Wednesday, March 29, 2006

149. Having fun in the snow

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

148. Russia

I was surprised to realize I am only about 200 miles from Russia. Very tempting to just jump on a snowmachine and ride over there. The ocean in probably frozen over enough and I doubt the border is well guarded. I was warned, however, that if I am caught I might be shot at, put in jail, and have my snow machine taken away.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

147. The airport is a fake!

When I first was shown the “airport” from the outside (see photo in entry 25). I did not look inside at the time. I assumed there was some guy working there, sitting at a desk looking bored, with a coffee pot and stale coffee. He had one phone line. He had the day’s plane schedule, and if you needed to know what time a plane was coming, you could call.
On a later date I checked inside the airport. It is a fake! The building was empty, except for some garbage on the floor! Now it is filled with snow since it does not have a door that closes. There is no one working there.
People wait for the plane outside by the end of the runway. There is no processing of any type to get on the flight. I assume the pilots are told by the airlines how many people are getting on, and the pilot makes sure he or she has the right number (but I’m not even sure about that). They don’t check or label your luggage or anything; you just put it on the plane, either in one of the storage areas beneath the plane or in the back of the passenger area (which hold about ten passengers assuming all the seats are in place, but often the seats are removed to make room for a shipment to one of the local stores.) I hope no one is interested in hijacking one of their planes.
It is hard to be sure when to meet one of the planes because their schedule changes from one day to the next. There is a VHS station that Deering uses to make announcements to the village; anyone with a VHS radio can just make an announcement. The airlines announce when the planes are about five minutes away from landing so anyone who want to meet a plane knows to go to the airstrip (about a mile away from the village).
We have problems sometimes. Last month I went to Anchorage to see a dentist. I had a flight from Kotzebue to Anchorage on Thursday afternoon. My plan was to take the Wednesday afternoon flight from Deering to Kotzebue on Bering Airlines and stay overnight in Kotzebue. The plane leaves Kotzebue at four, and either flies to Buckland then Deering then back to Kotzebue, or flies to Deering then Buckland then back to Kotzebue. I was getting everything in my classroom ready for a sub after school on Wednesday when someone came to my classroom around three thirty to say that the airline called and was changing the schedule that day and would be landing in Deering in ten minutes. I did not catch that flight. The next morning I figured I’d get the Frontier flight that goes from Nome to Deering at nine in the morning to Kotzebue, but when I called the airline I was told that the plane in Nome was broken. I did not want to take the Bering flight that morning because I had to stop at the police station in Kotzebue to get fingerprinted for the Alaska Department of Education, and that flight might not leave me enough time. I called Bering to try to make a reservation for ten that morning anyway, when Frontier called me back and said they would fly another plane out of Kotzebue just to Deering and Buckland.
Suppose someone wants to sneak into Deering? Guess they could land here, and hope no one notices them. (Not likely!) They would have a hard time getting to the village. As you may have guessed, there is no public transportation between the airstrip and the village. Everyone has to make arrangements in advanced to be picked up. (There is also no way to call anyone from the airstrip to tell them to come get you.) Actually, anyone who wanted to sneak in here could do it by snowmachine from a nearby village. If you are travelling by snowmachine you are supposed to let someone at your destintion know so they can call Search & Rescue in case you don't show up. (A few people die of exposure when the weather turns bad or they get lost.)
The photograph is of the runway in Deering, taken from a plane in the air.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

146. Living on Standby

Travel around here is iffy because of the weather. Planes don’t fly if it is very stormy, windy, having low visibility, etc. The problem is, we don’t know in advance how stormy or whatever it will be. So sometimes we have to just pack our bags and wait.

I took a class on using technology in teaching science. It was given by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks out of Kotzebue. Most of the lessons were by videoconference. We had to meet once in Kotzebue for two days of actually working together. The plan was for everyone to fly out of their villages to Kotzebue on Wednesday after school. That way we could meet early Thursday morning and work for Thursday and Friday, flying back Friday afternoon. I had my suitcase packed and with me at school Wednesday, and lots of work for a substitute to distribute. Well, Wednesday afternoon the weather would not cooperate. The backup plan was for everyone to fly in on Thursday morning and we would just start and end late on Thursday. Thursday, the weather did not cooperate. We all ended up flying in Friday, staring late Friday, ending Saturday afternoon and going home Saturday evening. If the weather had stayed bad, we would have had to just cancel it because a woman who was teaching it had flown in from Beaverton OR to demonstrate the machinery from Vernier and she could not stay. (Vernier makes great stuff. They have stuff that hooks up to a moniter that hooks into the USB port and you can graph the information on the computer. The stuff they have includes a motion detector, a microphone, a heart rate monitor, magnetic field sensor, something that measures leves of different gases, etc. I went to a similar class when I lived in Portland and could just drive to the Vernier offices in Beaverton. I enjoyed it there too, but the thing I remember the most was that the guy teaching the class let me ride his Segway through the building’s hallways.)
There was a major middle school and high school basketball tournament in Kotzebue. Teams were flying in from the whole NWABSD (Northwest Arctic Borough School District). The weather did not cooperate. Everyone did end up getting there, up to a day late, and they had the games.
Besides not knowing when you will get OUT is not knowing when you will get home. I got a call a while back from a co-worker. She had gone to Kotzebue for two days. Those two days had ended three days ago, and weather had cancelled all flights since then. Could I feed her cats and clean their litter? Fortunately she was able to stay with one of the school’s administrators whom she knew because he taught here last year; Kotzebue is the hub for this area, no flights were flying out, and the hotel was full. (Alaska airlines flies jets to Kotzebue. They are divided in half between passengers and cargo. So often AA will fly into Kotzebue, but then passengers can not get the puddle hoppers to the villages because they are more likely to be cancelled due to the weather. That makes the hotel likely to fill up. Even if it is not full, the hotel charges about $160 / night and does not take pets.)
Mark is a school counselor who works for the NWABSD, traveling between the school. He has gotten stuck here a few times for many days at a time because the planes out are cancelled. There is no hotel in Deering so he sleeps on a cot in the school. Connie and I lend him whatever DVDs we have from Netflix.
On a different topic - am I now the only one with credit from both Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of Alaska at Fairbanks?

