Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Burke-Gilman Trail is FINALLY Open!

After 8 1/2 months of being closed for improvements, the section of the Burke-Gilman Trail between 145th and 165th (basically right where we live) is finally open. It was supposed to re-open months ago. As with most construction projects, the re-opening date kept getting pushed back and I even stopped checking. But, it did finally open two weeks ago. They've widened the trail, added a soft gravel shoulder for walking/running, and upgraded traffic controls and intersection markings. Today was the first time I rode on it. While it was a pain that it has been closed for so long, the new pavement is fantastic.

Unfortunately it's only a mile and half of fantastic pavement. On a bike it only takes a few minutes to cover that distance. And then it's back to the old, bumpy pavement the rest of the trail is made of.

I can handle a bumpy trail though when it's as nice as it was this afternoon. Especially after the downpour that went on for hours this morning. I think everyone appreciates the sun a little more after it rains.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

After six years of admiring the cherry blossoms on campus each spring, I finally remembered to bring a decent camera to campus with me (the iPhone just doesn't cut it). And on Monday morning we happened to have a little blue sky so I could get some nice photos on my way into Raitt Hall. Right after this it clouded up and has been raining ever since (not really, but it feels that way). On the weekend this place is swarming with photographers. It was nice to get some photos early in the morning when few people were around.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meeting Max


Allison and Max

Max knocking with excitement when his dad got home from work

For the last weekend of spring break I flew to San Francisco to visit my cousin Allison and her husband Adam and to meet their 15 month-old son Max for the first time. I was hoping Max would warm up to me quickly and that I would get to spend some quality time with him. I was not disappointed.

After an initial moment of caution when I arrived, Allison got Max to loosen up by showing him a picture of his favorite word: "baby!" They have a mug with a picture of him on it when he was a baby, and when they show it to him, he yells "baby!" with a lot of enthusiasm. It's his number one word. He recognizes babies everywhere he goes. Rather comically, Max also thinks that all kids are babies, and in fact, he thinks that all short people are babies (I think Allison and Adam just keep hoping no one takes offense to being called a baby by a one-year-old!). It also appears that he thinks all cups are "babies" which is almost equally as funny.

Allison and Adam said other words have started popping up in his repertoire. I swear I heard him say "shoes" twice. And while I never heard him say "yes," he did very seriously focus on nodding his head up and down when I would say yes. The concentration was just too cute.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rigging for Resuce Training

This weekend was the annual Rigging for Rescue (RFR) training for Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR).  As members this is biggest chance to review our technical rigging skills before we have to put them to use.  I have yet to be on a mission that requires technical rigging but after a year with SMR and my second time through RFR I now feel ready.  Rigging in a rescue scenario is quite different from your average day rock climbing. It is very important to be familiar with the methods and equipment so your team can operate as safely and effectively as possible.

In a mountain rescue situation our goal is usually to get the subject off the mountain and deliver them to definitive medical care a quickly as possible.  This means we do a lot of lowering using gravity to our advantage.  Mountain rescue has an extremely good safety record.  This it largely do to the way we operate out systems, redundancy and safety factors are key.  It takes quite a few people to operate a rigging system; for most systems more than five rescuers is ideal.

I don't want to bestow any bad luck on anyone out there but I am hoping I will have a chance participate in a technical rigging mission this year.  I really enjoy the nerdy physic part of it and also just want to put my skill set to use.

Eagerly leaving the parking lot under clear skies

Rescuer practicing loading a subject into a little while on a cliff face.

Rigging a little to be lowered

A passengers prospective

A lowering device called a SCARB anchored to a tree

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reproductive Rights and the Female Vote

A few weeks ago I heard a story on NPR about how millions more women vote in the United States than men (I can't find a link to the original story, but I found this reference on the Diane Rehm show that nearly ten million more women than men voted in the last presidential election). This pattern has been true for several of the last presidential elections. I was shocked. Shocked because women are still so far from equality in the work place in this country. And over the last few weeks my shock has grown into anger as I've read story after story of the GOP-proposed attacks on reproductive rights and access to health care on both the state and national level.

It makes me wonder why, if so many women vote, ARE A BUNCH OF OLD WHITE MEN legislating our reproductive rights and essentially, our HEALTH? - deciding whether employers have to provide their employees with insurance that covers birth control, what sorts of invasive medical exams women have to undergo if seeking to terminate a pregnancy, in what cases a miscarriage can be considered murder, and if doctors should be allowed to withhold results from prenatal tests from mothers.

