"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Over, but not quite over

Our Thanksgiving vacation in Fairbanks is over, but I stayed in Anchorage to go to a dental appt tomorrow. We had a great time in Fairbanks. It was so nice to see another place in Alaska...a place that looks much more like the vision that most people get when they think of Alaska. I will blog all about it as soon as I get home and get my pictures downloaded.

Right now I'm at a hotel in Anchorage surfing their free internet and laying in bed thinking about getting some rest. It's nice having a room all to myself to spread out and relax. It's different..usually when I'm traveling I'm with someone. Have some peace and quiet and some 'me' time is great. So, my vacation is over, but not quite over yet as I'm still in Anchorage for one more day. I have a dentist appt and a bunch of errands to run tomorrow, mostly shopping. I plan to take home enough groceries to last us through Dec. 19th when we leave Bethel again for Christmas break.

I am beginning to feel (as most Alaskans do) that Anchorage is kind of like a second home. Whenever you want to go anywhere around the state or out of the state, you almost have to pass through Anchorage. Anchorage is where people come to shop, get a haircut, see a movie, go to the doctor, and just about every other thing you would go into a city for if you lived in a small town. For the first time tonight, I did not have to consult a map before pulling out of the rental car parking garage at the Anchorage airport. I pretty much know my way around now. It feels very familiar to be here. I know where my favorite restaurant is (Humpy's) and what flavor wings I like best. I know where the mall is and where the Fred Meyer (kind of like walmart) is. I have a good sense now for what direction I'm going and what major crossroads I can take to get me to various areas of the city.

Anchorage got 8 inches of snow today, so the roads are freshly covered and there hasnt been enough time to clear them. It was pretty treacherous in my little economy rental car, but I made it to my hotel just fine. It is the kind of snow fall that would keep people in their houses and cancel school for days in Ohio, but not in Alaska. I dropped my bag off at the hotel, went and got a newspaper to scope out the sales, and sat leisurely reading the paper and eating wings for dinner.

Well, I have to be up at 7am, so I better get to sleep. The robotics competition is this coming weekend and my team still has quite alot of work to do, so we'll be practicing every night for the rest of this week. I'm going to need as much rest tonight as I can get!

And btw...HAPPY BIRTHDAY AVERY! I cant believe he's a teenager already. He had a really great birthday weekend, but more about that later when I can load some pictures to go with the stories.

Good night!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

We made it to Fairbanks (barely) and have been livin' it up since then. Filling our days with as much as possible of this new place. I sat down to my computer and this free internet connection with every intention of loading some pics, but realized I left my camera cord at home. Here's a rundown of our trip so far...

Flight was delayed due to the thickest/eeriest freezing fog that I've ever seen...
We had to run to get the stewardess to ask them to hold the Fairbanks flight so that we could make it and even then we had to run...
We got to be the first to deplane...
It's the first time I've ever had to run to make a flight...

We made it in to Fairbanks at about 12:30am....
grabbed some Taco Hell...YUM! fast food...
Stayed at the house of one of the groups mentor teachers...
Got up and drove out to Chena Hotsprings...
Stopped and saw the pipeline on the way...
Spent an hour in the hot springs...
Got a professional massage...
Had Thanksgiving dinner together...
another couple hours in the hotsprings...
went to bed fully relaxed...

another hour in the hot springs...
ice museum tour...
drove to North Pole, Alaska...
Visited the Santa Claus House...
Got a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus...
Did some Christmas shopping...
dinner at McD's...fast food...YUM!...
went to see the movie Twilight...
Now i'm planning our trip to the ski resort tomorrow and going to bed...

Good night from Fairbanks, Alaska!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Houston, Part 3: NASA

On our last day in Houston, we made a trip down to the NASA Space Center south of the city. This was the one place that I really wanted to go while in Houston.
It was a beautiful day, but actually a bit chilly and we found ourselves needing the sweatshirts that we had brought along.When we first pulled up, the line of cars was ridiculously long and we thought we would have to wait a long time and be around a huge crowd.
But, it turned out that there was an old electronics collection day and all of the people in line were just there to drop off there ancient computers and tv's. That was a relief. They had two huge trailer trucks there to collect everything.
When we got inside, we discovered that it wasnt very crowded at all. Here is an engine from one the shuttles.
A shuttle replica...
The inside of the shuttle replica...it looks so much line the cockpit of a plane...
One of the first space craft to successfully bring home one of our astronauts...
And the sign that went with it...you can click the picture to make it bigger, if you want to read it.
One of the Apollo command centers that brought astronauts home from the moon...
and the sign that went with it...
They had rocks from the moon to touch and look at. They just seemed very much like regular rocks.
While we were there, the shuttle had just launched to the space station the day before. One presentation displayed actual footage of the shuttle checking it's outer shell for damage and of the command center there in Houston. This was my favorite part of the day.
After we were done at NASA, we headed down to Gavelston, because I wanted to see what it would look like in the aftermath of the hurricane. We crossed this beautiful little bridge that looked brand new. Maybe it was rebuilt recently?
There was an unbelievable amount of damage at Gavelston, even though it had been 2 months since the hurricane hit. We went to eat at a seafood restaurant on the beach and he told us that many people just did not come back after the hurricane.
Across the water, you could see the oil refineries out in the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder what it would be like to live near a beach. Maybe I'll have to consider that for my next home. Definitely not somewhere even close to the hurricane region though.
Well, Houston was a nice little getaway and I learned alot at the conference. I think my teaching has already improved from implementing some of the ideas that I got from the conference. Overall, it was a very satisfying trip.

