am having Hanna's problem of the dome icing up when the heat in the box is low and the cameras becoming noisy when the heat in the box is too high. So that was a fun thing to play around with last night during the launch window. Oh yeah, and as of last night I have yet to get a GPS timestamp!  All of that fussing around didn't leave much time to practice my adding/subtracting so I was pretty darn nervous when the count got down to T-2 minutes. I haven't even had my practice run! but the aurora doesn't wait for anyone.

Meghan was kind enough to hang a "missing" sign for me so hopefully someone will come across my sock:

Update:  I found the sock!  It was under a bunch of books in my backpack.  Thanks Meghan for dedication to the search!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Obligatory camera update.

Saturday was rather stressful for reasons including me being dumb, items being misplaced, and experienced people being unavailable to assist me. But today I wizened up, Glenn found our cable, Hanna emailed, and I talked to Hans on the phone all leading to a very productive Sunday. :o) The steering works, the computers are on (and I can ssh to them!), the dome is deiced (look at those cameras is the ice free dome!  I sure hope it stays that way.), the new UNH camera setup is functioning (but why can't our GPS get a signal?), and the window is insulated with foam.

Hopefully the last couple of steps - turning on the taco cameras and focusing the UNH lens - go smoothly so that I can start practicing my steering. I'm a little bit nervous because it requires a lot of adding/subtracting on the fly and I haven't done much of that since about 4th grade. I couldn't help but feel a little bit glad when Meghan told me it is super windy at Poker so far - windiness would give me some extra practice time!

Toe shot.

Last night at dinner Faye (prompted by Glenn, the resident Canadian) told me a blogworthy story about a tradition in Dawson City, Canada.  They called it the "toe shot" and apparently anyone who drinks the toe shot will become part of an elite club - members have their names entered into a log book - of brave/sick individuals.  The special ingredient in the shot is actually a dead toe - originally the frostbitten toe of a miner - and several toes have been used over the years as some particularly drunken participants will mistakenly swallow the toe.  The rule is that the toe must touch the mouth of the drinker in order for the toe shot to result in an entry to the log book.  Faye's name is in fact in the log book which she says is a pretty thick book!

For info about the toes and the above picture see

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Toolik Field Station orientation.

We have a fancy heated outhouse to use for the winter since it is waterless. I am afraid I'll drop toilet paper into the toilet instead of the garbage can, as the sign politely asks, but so far there haven't been any mishaps.

Due to the water situation (our "dorm" is out of running water so it is all in jugs) I will NEVER be able to take a shower while I'm here. The sauna can be used fairly often and I am told that (somehow) we are able to get clean in there. Oh well, I have been a little cold since I got here so that should help keep the stink down.

I was given a travel mug "for coming here in the winter" but was told that I need a nickname to label it with so nobody steals it. Since I couldn't come up with anything Tom chose "Jonesin" because he figured (accurately) that I must be Jonesin for a rocket launch.

We have an awesome snack selection here at Toolik Field Station, in particular the lone box on Lemonheads - I hope nobody eats them because it's pretty amusing.

The LONG road to Toolik.

So we (Joe, Faye, and I) left UAF at around 9:10AM Alaska time as I was finishing my four cups of coffee.  I managed to stay awake and not need a bathroom break for the first 45 minutes of the trip.  Then, as I slipped in and out of consciousness, I was wishing I had gotten up and finished my coffee earlier.  We drove the Dalton Highway with the pipeline almost always in sight.  I was surprised to see that there are quite a lot of outhouses along the highway and our first stop was at one of these where the highway and pipeline cross the Yukon River.

Back to napping and knitting - although the views are amazing - and eventually we stopped at Coldfoot which is the northmost truck stop on the highway (see picture).  I heard that Miguel Larsen had some students stay at Coldfoot to provide down range support for a rocket launch.  Seeing this place made me feel better about moving on to Toolik Lake.  We didn't see any caribou or muskox but we did see the northernmost spruce on the Dalton and it has a sign saying "do not cut".  Faye says that the sign used to be in front of another tree (presumably further north) but that somebody did cut it down so the sign had to be moved.

The Dalton Highway and the pipeline cut through the Brooks Range (see picture by John Wingfield) via Atigun Pass which is almost completely an avalanche zone with signs to prove it.  In the pass we met up with lots of big rigs and had to pull over to let them pass because the road with all the snow is too narrow for two way traffic.  This took forever (they just kept coming!) and resulted in even more sleeping.  Finally we were on the other side of the range and Faye pointed out the nearest neighbors to the Toolik Station - 8 miles away and they even have an EMT.  The trip ended up taking about 9.5 hours with two short stops.

Along the way I noticed that the pipeline would sometimes inexplicably dip underground.  Meghan has figured out (via Wikipedia) why this is the case:  the pipeline sometimes goes underground in avalanche zones.

Friday, March 13, 2009

PET workshop: Day 5.

PET workshop day 5 will be me riding in a truck for 10 hours to Toolik Lake with Joe and a bunch of crates.  It will probably be equally as fun as sitting through the remaining talks; however, Meghan will be losing her sidekick.  I sure hope Joe is chatty!

Last night we went to Poker and the unthinkable happened - the skies were clear AND there was beautiful aurora to watch.  Hopefully I can get some pictures from one of the many folks with nice cameras.  Totally worth looking like this today (see photo).

Coffee consumption for PET Day5: 4 cups so far
(and I can't see that getting much higher because I think we make one stop during the trip)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PET workshop: Day 4.

This afternoon I'm staying awake through Facebook, gchat, and blogging (don't tell Marc).  A little fooling around doesn't seem too bad after the other day - watching/listening to our tablemates play a video (with volume!) of a dog smoking a cigarette.  We completely failed in our lunchtime mission to buy a DVD recorder but now we know what we want so a Fred Meyer trip should take care of it.

