Saturday, April 26, 2008

A week in Sitka

I just came back from a week in Sitka – during which of course I was enjoying myself too much to update this blog. I really need to force myself to post at least once a week.

I have a new address, a new phone number for when I get back to Sitka (probably May 5), and even a cell phone for my job. If you didn’t get my contact information, just write me an e-mail and I will fix that.

Hiking in Sitka was much better than in Juneau. I even found the giant hemlock! At least, I found a giant hemlock that is most likely the one I’d been told about. It was fairly easy to find, and in fact I was able to go right back to it the next day. Birdwatching was good as well, with the following (common) species photographed:

White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons:

Back-bellied Plover Pluvialis squarotula:

Common Merganser Mergus merganser:

Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa:

I also got to see Bonaparte’s gulls, rhinoceros auklets, a northern shrike (same as great-grey shrike in the UK), and lots of other neat birds. There were even some early flowering plants, but I am trying to save those up for a later post that would be dedicated to them. Hopefully it doesn’t turn out like Kuwait where I ended up never doing a post on plants…

The next few days will be dedicated largely to final exams and term papers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Maybe I just shouldn't post anything when there is not much to say...

I almost missed my weekly post deadline again! Of course, it'd be easier if I had bird pictures...

This has been a very slow week of reading, sleeping, watching TV in the condo (I have become strangely addicted to a show about a guy called Anthony Bourdain who travels all over the world and eats food), and going to school.

Last weekend was a drill weekend, so we organized a hike on the Herbert Glacier trail that would keep us out of reach of the officers. The forest there was very beautiful second growth, smothered in mosses and lichens.

So drill was not very eventful for me, but for Jad it was quite an exciting affair. Apparently, some overpaid, overzealous paperwork clerk up in Anchorage kicked him out of the National Guard without so much as a warning to Jad, or to anyone in the chain of command! Jad joined the Army National Guard without going to basic training because he had been in the US Navy before, and because he had trained with the US Marine Corps, he was deemed OK to join the National guard without going through the Army transition course. So he went through infantry school, warrior leader’s course, and a year in the Middle East without any problem, and now this dim-witted office-dwelling invertebrate tells him he can’t be in the army because he doesn’t have the transition course! This, in my professional opinion, should have been transition enough:

And of course, whenever it isn’t snowing, I can always count on politicians to provide an easy target for my impotent anger. This morning on the radio, McCain was talking about lifting a fuel tax in the summer, and now I’m hearing about more tax breaks for auto makers, airlines and “alternative energy producers” (corn growers, I bet). So this must be the new conservative motto:

“Inflation and debt: two easy ways to make environmental destruction more affordable for everyone!”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wherein I complain about the snow again

This is the view out of the window of the “Dark Hole of Despair” condo right now. Isn’t it supposed to be spring? And the snow is merely the culmination of several days of bicycle troubles: flat tire, broken derailleur, flat tire again (I had patched it with flimsy pieces of junk from Walmart), and yet another flat tire, this time from a second hole.

But the last few days have been very good anyhow. Yesterday was the first day of the 2008 Juneau Folk Festival (the third year I attend it, after 2000 and two days in 2006). The Folkfest, as it is generally called, is a week-long series of fun concerts which I love, and this year the poster is by Eric Bealer:

The day before, I went to North Douglas Island with an invertebrate biology class in order to look for animals at a very low tide (and under a cold, incessant rain). It was a successful trip. There were all kinds of weird critters such as 5-foot long blood-red worms, the sea cucumber (Holothuroidea) Eupenctata pseudoquinquesemita:

And the crescent gunnel Photis laeta:

The day before that, Saturday, my landlord and friend Jad took me along on his plane on a trip down to Angoon. It was really fascinating all along the way, especially considering that I know almost nothing about Admiralty Island. This is a photo of Jad getting back on the plane at the float in Angoon.

And before that not so much happened, except that I got to briefly meet Fran Ulmer, our former Lieutenant governor, and an unsuccessful candidate for governor (alas, she lost against the power-hungry crook Frank Murkowski, who as he took over the governorship appointed his own daughter to his senate seat).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bicycling at last!

I am trying to get better at making a weekly post on this site. Thankfully, it’s been a good weekend with lots of neat wildlife pictures.

Since I got back from Sitka we’ve been blessed with almost snow-free weather. Many of the smaller lakes are starting to thaw out, the sidewalks are no longer encased in ice, and I can ride my bike! So I have been bicycling everywhere (except on Egan Drive, where I got stopped by the police because apparently it’s off-limits to second-class citizens such as pedestrians and cyclists).

I even got to do some good birdwatching, and found the following animals:

A huge flock of rusty blackbirds Euphagus carolinus:

Some song sparrows Melospiza melodia:

A female wood duck Aix sponsa:

Two dunlins Calidris alpina:

And a river otter Lutra canadensis:

I also saw the northern lights, heard singing varied thrushes, saw American robins, various diving and dabbling ducks, all thanks to being free to come and go in the outdoors on my bicycle.

I also got to meet some neat people around the university, and talk to Diane Benson, another challenger to Don Young. After having looked over a little bit more information, I don’t endorse everything she advocates. Also, her campaign platform seems really lightweight for a national office. However, if she gets the nomination I’d still vote for her before letting Don Young go on in office. Of course, I’d vote for Mickey Mouse before letting Don Young keep his office.