Now...we're getting on a plane tonight headed for Fairbanks. YAY! Another part of Alaska...I hope the Northern Lights will be shining. I'll take lots of pics for you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Last tourny of the season

The last wrestling tournament for JH was this weekend. And, man, it was a big tournament. Over 220 kids wrestled over the course of two days and by the time it was all over, Avery (and alot of other people, including me) were absolutely exhausted.

Here he is pinning a kids during one of his matches...
Here he is getting ready for a match...

Here he is with a kid that he says he's jealous of because the kid has the best mustache. This made me laugh hysterically... :) Here he is with his awesome sister...

Here he is taking 3rd place for the 119 weight class....No, he doesnt weigh 119, but he was over by just a pound or so for the 112 weigh class. Taking 3rd is a pretty big accomplishment when you're wrestling kids that are bigger than you. I'm really proud of Avery lately, he's really maturing and becoming a great kid! On Sunday, we were sitting around watching movies and I was cleaning, and all on his own, he got his Math book out and started studying. He studied his Math and didnt even care about the movie that was on. He was able to completely tune it out. Something I dont think he could have done last year. I'm watching him grow up right before my eyes...Only 5 days until he turns 13!

Things are pretty busy here with us trying to get ready to leave after just coming back, but I will try to finish up my Houston posts tonight. All I have left is Part 3:NASA. There are quite a few other things that I've had on my mind lately too, so I'd like to get around to some of that stuff too. See ya!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Houston, Part 2: X-rated zoo

On Friday, the conference was over at noon, so we had the afternoon to go explore more of Houston. We decided to go to the zoo. The zoo is surprisingly close to downtown (or maybe it was uptown) Houston. It is very well kept. The landscaping and grooming of the grounds is obviously a high priority for the zoo. Some parts of the zoo were just breathtaking...

Like these clumps of Bamboo that grew well over 25 feet tall.
And this reflecting pool in the middle of the zoo was a nice serene spot to sit in the shade on a hot day.
And these towering oaks with massive branches that would be perfect for climbing or building a tree house.

We saw many animals that were common to any zoo, like this guy. Seeing him made me think of the last time I was at the zoo with the Zeigler family. We had so much fun that day. Click here for the video of that fun filled day. Nathan...is this an ape or a monkey? :)
As the day progressed, we began seeing some very funny sights at this zoo. And, of course, it all started with fornication. It makes for a pretty funny trip to any zoo when you happen to stumble upon some of the zoo inhabitants 'gettin it on'. We just happened to be there during what must be mating season for fruit bats. Every bat in the entire bat house was paired off and clinging to each other in there upside down dance. They were even rocking back and forth...they looked like they were literally humping. That, as you can imagine, set us all into a frenzy of giggles that didnt seem to let up for the rest of the zoo visit and set the pattern for the rest of the day.Just as we were noticing how well cared for all of the animals seemed to be, we came across this bird floating morbidly face down in the pond in the hogs tank. I dont think this little guy was an actual zoo resident. More likely, he just happened to fly into the glass too fast and knocked himself out. Poor guy...but because we had already started with our fit of giggles, it was kinda funny too.
The elephants gave us many minutes of laughter while we watched this momma elephant pull repeatedly on her tit, trying to get the baby to suckle. The baby groped a few times for the tit, but missed each time and gave up. Then another female walked over and we were astonished when we noticed that her teets were actually engorged with milk. She actually looked like she had breasts! I was shocked (which may be why I dont have a picture of that particular elephant). I didnt know elephant could actually have full fledged breasts. The things you learn when you go to the zoo!
BTW...this is the same herd of elephants which recently lost a baby to the herpes virus. This incident was all over the news. There was a little memorial for the elephant outside of the enclosure. It looked like several people had brought flowers to morn the baby elephants passing. Apparently the herpes virus has become an epidemic among asian elephants bred in captivity.

As I was standing between the elephant and giraffe enclosures looking at the giraffe, I heard a massive fart from behind me. The other teacher I was with was standing there looking shocked and asked if I had heard it. It was the big male elephant.

