Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowboarding and Skiing 2010

We have been thoroughly enjoying our season passes to Stevens Pass ski area this year. La Nina years are supposed to be great for snowfall in the Cascades. So far it has been pretty good. Yesterday was forecasted to get up to 9" overnight so everybody and their brother showed up at Stevens! There turned out only to be 3" of new snow though. The conditions were surprisingly good anyway - it was sunny and the snow was soft. We managed to avoid the crowds by staying in the trees and off the groomed runs.

I had a snowboarding "breakthrough" just in the last two weeks. All of a sudden I can snowboard black diamond runs no problem. I'm not sure why I got so much better, but it is definitely more fun! I learned how to snowboard two years ago and at the end of my six lessons I felt like I stayed at the same ability level for the next year. I had thought that I would take more lessons this year, but now I don't think I need anymore lessons. I've been able to snowboard everything Ryan has taken me down so far this year and I only had one major crash (it involved a tree and there were no serious injuries on either side).

I posted two videos, one of Ryan and one of me yesterday. I know I don't look like as much of a pro as Ryan, but you have to remember that two years ago I could barely make a turn on the bunny hill!


Monday, December 20, 2010

I have Early Kachemak Midden!

Emily digging in midden from 1000 years ago

Patrick recording the stratigraphy from midden deposits dated to about 3400 years ago

If you read our blog in August, you know that I was working with the Alutiiq Museum on their Community Archaeology Dig at Mitksqaaq Angayuk. The excavation was part of my dissertation research. Among other things, we were hoping to find preserved shell and bones from the Early Kachemak time period (4000-2000 years ago). Several people have asked me recently whether we have gotten our radiocarbon dates back. The answer is, yes, the Alutiiq Museum has gotten the dates back and they make me quite happy!

The midden from the "Trench" is definitely Early Kachemak. The radiocarbon date from a charcoal sample indicates that the top shell layer was deposited about 3400 years ago (in the second photo, that's the white layer just above Patrick's head). At the bottom of the archaeological deposits is a brown volcanic ash and below that is the old beach gravel. We know that the brown volcanic ash is 3800 years old (based on dates from other sites in Kodiak), so we now know that all those layers of shell and bone were deposited in less than 400 years, from 3400 to 3800 years ago. This is great news for me because Early Kachemak sites are rare in Kodiak. Even more rare are Early Kachemak sites with preserved shell and bone.

I am particularly interested in this time period because it represents a significant change in the economy and settlement patterns of the Alutiiq people. Before 4000 years ago, people on Kodiak lived in small groups and moved often, following seasonally-available food resources. Around 4000 years ago, at the beginning of the Early Kachemak time period, people began to build more permanent houses, mass harvest salmon in nets, and smoke/dry and store salmon and probably other food products for the winter. Many archaeologists have studied this transition, but due to the lack of sites with fauna, we don't have a very good idea of what people were eating. I am hoping that my dissertation research can help answer some questions about the economic changes that happened after 4000 years ago in Kodiak.

I was also hoping to find midden from between 800 and 200 years ago. In the top photo, you can see Emily digging in a test pit that we hoped would be from that time period. The date turned out to be about 1000 years old. While that's a little older than I had hoped, it will have to work! Now I have samples of fauna from 3400 years ago, 1000 years ago, and 150 years ago. Hopefully I will be able to say something interesting about how diets changed through time in Chiniak Bay.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Conclusion of the 2010 Canning Season

I've stayed busy canning this fall and I think I have finally put up enough pickles and jam to be satisfied for the rest of the year. I also think it's time to stop spending my weekends canning and get back to the lab to finish my analysis for my dissertation. Canning was a much-needed, and very enjoyable, break from the monotony of spending evenings and weekends at school but it is time to buckle down again. Any fun time I allow myself in the next couple of months will be taken up by snowboarding!

I have been very happy with all of the pickles and jam I've made. I think my favorites have been peach jam, dilly zucchini, and peach salsa. I'm a bit lazy when it comes to peeling and cutting a bunch of fruit or vegetables so I was thrilled to find peeled and sliced frozen local peaches at the grocery store. If only I could buy everything else already chopped and peeled. If you'd like any of the recipes I've tried, just let me know!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Escape from Penguq Video

Patrick and Zoya have made a wonderful video of our dig on the Alaska last summer (check out the link below to watch it). They did a great job with the video and I think it very clearly portrays the two most important aspects of our project: 1) the mosquitos were awful and 2) we had a lot of fun anyway. We really did have a great group of people who love archaeology, love Alaska, and didn't let a constant swarm of insects detract from a very cool experience and some exciting archaeology.