The debates on whether employers health plans should have to provide contraceptives with no copay to employees has been couched in terms of religious freedom. This is not an issue of religious freedom. In my world view, it is an issue of human rights. Every person in this country should have access to quality, affordable health care. And for women, that includes access to and choices for family planning care.

I CANNOT imagine my life without the access I have been fortunate to have to quality, affordable health care and contraceptives and I am sure many of you can't either. Whenever I hear statistics on the percentages of American women who use some form of contraceptive, I am all the more shocked at how many politicians continue to seek to limit our access to the methods of safe family planning that are essential to the lives of so many women (and men!) in our society. And I am outraged that laws continue to be proposed that could interfere with the relationship I have with my doctor and my partner about my reproductive health.

I still don't know why so many men are in office who have regressive views on women's reproductive rights, but I do know that we have the power to do something about it. One hundred years ago women couldn't vote in this country. Today, women are so involved in public affairs that millions more vote than men. So let's vote for candidates who believe women have rights to quality, affordable health care that includes CHOICES for reproductive health and family planning.

Spring Equinox Skiing

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are continuing to have an excellent La Nina winter.  The snowpack at the top of Sevens Pass Ski area now exceeds 16 feet!  With excellent snow conditions now is the time to take advantage of the great local skiing opportunities both in bounds and backcountry.  Last weekend I skied three days in a row and today we celebrated spring equinox with a morning of excellent powder skiing at Stevens Pass. 

Not only has the snow been great but the weather and daylight are markedly improved.  Today the sun was shinning bright and even last weekend between snow showers I needed sunglasses and sunscreen.

This weekend I have Rigging for Rescue Training with Seattle Mountain Rescue but I am hoping that by the following weekend I will be out on my new ski setup.  Last weekend I climbed about 5000ft of elevation while backcountry skiing.  My new much lighter skis and bindings should make that a little easier and give me more energy to enjoy each downhill run.

Sun and snow at the same time while backcountry skiing last weekend

A Gray Jay perches on Richards skis inspecting our lunch
Molly Shredding!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First (almost) eight-miler

The route I ran home from school today
Today was my first eight mile run in preparation for training for the Onion Man Triathlon in just over two months. I decided the best way to get everything done today that I wanted to do was to take the bus to school, work for a few hours, and then RUN home. I've wanted to do this pretty much since we bought our house three years ago. But at 5.5 miles, it's sort of a big commitment, for me anyway. Up until this winter, 5 miles was a long @$$ run for me. So today I had a plan. I wanted to get in at least seven miles, eight if my knees and hips felt good.

I left school a little after 4:00 this afternoon. I was a bit worried about the weather. Anyone who has been in Seattle for the last few days knows what I'm talking about! We've been having unusually cold and crazy, bipolar weather. Yesterday I biked to school in what started as sprinkles, turned to downpour, and then SNOW! In March! And then, when I came out of the gym an hour later, it was blindingly sunny. In any case, I obsessed this afternoon about what to wear, specifically, whether to wear my raincoat and headband/ear cover thingy. It seems silly to worry about little things like that, but for a run that takes well over an hour, making the wrong decision could end in being wet and cold way longer than necessary.

I ended up taking both. The headband I wore OVER my reflective yellow Scampering Hominids baseball cap (I'm sure this looked super cool) and the raincoat I took off and on several times as the rain started and stopped, but I'm glad I took it.

So left school and headed up 20th, the route I would usually take on my bike. Then to get some extra distance I headed up to 35th and ran through Meadowbrook, then back across Lake City, and because I knew I still wasn't even at seven miles, I ran a bit of a loop around my neighborhood before letting myself go home. I wasn't tracking how far I'd run, but I knew I must have been close to eight miles. I mostly felt great and even got a bit of a second wind for the last two miles. My hip felt fine but my knees did get achy, but that is nothing new.

I mapped my run on the Daily Mile when I got home which said it was 7.8 miles. If I had known I was that close to eight miles I would have kept running!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Skiing and Spring Break!

La Nina finally hit this year, better late than never! Last night Stevens Pass got 5" of new snow and the night before that they had 9". We went skiing for half the day today, in celebrating of the end of the quarter. It is not quite officially spring break for me since I still have to finish grading final exams and turn in grades, but it's close enough to not feel guilty about skipping school to enjoy some powder!

