Sunday, January 29, 2012

Alaska Pictures

One of the more annoying things about scheduling a vacation to Alaska in the dead of winter was the general lack of availability of information about where we were going. There were a few reviews online, a few spare pictures, and a few sales brochures but information was pretty limited since not many tourists visit.

I therefore decided to post a whole bunch of photos of the Chena Hot Springs and the Winter Aurora Train on yelp. There were a couple already there, but nothing to give you any idea of what you are getting into. Unfortunately they cut the resolution of the pictures quite a bit, so many of them are a lot less impressive than on my computer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Alaska Gear

Our first flight was cancelled. This delays our arrival 30 hours, so we won't get to spend any time in Anchorage.

Unfortunately we had planned to buy a lot of gear in Anchorage. I figured that a Target in Anchorage would have most of what we needed and if that failed there was always an REI. Now however, we had no chance to shop there. So we went to an REI and the Bass Pro Shop in Southern California. The Bass Pro Shop was useless. They essentially had no gear for those temperatures. At REI 90% of the gear was focused on people who intended to be in twenty degree weather, but we were able to piece together some gear which seemed appropriate at the -30 or colder we will see. Unfortunately this was a lot more expensive than a Target in Anchorage would be but I think we have a reasonable shot at being able to walk around Fairbanks in reasonable comfort. I am also bringing some old gear from Ithaca, in particular my old coat. I wore it in -6 weather with much less warm of gear below it so I suspect that it will work. I got:

Snow Pants
Fleece Pants(is polyester really fleece? Either way they seemed warm)
Liner Gloves

To go along with what I bought previously

Expedition Weight Wool Thermal Pants
Expedition Weight Wood Thermal Shirt
Wool Socks
Wool balaclava
Wool Beanie

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Schools Kill Creativity

I watched this video a few years ago, but I forgot just how good it is:

Two points stick with me. First, our entire school system is trying to teach people it is not alright to make mistakes. This is a huge mistake. Acquiring any skill requires mistake after mistake. Sure you need to fix them, but I really have seen a lot of people petrified by the thought of taking on a difficult task for the fear of mistakes.

The second is that we really know nothing at all about what kids will need to know. My daughter will retire in about 2069. What skills will she need during those years? It just might be that I should focus on teaching her to shoot, forage for wild plants, and garden. Or perhaps the skills she learns playing video games will be the most important. Maybe computers will do all real work and all that matters will be basic social skills. Maybe a fascist state will arise and the most important skill she could have is keeping her mouth shut.

Much of what is taught is almost certainly useless. Math? probably meaningless except for standardized tests. Computers that can do math are just too common and their language skills are improving fast enough that soon we are likely to be able to ask them any word problems we face. The other day she was learning to read an analog clock. I can't imagine she will see many of those. Still, ruling out the useless is a whole lot easier than guessing what will be important.

Laguna Fishing Closure

After years of debate, Laguna Beach has been closed for fishing. Based on what I saw the few times I tried to spearfish there, this was probably a wise choice. The fish seem to have been cleared out of the place years ago.

If that refuge had existed for the past fifty years I have little doubt that abalone would still be common across Southern California. An area large enough to encompass the entire lifespan of a breeding population of such creatures is enough to seed life into a huge area. With larger fish, I am less certain, but I suspect that having a large breeding population of rockfish, sheepshead, ling cod, halibut and cabezon would really help fishing all across the area.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

TED Talk on Thorium

I have been a long time advocate for putting money into constructing Thorium based nuclear reactors. This TED talk is about the best case I have seen for using them. It even discusses another of my favorite topics, self sufficient off planet colonies.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Doctor Housing Bubble

I was directed to the Doctor Housing Bubble blog earlier today. It really is a good source of information about the troubles in the housing market. Issues like student loans crowding out the ability of young people to buy homes and the huge shadow inventory convince me to just stand on the sidelines until the world crashes down.

Friday, January 6, 2012

48 Percent

In Iowa Ron Paul picked up 48% of the votes from voters under 30. This makes a lot of sense to me. In the groups I am around he seems a whole lot more popular than he has been in the polls.

