Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Division of Motor Vehicles

I had to renew my drivers license yesterday: my birthday was a few days ago and it had expired on that day.

This is actually only the second time I’ve ever gone to the DMV in my entire life! I got my license late in life and renewed it last time thru the mail (they sent me a little sticker to place on the card, and that sufficed). It had me down as being 22 years old and only 125 pounds – god knows THAT is no longer true!

I must say, I am impressed. I had expected the process to be a long, grueling 4-hour ordeal but was in and out in about half an hour. They were very well organized, processing a whole lot of people efficiently and quickly.

The building itself is rather cool; it was designed by the company I used to work for, although I had no hand in the job. The main room where most of the work takes place is circular, with 11 stations on the outer ring and seating in the center. There is an information counter right as you come in that answers all your questions, telling you what forms to fill out and where to go. You take a number, then sit down and wait till you number is called.

When I got there, they were on number 692 – and the number in my hand was 751. I thought for sure it would be a long wait, and was really wishing I had not finished my book at lunch. I barely had time to get uncomfortable in the chair, however, when they called my name.

I went to station #7, gave the lady my paper work, took my eye exam, and paid the $20.00 fee. She scooted me on to the photo wall, and I had my new license in hand about 5 minutes later.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Family Hike Series - Part 1

Well – the first hike of the season went quite well, I must say!

Mother, Chris, Kelly, Myself, Laurel, TJ & Corbin, Gareth & Mikanna, and Sara (aka: Stinky) all gathered at the parking lot around 2:00. Thunderbird Falls is an easy trail; just a mile in and a mile back out.

I discovered my super-great hiking book was WRONG – they said no fee was required, but the parking police said different. And, since he carried a gun, I was inclined to believe him and not the book. I went ahead and bought myself a year’s pass, so that I won’t have to worry about it in the future.

The night before our hike, I had stuffed my backpack with everything I could think of needing: bear spray, bug dope, binoculars, camera, Band-Aids for blisters and cuts, my hiking book, my plant book, my tree book… all sorts of things.

When I got to the trailhead, however, I realized that I had forgotten the two most important items: water and MY HIKING BOOTS. How silly is THAT? I had to hike in my clogs, which I do not recommend. It totally aggravated my blisters…

The summer season isn’t quite upon us yet, so there was still a bit of snow & ice on the grounds, and the leaves on the trees were just teeny tiny buds. But, it was still a nice day – so good to get out and about with family!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Children’s Lunch Box

This is a program that Bean’s Café, here in Anchorage, runs to provide lunches for children. According to their flyer 15,000 Anchorage children depend of free and reduced price lunches every day of school. Many of these children have no other meal during the day. The Children’s Lunchbox program provides 65,000 meals annually and serves 200 children everyday.


One of the ways they raise the funds necessary for this program is by having a promotional day where they offer lunches to offices around town. You purchase a bag lunch for $15.00 and receive a sandwich, chips, a cookie, and some juice all bundled up in a paper lunch bag that has been decorated by the children. They take orders ahead of time, and deliver the bags to your office.

Today was the day for our special lunch – my sandwich was donated by The Organic Oasis, one of my favorite restaurants. Other participating restaurants are: The Sizzlin’ Café, Burrito Heavan, Subway, Snow City Café, Café Amsterdam, and Marty’s NY Deli.

I have to say, $15.00 is an awful lot to pay for a sandwich and some chips, and as I recall they almost always get the order wrong so I end up with something entirely different than what I ordered – but it is a charitable donation for a good cause, so I keep buying a lunch each year.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thar She Blows!

When I was in high school I went on a trip on the mission boat that our church had. We spent two weeks out in the southeastern islands, going from island to island delivering mail, parcels, ministry, whatever people needed. Some of those people live all by themselves on an island out in the middle of the ocean and never see another human being except for their yearly trip to resupply.

The trip was spectacular. The boat was just big enough for the 16 of us. There were times where we couldn’t see any land off to one side of us, but always had land in sight off the other side.

One time, we were putzing along minding our own business, when we saw some whales (probably humpbacks). We stopped the engine so we could watch them. They actually came over to us to check us out! We counted at least 19 of them!! They were HUGE and would come up and bump the boat, then roll over to eye us – trying to figure out what we were. We could look down over the side and look them in the eye. Such intelligence!

It was surreal… It was also scary = they were a good three times our size, and there were a lot of them. They could have easily capsized us with just a flip of their tails.

After a couple hours, they just drifted off on their way to wherever they were going.

On another instance during that same trip, we came across three humpbacks that were feeding. They had gathered a whole school of fish together by creating the bubble net, and were lunging thru the middle of it with their mouths open, taking in great huge gulps of water and fish. Really something to see!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Good Day

What a great day Sunday was!

I started the day out at 9:00 in the morning by driving out to my creek monitoring partner’s house. It was a gorgeous day, with the birds chirping and the creek gurgling: we were able to do the entire testing procedure outside, for the first time since I started doing this! There was a lot of run-off in the creek this time. I’d never seen it so dirty – but that’s fairly normal for this time of year.

