Friday, August 30, 2013

I Feel the Earth Move (Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake in the Aleutians)

We were shaken awake by a 7.0 earthquake this morning at around 7:25 HAST.

At first, I thought Ivan was trying to shake me awake and grumbled at him to stop... then I remembered he had already left for school. Even though it was a big one, it only lasted about a minute until it subsided into a gentle rocking motion thanks to the rollers under our house.

Anyway, off to school but I thought I'd share this very effective morning wake-up call.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Officially Alaskan / Let's Talk PFD

As I mentioned back here, I was not quite an Alaska resident... until last Saturday! My (second) Alaska license was issued August 24th, 2012, making me "official."

One thing that a lot of people know about Alaska is that "they pay you to live there." That's a reference to the Permanent Fund Dividend (commonly abbreviated PFD). Oil revenue is invested by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and a portion of the earnings from the fund is allocated to the dividends paid to each resident. The current principal balance of the fund is more than $40 billion-- a nice little nest egg for Alaska.

I won't get a PFD this year, but I will in 2014, when the dividend amount is expected to rise significantly: this year's projection is less than $800, while next year is projected to be $1300 or more, thanks to the worst of the recession falling from the five-year running earnings average used to calculate the dividend. Each year, the amount is announced in the early fall and payments are distributed in October. There are PFD sales, and generally Alaska is a pretty jolly place to be around dividend time.

One thing I'm really excited about is choosing my Pick.Click.Give. options! Pick.Click.Give. is an easy and painless way to support a local charity or nonprofit group directly from your payment.

If you're a new Alaskan or thinking about moving up, consider that residency is calculated as being a year from arrival (or issue of documentation such as a driver's license, lease, etc.) while PFD eligibility is based on being present for an entire calendar year. So if you move up January 1st, 2014, you won't receive a PFD until fall 2016. If you arrive December 31st, you'd get it in 2015. Evidently, if you're born in Alaska you're immediately eligible for the next year's dividend. Also, remember that cost of living in Alaska is much higher than in other parts of the country. Everything-- rent, food, gas, internet, airfare-- is more expensive here. So the PFD is not a good reason to move here, but it's a nice bonus!

There's more eligibility information here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dipnetting, Pipetting*, and Baseball

Last weekend, I finally finished something I've been trying to knock off my list for the past few years. After a two day practical, I am now officially done with Organic Chemistry lab! Six labs, lab reports, and post labs knocked out in 16 hours. Much gnashing of teeth, lots of ridiculously terrible smelling chemicals, some freshly synthesized aspirin, and one Bunsen burner catastrophe avoided later, I am on the cusp of finishing the prerequisites for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program here in Alaska. And that is very exciting.

While I was doing that, Ivan took the opportunity to go dipnetting. Dipnetting is an Alaskan institution, open only to residents. Thousands of Alaskans flock to the Kenai Peninsula and other hotspots to stand chest-deep in icy rivers wielding gigantic nets, snagging salmon as they attempt to run upstream to spawn, dodging fishermen and bears along the way. If you hit it at the right time and the run is good, you can fill your freezer with dozens of delicious salmon and eat like a king for the winter.

Kenai River Fish Camp. Hard to see, but the little dots on the river are dipnetters.
Sadly, Ivan didn't have much time on the river and the prime run hadn't quite started yet, so no salmon. After I finished up at the lab, we tried one more time. I had to sit ashore and keep my hands to myself because I am (shockingly?) not quite an Alaska resident yet.**Anyway, here's Ivan looking very Alaska Man.***

Wednesday, we took care of a tradition and went to an Alaska Baseball League game. Every summer, NCAA players come up to Alaska and spend the summer in fierce competition for the ABL League Title. There are two Anchorage teams -- Glacier Pilots and Bucs-- and years ago we arbitrarily chose to be Glacier Pilots fans.

Miners at bat.

Wednesday's game pitted the Glacier Pilots vs. the Matsu Valley Miners. We arrived at the bottom of the 5th to find the Miners up 2-0, and so the score stayed until the very dramatic bottom of the 9th when the Glacier Pilots somehow pulled out a 3-2 victory.

The victors.

It's a nice small stadium with a down-home feel, and makes for a lovely (and cheap!) evening. Our two tickets ran us $7.

* Surprisingly, no actual pipetting was involved this time around, but I couldn't resist...

**Yes, I am sort of a state-less woman at the moment, having given up my DC rights and not quite able to assume Alaskan equivalents (though I originally moved up in 2010, I moved back to DC for work which wiped out my residency bid).  That all changes this August, though. PDF 2014, you'd better be worth the wait!

*** I'm not sure if this is unique to Alaska, but there's a widely distributed portfolio of eligible Alaska bachelors called Susie's AlaskaMen. It wraps every Alaska stereotype up with a big bow on top and is good for a giggle, especially if you are in the market for men whose "rugged individuality, spirit and vitality make them unique among men of the world."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Denali - The Great One

Also known as Mount McKinley. The highest peak in North America, Denali has a summit elevation of 20,320 feet above sea level. On a clear day, it is possible to see Denali from Anchorage-- more than 400 miles away.

We were extremely lucky to have some clear views of the mountain. Even when it clouded over a bit, it was stunning to see the peaks poking out of the clouds.

Denali Park Views

We were lucky to have some unbelievably gorgeous weather in the park.

Riley Creek, steps from our campsite. Nature's sound machine.

Riley Creek again.

Front country.

View from Highway Pass.

Polychrome Pass.

Eielson Visitor's Center.

Pictures of Denali itself to follow!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Denali Megafauna

All pictures taken from the Denali Park Shuttle, Eielson Route, July 2013.

Moose, browsing around. 
Caribou, times two.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Camping on the Kenai

One of the really nice things about being back in Anchorage for the summer is our backyard, the Kenai Peninsula. I could think of worse places to spend a Saturday night. 

My first time on the mudflats! If you look closely, the pattern the water makes at the bottom looks a bit like Alaska... see it?

Sunset. This was around midnight.

Oh, trees. I love you so.

The view from inside the tent. Someone (*ahem*) left the rain fly behind, so it was a very open tent experience. Luckly it was warm and gorgeous. Almost too warm, even.

I think that these cloud patterns are related to the extreme-for-Alaska heat the last couple of days. We've gotten up into the (gasp!) 80s. No biggie compared to lower 48 conditions, but remember, almost no one up here has air conditioning.

Six Mile Creek, running very full.

We ran into some French gentlemen who had traveled from France to Africa to South America and all the way up to Alaska. They were bound for Asia next-- what a trip!

They caught us admiring their map and we had a nice conversation with them. They assumed we were Canadian-- not sure whether to blame our respective Quebecois teachers, or the fact that very few Americans speak French...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Signs of Spring

We had a hard frost this morning, but by noon it had melted off into a beautiful clear day. These little droplets of water looked liked gems and sparked in the sunshine.

There's nothing more cheerful than these bright little flowers. Brown is rapidly changing into green all over, and the snow is starting to melt off the mountains.

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