The giraffe was amazing. The enclosure was a wide open space with just a small, shallow moat and a short fence separating him and his spectators. I've never been this close to a giraffe before. He was beautiful with spots that look to me more like the shape of leaves than spots. His head was covered in big bulges and his snout was strangely shaped like a cross between a horse and duck. And I couldnt help but notice (now that the X-rated theme has been established) how huge his testicles were. When he turned and walked away, they were right at about the same height as me and I lost it to another fit of giggles. Immature, I know, but so much fun!These fish had four eyes, a pair below the water and a pair above the water. 4 eyed fish...who knew?
Then we say this statue which was titled 'Bear Cubs at Play', but I couldnt help but notice that it looked like they were involved in some other activity...
Then, we approach the Jaguar enclosure and this little sign is the first thing you see. As you read this sign, you begin to create an image and gear yourself up mentally for what you are going to see...
And then you walk up to the Jaguar and what you've geared yourself up for...A HEALED INJURY...is actually...
AN AMPUTATION. I was so taken aback by this that I lost it again, but this time the giggles were left behind to be traded for full blown laughter. Of course, I was not laughing at, nor did I find it funny, that this animal has lost its paw, but (to me) this is not what a person thinks of when they think of a healed injury. I mean...HE'S MISSING HIS ENTIRE PAW! Of course he's limping! He also looked thoroughly dejected and pretty much moped around the tank. He certainly didnt look like he could jump 20ft. He eyed the rock that was about 10 feet up and then laid down on the ground looking fairly disgusted by the situation. Once my laughter subsided, I really felt bad for the big kitty.

And then just a few minutes later, we found ourselves staring at another animal missing its claw and started to wonder what the heck was going on around this zoo.
And then there were really cool animals, like the one below...
Can you find it?

Next time, my final Houston installment...Part 3:NASA. I have to get it all blogged before I head out for my next adventure. We leave Wednesday for Fairbanks and I cant wait to see another part of Alaska!

It just keeps getting worse...

Record Report

Statement as of 9:28 am EST on November 23, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
530 am akst sun Nov 23 2008

... New low temperature record set for the 23rd...
at 422 am akst the temperature reached 26 degrees below zero.
This breaks the record of 21 below set November 23 1988.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another one!

Record Report

Statement as of 11:59 am EST on November 22, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
818 am akst Sat Nov 22 2008

... Minimum temperature tied...

At 734 am akst the temperature reached 21 degrees below zero.
This equals the record of 21 below set November 22 1988.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today's forecast....BRRRRRRR!

Forecast for Kuskokwim Delta Hide
Updated: 8:45 am EST on November 21, 2008
No Active Advisories (US Severe Weather)
Expect sunny skies over the Delta and a north wind to 15 mph. With a temperature near 20 below zero this morning and a wind chill 40 below zero frostbite can take hold within 10 to 15 minutes.

It's -17 right now with windchill it's -37 and IT FEELS LIKE IT. The upside to it being so cold is that whenever it is cold like this, the sun is always shining brilliantly. Does anyone ever look at the weather widget on the right side of my page? Just curious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Houston, Part 1

We arrived at the Bethel airport shortly after 7pm on Monday night and arrived in Houston the next day (Tuesday) around noon. By the time we got to our hotel it was round 2pm and they went ahead and checked us in. We stayed at the hotel where the conference was located, which made it really easy to get going in the morning. Too bad the morning commute isnt always so close. Our hotel was just two blocks away from Houston's famous Galleria mall, the 4th largest mall in the nation. It was massive, to say the least, and very upscale. I'm not really much of a mall shopper anyhow, so a mall with such pricey stores was even less appealing, but we went to check it out. We found a place to eat and got our hair cut. They had this massive Christmas tree right in the middle of the ice skating rink on the lower level. Yes! That Christmas tree is 3 stories high! and it was beautiful!

After walking around the mall for 5 hours and getting lost several times, we went back to our room and crashed majorly. I was so tired after all of our travel and mall walking, that I actually went to bed at around 9. That's 6 o'clock Bethel time!
The next morning (Wednesday), we got up bright and early and fully rested to attend the SIOP conference. SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol and is basically a way of teaching that allows ELL's (English Language Learners) to practice/improve their language skills while participating in their content (science, math, social studies) classes. I wont go into details except to say that the conference was wonderful. I learned a TON of stuff and have already started using some of it in my classroom. This is the first time I've been to a conference where I've actually gone back with things that are immediately usable in my classroom. Most of the other teachers there were from schools were their ELL's are spanish speakers, so many people were curious about Alaska and what language barriers we were dealing with. One man even walked up and asked me why we had so many Mexicans in Alaska and what draws them there! I wanted to smack my forehead and make that sound Homer Simpson makes when he does something stupid. So, of course, I explained that our students are Yup'ik speakers predominately, but that we also have large Asian, Macedonian, and Albanian populations. Interesting, he says! :)