Once we completed our testing, I went to The Perfect Cup for my usual lunch of writing letters and relaxing over a cup of Market Spice Tea. My niece will be home soon, from her year at Scotland University, so I will have to find another pen-pal. I am still writing to my nieces in Palmer, though – so I will still have my routine.

At 2:00 the family met at my brother’s house for the last of our Family Movie Nights. Realistically, it should have been called Family Movie Afternoons – but that just sounds odd to me, even though it’s chronologically correct. We’ve had fun with this movie thing, and greatly appreciate my brother having us all over every other weekend – but I for one am ready to get outside and start hiking.

We watched the last of The Body Atlas series, ate pizza and cake (oh, boy did we eat cake) and got to meet the newest member of our family!

Corbin James Sullivan was born on Thursday, May 8. He is a beautiful boy who is already trying to hold his head up. His mother is recuperating nicely and is already up and about, albeit tenderly.

We had several birthdays to celebrate: my own is on the 15th, Mother’s is on the 18th, and Katy’s is on the 14th. On top of that is Mother’s Day on the 11th = hence all the cake I mentioned earlier.

Friday, May 09, 2008

My Birthday Present

Mother bought me a book for my birthday: I'm very excited about it and can't wait to dive in!

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

The Earth's biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate. And while many books have focused on the expected ecological consequences, or on the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, or economic dimensions of this loss, this is the first to examine the full range of potential threats that a loss of biodiversity poses to human health.

Edited and written by Harvard Medical School physicians Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, with contributions by over 100 leading scientists, Sustaining Life presents a comprehensive view of how human medicines, biomedical research, the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, and the production of food, both on land and in the oceans, depend on biodiversity.

The book's ten chapters cover everything from what biodiversity is and how human activity threatens it to how we as individuals can help conserve the world's richly varied biota. Seven groups of organisms, some of the most endangered on Earth, provide detailed case studies to illustrate the contributions they have already made to human medicine, and those they are expected to make if we do not drive them to extinction.

Drawing on the latest research, but written in language a general reader can easily understand, Sustaining Life argues that we can no longer see ourselves as separate from the natural world, nor assume that we will be unharmed by its alteration. Our health depends on the health of other species and on the integrity and vitality of natural ecosystems.

With a foreword by E.O. Wilson and a prologue by Kofi Annan, and more then 200 poignant color illustrations, Sustaining Life contributes essential perspective to the debate over how humans affect biodiversity and a compelling demonstration of the human health costs.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Revit Training

The Alaska Computer Brokers had what they called The Great Alaskan Roadshow the other day, where they set themselves up in the Egan Center for a whole day of workshops on all of their Autodesk products.

My friend Rikki works there – in fact, I do believe her family owns the business – so she invited me to come for lunch. We took our box lunches out to the park and sat under the trees. It’s still not quite green yet, so the trees were still bare with no leaves – but it was very nice to sit outside and chat with a friend.

She and her coworkers had just come back to town from Fairbanks, where they held the same workshops up there. Rikki spent our lunch hour telling me all about the things she got to see while up there: the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Chena Hot Springs, and a few other places as well. Since I am heading up that direction myself in a few weeks, she was encouraging me to visit them, too.

Since most of the workshops offered that day were for AutoCAD – which I am fairly proficient at already – I did not attend any of them. They did offer a Revit workshop, however, at the end of the day – and that one I most definitely attended! I am currently attempting to learn Revit by taking the tutorials offered in the HELP section of the program. I am not very good at learning a new program by myself like that, so the workshop really came in handy – if only by allowing me to watch somebody use the program who knows what he’s doing.

While I was there, I learned about a crash course they are offering in June: they will condense the regular 16-week Revit Training Class down to one 8-hour day! I’m sure it will be insane, but the price is good enough to convince my company to pay for it – so, I am going!

Rikki gave me the book ahead of time, so maybe I can get familiar with it before the actual crash course. And as Lisa, the office assistant here at work, suggested – I will take lots of paper and pencils to take notes! She even asked if I might consider giving a brown-bag afterwards, to spread my new knowledge around a bit. That should be interesting…

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tranformational Lecture Series Part 1

"Collaboration and Change: The Pathway to a Living Future"
by: Jason McLennan, CEO, Cascadia Region Green Building Council

What a GREAT LECTURE that was last night!

Jason is an excellent speaker, with a lot of really interesting subjects to talk about. If he has anything to do with the future - and he does - it's going to be a very exciting place.

Here are just a few of the topics he covered.

Zugunruhe: Migratory Restlessness
He is begining to sense a certain restlessness in people - a sense that a very big change is in the air, and people are getting ready to make that leap.

A design competition will soon be announced:
redesign the composting toilet to a more user-friendly version

Pharos: http://www.pharosproject.net/
a "nutrition lable" for building material products
signalling the future of material sellection

The Living Building Challenge: http://www.cascadiagbc.org/lbc
As close to true sustainability as we can currently get
Going beyond Platinum LEED

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Date With My Sister

Sunday was a great day. My sister Noel came in to town and finally got to meet my little Djuna. We sat in the living room and played with the girls (Djuna and Thing) for an hour or so, chatting about this and that, before heading off to our date at the PAC.