Two more talks for the day and then off to dinner and to Poker again to be taught how to use the steerable camera mount by some hot Swedish babe.  Hopefully we'll see some aurora while we're there.

PET workshop: Day 3.

Ugh!!!  Westmark won't replace my coffee creamer so I'm drinking nasty coffee AND it's black.  Totally lame...

Last night we toured Poker Flat Research Range!  Kathe Rich showed us a 40 year old slide show and took us to the blockhouse.  I was surprised and a little bit mortified to see that my Fort Yukon pictures are SO huge and on one of the main inside doors (photo courtesy of Travis) but Katariina was the only one to make the connection!

Next we went to the science building and wandered aimlessly and finally trudged through the snow to get up close and personal with PFISR.  Then banquet at the Silver Gulch where I sat next to Colby, a bunch of other people from the RJ van, and a few others including Katariina.  It was good.

By the way, I finished my first sock!!!  And coffee consumption for PET Day3: 5 cups

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Winter carnival ice sculptures.

One of the best of my ice sculpture pictures is of the angel riding the scary monster - Meghan says that Erik really liked this one!  But sadly I didn't end up getting a very good picture of my favorite which was an angry bird trying to hatch an Easter egg.  The carnival has tons of single and multi block ice sculptures which are very impressive.  Some of the sculptures are carved into ice slides to entertain the little kids and grad students.  Fortunately, Stefan Eriksson was able to save me from being driven crazy for all eternity by informing me of when/where I met him.  It turns out we had dinner together (with others) a mere 2.5 months ago at AGU.  So sad that I couldn't figure that out; AGU seems so long ago!

Went to dinner with some people after the trip and when we got back the internet was down so I was completely unable to access my blog - oh the horror!!  That's why I'm having to post during the morning talks.  Shh! don't tell.

PET workshop: Day 2.

Yesterday morning Meghan and I made a mad dash to the local coffee shop for some chai/latte during our 30 minute break.  It's a cute place with good drinks, fancy baked goods and Kitto Katsu (for Japanese tourists with a sweet tooth?) --the only item name in the shop that is translated into Japanese.

Just before lunch us carless people were assigned to drivers to get to the Fairbanks Winter Carnival to see the ice sculptures.  "The three of you left over" (including Brian Walsh, me, and Meghan who wasn't going anyway) were assigned to ride with Antonius.  During the afternoon talks we worked on our knitting some more; my sock is getting close to being finished.  At one point, Meghan saw that a yellow twist tie had appeared on her sweater.  Still don't know where it came from...

The question came up of who is the side-kick, me or Meghan?  The conclusion is that it's probably me because she gets here first in the morning and she's the driver.

Coffee consumption for PET Day2: 5 cups

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baby hat.

Yesterday we realized that the sock I was knitting would only fit a gigantic foot.  Since I don't know any ladies with such gigantic feet it just wouldn't do as a sock.  The first idea was to knit a leg warmer which would take forever!!  In the end, we concluded that the sock was about the size of a baby's head so using Meghan's hat pattern the transformation was made from sock to hat.


I think Meghan is worthy of a medium-sized picture.  Last night after PET Day1 we were in the learning mood so we learned all about how Alaskan fishermen catch pollock (the fishstick fish) using sonar.  Then we went to the "reception" which was just like lunch except a little bit less socially awkward because there was wine.  I'm still baffled that we were given lunch dessert but no regular dessert.  What's the deal with that!?!

Meghan says she read somewhere that the average blog is read by 1 person (on average).  That will be tough to keep up with! 

Coffee consumption for PET Day1: 7 cups

Monday, March 9, 2009

PET workshop: Day 1.

At the conference we were given dangerous laser beams with 1GB of memory.  I hope I haven't accidentally exposed myself to the radiation!  Anyway, so far the workshop has only required that I drink 1 more cup of coffee (5+1 = 6 cups) and the sound bite for the day is by Bill Peterson who says that MeV ions and electrons have a "big honking mother gyroradius".

Preparing for PET.

So I woke up this morning for the PET conference (unfortunately not about pets) and made/drank a pot of coffee (4 cups) while reading an interesting email.  A certain Dartmouth professor says: "I found this old (1-1/2 yrs old!) email you sent about your interesting work with pulsating aurora.  I realize I never responded to you.  It sounds like a very interesting study."  Nice of him to respond to me!

To kill some time I did some more knitting and managed to rip my skirt in a very unladylike maneuver to get my ball of yarn which had rolled across the floor.  At breakfast I made sure to have another cup of coffee for good measure.  I hope my heart doesn't explode.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Fairbanks this morning and hanging with Meghan until check-in time for my hotel room.  For lack of anything better to do we went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to get some knitting supplies; we're both in the process of knitting socks (see picture).  I consumed more sugar and caffeine in the last 16 hours than in the last two weeks but at least I finally got to brush my teeth!


Anchorage airport is a warm/safe place to sleep and very economical!  I read that power naps (less than 45 minutes) are good for alertness and longer naps (longer than 90 minutes) are good for creativity.  I must be SUPER alert right now after about 12 power naps on the last flight but it's time to work on my creativity so that I can impress Meghan in Fairbanks.  3-5 hour layovers are great for that!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Back to Alaska.

It may be 55 degrees in NH but I'm headed back to AK:  "feels like"  -8 degrees.  Here I am waiting for the C&J bus to Logan.  Can you sense the excitement??

Update:  Still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Portland where they have free internet!  However... next is the screaming baby leg of the trip; in fact, the screaming has already begun.