Lots of great Alaska headlines recently, but I want to call attention to the one nobody is talking about. The above graced the front page–above the fold, mind you–of the Anchorage Daily News on Thursday.  Maybe it was funnier to me than to you since I was reading it at 2am in the Girdwood gas station, but hey. Being back in Alaska for the first time in five years can do that to me.


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Rolled back home through the sunrise this morning from an excursion up the coast and into PDX. Roberto has been visiting for the last week, and we started a sightseeing trip over the weekend that culminated with dropping him at the airport early this morning. Great times, great places, great people. During the days on either side of the trip, I finished reading both Ambient Findability by Morville and Coyote Warrior by Vandevelder. Both broadened my horizons in their respective areas, and while I disagree with Morville’s dismissal of oral cultures, I’ll have to discuss that another time. One of his epigrams (from Ted Nelson, paraphrased below) is pretty arresting,. It is also exactly one of the theses of Vandevelder’s description of the attempted dissolution of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota. 
“EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly. Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial. Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged—people keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can’t.”
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Mostly natural

14 September 2007

Corvallis is nice. Almost, but not quite, that sort of little-bit-too-perfect, everybody-knows-everybody-else, Stepford-nice. But not quite.

It does have lots of trees, though, and while I knew that I would be completely lost for a while, I hadn’t counted on the absolute riot of diversity in leafy (and needle-y) things here. Within about a hundred feet of our house are several kinds of maple, fir, holly, birch, oak, elm, and magnolia. The tree map that I got, which covers part of campus and adjoining parks, has about a hundred and eighty kinds of trees on it. No kidding.

Birds are another thing, though it seems strange that I should be amazed by crows, turkey vultures, and pinyon jays scrub jays, given that in the week before I left, I saw a lot of endangered honeycreepers. But there you go. I am amazed, and even delighted.

I am also enjoying having a large and active public library within walking distance, and while I’ll no doubt rack up fines soon enough, my only monetary expenditures so far have been at the large and active used bookstore downtown. I snapped up a copy of Lost Discoveries, which I started reading before I left Hilo. One of the few hardbacks I’ve bought in recent years, but this book is worth it. From the public library, I’ve started both Song of Solomon and Bomb Scare at the same time. It’s possible that either one is more that I can chew, but perhaps I’ve got a big enough bite I’m deluded into thinking I can handle it. We’ll see.

Back on the science bandwagon soon, no doubt.

In the spirit of recommending planetarium software in the last post, I’d like to solicit input on good bird books. I browsed for a while today, but couldn’t figure out whether Corvallis was ‘grassland,’ or ‘woodland,’ according to their classifications.

At any rate, I saw five nene flying over the Mauna Kea access road yesterday on my way down from the summit. I’ve seen a few in the same spot (between the runaway truck ramp and the reservoir) before, but never airborne. Cool.

The only constant in my life for the last month or so has been the ecliptic. Amid a ridiculous whirl of packing, helping others pack, preparing for a serious job interview, travelling, apartment hunting, mending fences at work, and sundry other things, I have tried to keep my eyes on the planets at night.

My friends can attest that with little or no provocation, I have been pointing at the night sky with a silly grin on my face and saying “Venus,” or “Jupiter,” or “Saturn.” These celestial non sequiturs are tolerated with polite indulgence and mild shaking of their heads, but they make me feel better. And recently, when Elle and I flew to Oregon where I spent a week before I reluctantly glided back on my own, the lineup of the aforementioned balls of cosmic dirt, together with the waxing gibbous moon, were the only things that kept me centered.

It turns out that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for, despite copious preparation on everything from sprinkler heads to rat catching, as well as thoughful and intense interview prep from some very well-qualified friends. Ah, well. Keep looking, and in the meantime head to the summit today.

For any astro-types out there, check out Stellarium, an open-source planetarium application. It is typically light on features, but has a very nice aesthetic (a feature too often overlooked, in my opinion) and has at least a few Hawaiian star and constellation names, making it one of an even smaller category, as far as I can tell.

Bird types aren’t so lucky, since I don’t have a website for you, but you’ll no doubt be amused by my sheer joy in seeing turkey vultures and crows in abundance. No doubt I’ll get over it.

I recieved an email from my friend Rod Floro, a science teacher at Kea’au Middle School who is spending the next several weeks at sea as a crew member on the Alingano Maisu. As with any trip, Rod experienced problems with the airlines and new language at the destination when he flew from Hawai`i Island to Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

According to the PVS website, the voyage from Kealakekua Bay to Majuro lagoon was about 2200 miles and 26 days. One of the first actual signs of land (other than the knowledge of the navigators) was a sighting of birds (manu o ku or white terns) which can range out about a hundred miles from land during the day. Also, Google Maps has much better pictures of Majuro available than they did a couple of days ago.

Below the fold is a bit of Rod’s email–enjoy.

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Grateful for the wind

13 February 2007

The weather has been wierd for the last couple of days, like the wind switch is stuck between ‘Trades,’ and ‘Kona.’ Aside from plenty of vog succeeded by plenty of rain, this just kind of makes everybody uneasy.

So it’s nice to see somebody enjoying the weather. As I was leaving campus on my way downtown today, I saw an `io looping gracefully on a thermal just across Lanikaula St. Unfortunately, by the time I parked and got the camera out, it had soared a few hundred yards farther away and I couldn’t get a picture.

A while ago, somebody told me about a nesting pair near Kukahau`ula, the Institute for Astronomy headquarters building. I wonder if this was one of those birds, though I have also seen a pair up by the hospital. I wonder how big the `io population on the island is?