There are some great shots of us trying to "escape from Penguq." You'll see us walking through thick brush, standing water on the tundra, and even paddling across the river in Patrick's inflatable canoe. My favorite scene in the video is when Ryan turns to the camera with a huge grin on his face and gives a thumbs up - only the type of enthusiasm a real outdoors-man could have after hiking all day with no headnet! I'll let him explain the nude hiking scenes (all shots are, however, censored by backpacks or vegetation)...

You will also notice that it was rarely sunny at Penguq. While the vegetation seemed to green-up over the month that we were there, it paled in comparison to the lush greenery we saw when we arrived back in Kodiak. The day we left Penguq it was gray and as you will see, Kodiak was beautiful and sunny. We were reminded how nice it is to be home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crafty Things

The original photo of flowers on the Alaska Peninsula
The print on canvas

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about wildflowers on the Alaska Peninsula and posted some photos I had taken this summer. I am particularly proud of a few of these photos and have been trying to decide for months which ones I should print to hang in our house. We finally picked the one above and had it printed on canvass for our dining room. I am in love with it. I can't wait to get back to Alaska to take more photos - there is really  no place like home!

Ryan putting faces and buttons on the snowmen

One angry cookie.
I have also put my cake decorating skills to work on Christmas cookies. I think I have finally perfected the snowmen on my third attempt (the first two attempts were last year). Mostly I had a lot of trial and error trying to make the top hat look good. The color scheme was also a bit tricky, but I am very happy with the black, blue, and brown combo this time around. Ryan even helped put the faces and buttons on the last batch of snowmen. At the end we ran out of white frosting, the poor snowman on the bottom didn't get any and he also got eaten first. Maybe now I can move on to other shapes!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jet Lag 2010

This has year has, by far, been the busiest flying year that I have ever experienced.  While international business travelers rack up over one hundred thousand miles per year, I was very pleased to reach 25K with Alaska Airline partners and get MVP status.  When I was in graduate school at UAF I reached the MVP status with Alaska Airlines by flying enough segments while working in rural Alaska and by making a few trips to visit Molly in Seattle.  Back then I think they let you check an extra bag for free as an MVP.  Now I am not sure that I will see much benefit from my status other than selecting exit row seats online.

My Flight Map for 2010.  Many of the paths were flown more that once.
I realized that my most recent trip to Washington DC marked by eighth trip across the country this year.  When I returned from DC it was December and looking back it appears that I have flown at least once in every month of this year!  This might sound like a lot of bragging, but that is really not the point.  Almost all of my travel has been for work.  I would love to have some local work, perhaps right here in Puget Sound.  Instead, of the four jobs I worked on this year, three were on the east coast and one was on Lake Michigan.  I also attended two conferences for work, one in Florida and the most recently one in Washington DC.  Molly traveled a lot this summer as well and worked for over three months in Alaska.  This summer when I was not traveling for work I was often in Alaska to visit Molly and our families.  So far I have made four trips to Alaska (April, July, August, and September).  I have just one scheduled flight remaining this year.

Yesterday I purchased my ticket to fly one way from Seattle to Anchorage.  From there I will be helping my Dad drive his truck and trailer down to Seattle for Christmas.  After that he will be driving the rest of the way across the country to Florida.  All this adds up to a whole lot of money spent and fuel burned.  I hope that I might travel to less distant places for work next year, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  Until then I will continue to rack up the airline miles and enjoy the modern marvel that flying is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel is a tradition in Victoria - and one that we partook in while we were there. Afternoon tea begins with fruit and is followed by tea and a selection of adorable and delicious tiny sandwiches and deserts. Because each piece is so small, it didn't look like a lot of food, but 5 mini-sandwiches later I was sure I wouldn't be able to finish my half. I was, however, determined to at least try everything because it all just looked so good! What I was left with was a plate full of half-eaten, not-so-cute-anymore deserts. I felt a little weird about leaving my plate like that, but I paid for it and I wanted to have a taste of everything.

They tea they served at the Empress is a blend of black teas from around the world. The sent us home with two boxes so I look forward to enjoying it for the rest of the winter. Afternoon tea was a good activity for a rainy, slushy, winter vacation!