Newt Gingrich made the comment the other day that he did so well with young voters entirely because he is against the war on drugs. This is probably accurate. Young people have faced the full impact of the war on drugs and are generally against wasting money on it. Although his war on terror views probably attract just as many. I doubt he is making much of an impact because of his more uncommon economic views such as supporting a gold standard or elimination of the Fed. A few latch on to those after hearing him talk but it is a clear minority.

A shame his radically different viewpoint to the mainstream Republicans will probably block him from the nomination leaving me with Gary Johnson to vote for. I really would like to see a major upset throw the Republican party into chaos.

Ice People

Here are some pictures of very cold people, mostly at the Chena Hot Springs:

Half Frozen Girl:

Bad Hair Day:

Ice All Around!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Maybe -40 won't be so bad

I ran into this picture while looking for stuff about Fairbanks this time of year:

I decided that I should try and budget sometime. Actually, not so much budget, as figure out where all my money goes. It seemed like the iphone would make it really easy to record where all my money goes and make cute little graphs and whatnot.

Sure enough, a couple minute search pulled up's free iphone app. It asked for the log in information for my bank, which somehow I convinced myself to type in. Sure enough, within minutes it had recorded my last three month's transactions and for most of my debit card purchases knew exactly where I spent money and had a pretty good guess what I was buying. Sure it made some mistakes, Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu became Ralphs supermarket but overall it did quite good.

I think I will record a few months of expenses and see what I find. If nothing else, recording all my spending might make me spend less. So far it has had the exact opposite impact though, I want to spend money so I have things to write in my shiny new iphone app.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Alaska Gear

I am starting to assemble some gear for Alaska. I will only be there a week, but expect to see at least -20F temperatures and perhaps as low as -50F. This has proven to be somewhat of a challenge. I have decided to just try and get one outfit that I could comfortably walk around in while in Anchorage. Then wash it if necessary. I expect the temperature there to be between -10 +20F. In fairbanks I can always rent equipment at the Chena Hot Springs if I do serious hiking or dog sledding.

This shouldn't be too bad. I survived enough Ithaca winters after all. Still, I expect to be at least briefly out in weather thirty degrees lower than I have ever been in so I do take it seriously.

I just ordered the first half of this outfit. Next, I buy boots, pants, and a jacket but so far I somewhat have gone overboard:

Expedition Weight Wool Thermal Pants
Expedition Weight Wood Thermal Shirt
Wool Socks
Wool balaclava
Wool Beanie

I decided that I want to try on the snow pants, boots, and jacket before buying it. So I will get the rest of my gear at the REI in Anchorage. They have no sales tax there, so I imagine that it will not be too much more expensive than Amazon. Also, I can be assured of finding gear which meets the quality requirements I need for those conditions. I doubt I can find much in Southern California stores worth wearing in less than perhaps ten degree weather.

Fact Checking the Alaska Tourism Page

I am leaving for Fairbanks and Anchorage Alaska in about two weeks. Because of that I have spent a lot of time looking around the internet for information about the place at this time of year.

The Travel Alaska website reads like the Iraqi Information Minister:

"It’s neither as dark nor as cold as you might expect. Winter brings 6-13 hours of daylight, depending on where you are, sandwiched between a ton of twilight on one end and endless dawns on the other. And with average temperatures around 20°F, winter enthusiasts can enjoy Alaska in complete comfort."

As I write this, the Temperature in Fairbanks is -29F. Earlier today it was -42F. Anchorage is a great deal warmer than Fairbanks but right now it is at -9F. The average hours of daylight in Fairbanks during January is 4. In much of the state there is no daylight at all.

They must be assuming that any tourists during the winter will stay in Juneau. It probably is an accurate statement in the southern reaches of the state. Surprisingly the winter temperatures are almost identical to the averages I faced in upstate New York. Juneau only gets down to 6 hours 30 minutes of daylight during January and is currently a rather reasonable 34 degrees.