There was actually almost TOO much powder for me to really enjoy today, if you can imagine that. I tend to get buried easily (the bigger board I want to get eventually should help me with this). But the groomed runs were in great conditions and there was so few people there that I was able to enjoy some fast, easy runs. My legs were also very tired this week which definitely contributed to some of my silly wipe outs. Why am I so tired? I ran hard this week and added some extra miles to my normal workouts to begin my training for the Onion Man Triathlon in Walla Walla over Memorial Day weekend.

I'm pretty stoked about this triathlon. Two years ago I did a sprint tri and really enjoyed it and was very happy with my time, especially my swim and run. This time I'm doing an Olympic Distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40k bike, 10k run). I am very happy with my running routine this winter and should well-prepared for that portion of the race. I haven't swam a ton this winter, but swimming is definitely my strongest event and with a few good, long swim workouts I should be good to go. I will definitely need to focus more on the bike training than I did last time. I felt like that was the leg that I could have dropped a couple minutes from had I trained more and been more familiar with the route. I plan to commute to school on my bike regularly this spring (6 miles each way) and then do one long bike ride on the weekend.

It's nice to have a goal for this spring and I'm glad I found a race that isn't too big and is Olympic distance. AND, Walla Walla is sure to have lovely weather, even if Seattle doesn't!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Local Fieldwork

Clear skies over Puget Sound as we rode aboard a Washington State Ferry

Using GPS to take quality control measurements

Surveying with multibeam sonar

Launching the multibeam survey boat

Last week was my first fieldwork of 2012.  The work was here in Puget Sound but far enough away to justify taking the Washington State Ferry and staying on the west side.  The weather was PERFECT!  There was very little rain and it was unusually warm although the clear skies did make for cold mornings.  We had two boats working on this job.  Early in the week we used our 21ft jet boat to perform the multibeam sonar survey and later in the week we used our larger Ugle Duckling to survey with the TEMA.  It was a very busy week and I did a large variety of tasks including towing the boat, setting up the GPS base station, operating the multibeam sonar, and working with the TEMA.  I can only hope that the weather is this great when we head back in a few weeks to finish up the survey.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Photos on Wood

Several months ago, Ryan suggested we print some of our photos of food-related subjects to hang above our kitchen stove. Two photos jumped to our minds right away (the raspberry syrup on the left and the strawberry rhubarb jam on the right). Although we immediately thought three photos would look nice, we could not decide on what the third photo should be. We also could not agree on what sort of paper we should have the photos printed on: glossy or matte. I wanted matte but Ryan was set on glossy. Rather than come to an agreement, we just abandoned the project. Until I saw a Groupon for photo boards from Photo Barn - a photo printed on wood, how cool is that?!?

These things seemed pricy, but the Groupon was a pretty good deal. Ryan loves wood-working (not surprising if you know his father) and I was sure he would think these photo boards were even cooler than I did. So I went ahead and ordered three 5 x 7's, picking an apple photo from our tree this fall as the third print. I decided these would be his birthday present. Okay, maybe they're more for me, since his birthday isn't until April.

I am happy to say that he does love them though. We hung them up last night and they look great. Photos printed on wood are a fantastic idea. I just wish I could justify having more made.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Skiing

Richard in our six foot deep test pit
Very wet after just a few hours of skiing

My new Voile Vector Skis!
Technically it's not spring for another two weeks but it is starting to feel like it in the mountains.  This time of year in the Cascades skiing can be really great but it can also be really wet.   Stevens pass where I normally ski is reporting a snow pack of 12 feet at at the top of the mountain (5000ft), and over 35 feet of snowfall thus far this season.  All that snow makes for really different terrain from the early season.  All the smaller cliffs and gulleys are gone and you can basically ski anywhere.

Unfortunately the late season storm systems can also be very wet; last weekend Richard and I headed out only to find the new snow had gotten soggy with rain.  Within a few hours we were thoroughly soaked and ready to head home.

Tomorrow we are headed out again in hopes of skiing new snow from the most recent storm.
Tonight the forecast is calling for four to eight inches of new snow with temperatures around 30 degrees and below, so hopefully we will stay a bit drier.