That evening we went shopping at Target and bought enough stuff to practically fill the trunk of our rental Chevy Aveo. When you live in bush Alaska, you learn quickly to make use of your trips into civilization, especially by stocking up on things that are outrageously priced out here. What that means is that I didnt buy anything fun and exciting at Target, most of what I bought was bathroom stuff...soap, shampoo, conditioner...that kind of stuff is crazy expensive here. For dinner, we strolled over to the authentic looking Greek restaurant across the street from our hotel. I ordered this seafood dish that was cooked in a white wine broth and was served in a little cast iron pot with the largest spoon I've ever seen! Ok, I guess it wasnt the largest I've ever seen, but this spoon was the largest spoon I've ever seen given to someone with the idea that they would actually put it in their mouth. I think it's a fairly easy assumption that I have a big mouth, but there was NO WAY that spoon was fitting. The meal (after I got a mouth sized spoon from our server) was delicious!
I think the best thing about being in Houston was wearing shorts, short sleeved shirts, and sandals. A close second was driving a car in traffic on a road the goes more than a couple miles. Houston traffic was crazy and I almost got killed about 4 times (literally), but I still loved every minute of it. This was the view from our room. We also got the joy of a thunderstorm that rolled through the first night that we were. It was so nice to hear lightening and see thunder, even if it was for only a few minutes when I woke up in the middle of the night. Thunderstorms are another thing I miss.
After another full conference day and a bunch more learning about how to be a better teacher, we decided to give the mall another go. I wanted to go because the mall has a Border's book store and I had just finished Book 1 of my new addiction, Twilight. I finished the book the night before and had to run out and get the next book. Stupid, I know. If you know me well enough, then you know that books are my addiction and you would have suspected that I might have been talking about a book when I mentioned my new addiction. It's not so much that I NEED to be reading a book all the time, but more that once I start a book, I'm hooked! So, once I started that Twilight series, I was, of course, HOOKED! and hooked in a bad way, too. I stayed up much too late reading and read on all of my flight rather than sleeping. I even spent some time reading in the bathroom, when leaving a light on at night bothered my hotel mates. I am currently finishing up the 4th book now and you're lucky you're even getting this blog post in the midst of the epic conclusionary (is that a word?) book. Anyhow, it just so happened that while I was at Border's buying the book set, that cast from the movie was at the mall signing autographs. So, I went to go check it out, but the line was unbelievably long. Literally, the whole length of the massive mall, which had to have been a good quarter mile and I'm not even exaggerating. Well, I got a free poster anyway! I bought the whole set thinking that Avery might like to read them too, and dontcha know, he's hooked now too. He actually asked me if he could stay up an extra half hour tonight, so that he could read. AWESOME! But, I digress...back to Houston.

That night for dinner, we went to Panera to hook up to their free internet. That's were I was when I sent my quick Houston post. At Panera, I got to indulge in one of the other simple pleasures that I miss when living in Bethel...fountain pop! There's just nothing like a Dr. Pepper from a fountain pop machine. Here in Bethel, there are only 4 fountain machines in the entire town and since eating out is very expensive, I very rarely ever have one. YUM!
Of course time flew by, so before we knew it, it was the last day of the conference and we were saying our goodbye's to the other teachers we had met and heading out to explore Houston a bit more. First stop...the zoo! And the most memorable moment in Houston...by far!

Tune in next time!

Another record

Record Report

Statement as of 4:34 am EST on November 20, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
1233 am akst Thu Nov 20 2008

... Low record temperature set for the 19th...
at 1116 am lst the temperature fell to 12 below zero. This set
a new record for the 19th. The old record was 9 below zero for this
date in 1973.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pretty dang cold today!

Record Report

Statement as of 5:26 am EST on November 19, 2008

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
140 am akst Wed Nov 19 2008

... Record minimum temperature...

At 1201 am the temperature fell to 10 below zero. This establishes
a new record for the date. The old record was 9 below zero set
in 1973. With many hours until sunrise expect the record to go

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Change of scenery

The picture above is just a little tidbit of the scenery that surrounded me last week in Houston. And this....is what I came home to. At least four inches of fresh powder, which makes Bethel beautiful in its own way.

I'm still pretty exhausted and crazy busy trying to get back into things after being gone, so I havent blogged about my trip the way that I should be. Not to mention that my new addiction is taking up a major portion of my time, but I will be over that in a couple days. Curious, arent you? Let's just say it involves vampires and werewolves. I will get to blogging better posts sometime soon! I'm really looking forward to a weekend with nothing planned. Oh yeah...except for the wrestling tournament, grading papers, lesson planning, doing laundry, and packing for our next trip to Fairbanks. Having nothing planned is NOT the same as having nothing to do, but I will make sure to blog better. See ya!