Shidara: Heart of the Immortal Mountain gave a performance of the traditional Japanese Taiko drumming.

Shidara started in 1989 and is located in a tiny mountain village nestled deep in the mountains of central Japan. Group members have lived and trained at the facility in strictest, 24-hour traditional discipline. Deeply entwined in the life and townspeople of their village, and in addition to their professional pursuits, they are committed to preserving the ancient dance festivals in their region.

It is quite something to see: their costumes are all hand made, and their athletic abilities are impressive. The “voice” of the drums was felt more than heard, it seemed. And they threw in just the right amount of humor to keep the children’s attention.

Speaking of children, the executive director of the Anchorage Concert Association mentioned that the following two performances were to be for the Anchorage School District with both days packed full of 2,000 students each time. They will surely get a great show, I’m sure!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Our Annual Kid's Fun Run Event

Saturday was our annual Kid’s Fun Run event, co-sponsored by McDonald’s, Conoco Phillips, and The Alaska Zoo. It was a great success! Each year we just get more and more organized, so each year it just gets better and better.

We offered races in four categories: ages 3-4, ages 4-5, ages 6-7, and ages 9-10; with separate races for the boys and the girls, minimum 50 kids per race. All together, that meant we had 500 racers that day, all with their families in tow. I don’t have final numbers yet as to the overall attendance, but I know it was huge.

Registration is always chaotic, but this year seemed to be better than last. We had tables set up at the entrance for each age category, manned by at least two volunteers per table. Each child got a t-shirt (different colors for each age group) and a racing bib, and each paid their fee of $10.00.

We had a table for purchasing or renewing annual passes; also one for donations to the Capitol Funds projects. Magic 98.9 was there playing the best music, like “Sesame Street” “Hakuna Matata” and “The Bear Necessities”. Kikkan Randall was there, too; signing autographs.

Two of our volunteers dressed up in the polar bear and snow leopard costumes, and were mingling with the crowd. At one point I saw the polar bear dancing with a youngster who was laughing out loud, shouting “This is fun!”

At another point, I overheard one young girl say to her sibling, “Wait a minute: that’s a costume! Look, he has feet!” all the while pointing to the polar bear. As if that’s the only thing that gave him away!

Overall, I think everybody had a good time. I know I did!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Excerpt from the book I’m reading

The Last Giant of Beringia: the Mystery of the Bering Land Bridge
by Dan O’Neill

Traditionally, scientists thought that there were four Ice Ages in the Cenozoic, the current era, extending back about seventy million years. American scientists have named them after states: the Wisconsin, Illinoian, Kansan, and Nebraskan.

And between each of these came a warmer, interglacial period they have called, respectively, the Sangamon, Yarmouth, and Aftonian.

In Northern Europe, scientists working in the Alps named the four corresponding glaciations there after rivers that flow out of the Alps into the Danube: the Wurm, Riss, Mindel, and Gunz.

To help keep things crystal clear, researchers from Britain, Northern Germany/Holland, Poland, European Russia, and Siberia have all offered terminology of different partisan provenience.

Hence, the last glacial stage is variously known as the Wisconsin, Wurm, Monastirian, Devensian, Weichselian, Vistulian, Valdaian, Sarta, and Ermakavo.

Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities

The guest speaker last night, at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, was Dr. Robert Corell – a Senior Policy Fellow at the American Meteorological Society who is actively engaged in climate change research and the interface between science and public policy.

Titled “Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities,” his talk addressed how the Arctic region, more than any other region in the world, provides a bellwether, a "canary-in-the-mine" for the world at-large as climate change impacts more directly lower latitudes in the coming decades.

He spoke of how climate change is taking place within the context of many other ongoing changes, including globalization, poverty and hunger, land use changes, rapid growth in the human population, and changes in cultural, governance, and economic conditions. He explained how impacts on the environment and society result not from climate change alone, but from the interplay of all of these changes.

The slide show was very interesting, with graphs, charts, and video clips that highlight what is going on and the research that is being done. Quite a lot of what he said was familiar to me, but he took it that one extra step farther and was up-to-date on the research results, so it was till very informative and interesting.

After the slide show, he invited people from the crowd to ask questions – indicating the microphones set up on either side of the auditorium. I was glad they provided those as typically the audience can barely hear the questions, and the speakers rarely ever remember to repeat them for us.

I must admit that I didn’t understand most of the questions, even though I could clearly hear them – the people asking them had not had time to think things thru and come up with a clear, grammatically correct question. Dr. Corell did a great job at interpreting the true questions and giving concise answers (to the best of his ability, at least).

I had invited a few of my friends to join me at the lecture, so had Elizabeth sitting to my left, and Rikki & Charles sitting on my right. I am looking forward to further discussions with them, to get their take on the event.