The other big news in my ski life is that I bought a new pair of skis.  This is the first pair of skis that I have ever purchased new and I am very excited about them.  As a member of Seattle Mountain Rescue I was able to get a pro-deal price and pick out a ski that will be a really good for me.  The new ski is the Voile Vector and is a little bit wider that my other skis with a modern rocker tip design.  Most importantly these skis are very light and will be great for skiing in the back country.  Without bindings the pair weighs only 6lbs 12oz.  For comparison that is the same weight as just one of my other skis with its binding.  To keep the weight to minimum I am going to put light weight dynafit bindings on them. These bindings weigh only one pound each!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Busy Time of Year

I've been so busy that this quarter has flown by, especially the last three weeks. In addition to teaching a class with 145 students this quarter, I'm taking a grant-writing class (why did I think it was a good idea to do these two things at the same time?!?), AND the anthropology department just hosted the Alaska Anthropological Association's Annual Conference. I was one of several graduate students and professors who worked together to bring this conference to Seattle for first time ever. Based on all the happy anthropologists I hung out with over the last few days, I think the conference was a great success and everyone's hard work paid off. But I am ready to get on with the last few days of the quarter so I can relax, or at least work on my dissertation without class distractions, for spring break!

One of the highlights of the conference (for me anyway) was the third annual Nano-marathon (2.62 mi) on the Burke-Gilman Trail on Saturday afternoon. After three days of unusually cold, windy weather, the sun came out, the temps rose to the mid-50's (although I swear it was in the 60's on the trail) and all the Alaskans got to see why the Pacific Northwest is so awesome in late winter. I was feeling pretty run-down from a cold, but I still managed to walk and jog 2.62 miles in 33 minutes (I think) and enjoy some warm sunshine. Below are some of the scampering hominids who competed in the Nano-marathon (all finishers receive gold medals):

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Table Mountain Skiing

The wind scoured west face of Table Mountain

Snowpack evaluation

Pulling the pulk out Sunday morning.

More snowpack evaluation

Great powder skiing!

Last weekend was the second annual boys ski trip to the Table Mountain forest service cabin.  My friends Adam and Ryan were in attendance again this year along with my friend Richard and Adam's friend Colvin.

We skied the seven miles into the cabin on Friday under fairly nice weather arriving at 3:30 pm.  After shoveling out the door and splitting some firewood Richard and myself headed out to evaluate the snow conditions.  Having received a lot of new snow we were anticipating some great skiing.  Last year had been a bust when it came to new snow and we were hoping to make up for it this year.  We were hoping the west face of table mountain just a few minutes from the cabin would office some nice slopes.  Instead we found the west face to be wind scoured with just a few thin crusty drifts covering the rocks.  Richard and I returned to the cabin tired, hungry and a bit disappointed about the conditions.

That night we carefully studied the maps and satellite photos in hopes of finding a ski slope that could offer both good snow and be safe from avalanche hazards.  Cold dry weather conditions earlier this winter have left behind a hard crust.  New snow that has fallen on this crust has bonded poorly and created unstable conditions on many slopes throughout the Cascades.

Friday night and Saturday brought more snow and a bit of wind.  We headed out Saturday morning to our prospective ski slope and had a lovely tour through heavily wooded and very wintery terrain.  We arrived at the slope and evaluated the snowpack.  It didn't take long to find the week layer.  We performed a few different tests to evaluate the strength of the snow pack and decided that to be safe we would need to ski slightly lower angle terrain and stay near and around the trees that help anchor the snow pack.

The snow was light and powdery and we were able to get in four laps on a 500 foot run before returning to the cabin for a hot dinner of Adam's delicious Jambalaya.

Sunday we returned to the same ski slopes which were conveniently located halfway back to the trail head.  While Adam, Colvin, and Ryan headed home, Richard and I spend the better part of the day skiing untracked power.  The weather improved and I was able to capture some good photos you see here.

By four thirty temperatures began to drop and we headed for the car.  With light packs and a groomed road to follow we skiing the last fours miles in just under 40 minutes.  Richard, insistent on not using his ski skins impressed me by skating the entire distance.  I tried to keep up by alternating between double polling, classic and skate skiing.

Here is a link to a video of Richard and I evaluating the snow-pack in a test pit on Sunday.  In this video we have isolated a column of snow from the surrounding snow-pack.  We are attempting to quantify the strength (or perhaps weakness) of the weak hoarfrost layer.  We cut away only about forty percent of this layer using the back of a snow saw before the upper snow-pack breaks free.  This is the same week layer that has resulted in many avalanches in the cascades over the last few weeks.  By choosing our terrain wisely we were able to have a fun and safe day of skiing.