Monday, March 20, 2006

145. Happy spring!

I don't understand why, if today is the vernal equinox the time between sunrise and sunset is 12 hours and 17 minutes. I could understand if it was a few minutes off from exactly 12 hours, but only if the difference was less than the difference in the length of the day between one day and the next. The days are increasing by about 7 minutes a day.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

144. Aurora Borealis

Got some great northern lights nights Friday night. They were sort of a greenish-white color. At first when I saw them they were just a hard to see arc across the sky. As the night went on there were more arcs and thy were thicker and brighter. It was sort of like some kid took a glow in the dark crayon and was scribbling on the sky.

I could not get a picture of it (I don't know if my camera can take long exposures) so I went to the web and copied the picture that looked the closest to what I saw. (Except the sky was darker, the ocean was frozen, the green wasn't as green, and there were more arcs. but other than that...)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

143. Happy holidays!

חג שםח (I am trying to put an exclamation point at the end, but my computer keeps insisting at putting it at the beginning.)
Happy Purim!! If you are not familiar with Purim, read the book of Esther. Guess who sent me mishloach manot? No one!! I mailed them to some people, which I don't know if that counts halachically, and with the mail system here the way it is, I have no idea if they will get them today or not. There is a "virtual" Purim party at and if I had my costume from last year I could e-mail in a picture of me wearing it and enter their costume contest. They also have some videos and sort of a game show. In case you could not guess from the URL, this is from Chabad.

It is also Inupiaq day. As best I can figure, the days (this year it is yesterday and today) are chosen by the NANA corporation, a corporation based in Kotzebue to bring jobs to the Native Americans living around here. It is always a Monday and Tuesday.

Today is "Pi Day". (3/14) The specific second is at 1:59:26. This works on the US where we write our dates as month and then day. A lot of the world writes dates as day, month and observe Pi Day of July 22. Coincidentally, it is also Einstein's birthday.

Several years back, Saturday Night Live had some shtick on the fact that it was Purim and St. Patrick's Day on the same day. I don't suppose they will do something on the alignment of Purim / Inupiaq Day / Pi Day ? (A very rare occasion)

As long as I am listing holidays, I checked online. Today is the Sikh New Year, by the Nanakshahi calendar. It is also "White Day" is Japan, a day when men who received chocolate from a woman on Valentine's Day is supposed to reciprocate and send her marshmallows.

Monday, March 13, 2006

142. Deep snow

The road between my house and the school is pretty clear. Many other places the snow is pretty deep. The store is maybe five hunderd feet from my house, but to get there I have to climb over some snowbanks that are at least 4 feet high. It is worse if I want to go to the post office. I am almost out of water but they can't deliver any until the road is cleared.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

141. Culture difference

My students think it is really strange that my dog lives in my house with me. Many people have dogs, but dogs live outdoors. They have a wooden doghouse they can go into and are tied up with a longish rope or chain. I guess it is a matter of what you are used to, but I don't see the point in having a dog if it is not inside to curl up next to you.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

140. KOTZ radio

We only get one radio station, an NPR station out of Kotzebue. If you want to get them on your computer, go to .

I have often said that they play a very wide variety of songs. I was more convinced of that yesterday morning when I woke up to "Ani maamin" (a fast wedding type tune, not one of the Shoah tunes).

They have announcements,including "Mary, please call sharon whn you have a chance at 442-xxxx", "There is a garage sale at the Smith's today from 12 to 4", and "Someone found a copy of Stephen king's Needful Things over on third". (Kotzebue is much bigger than Deering and actually has several streets.) They have a time every day when they read all the birthday messages they get.

Right now they are broadcasting some high school and middle school basketball tournament with teams flown in from a lot of the villages here. It is very informal. Aparently some kid named Matthew needs to tie his shoelaces. She was not sure how to pronounce some kid's name, so she spelled it on the air (Ikaaq) and some people called in to tell her the pronounciaton.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

139. Cake walk

I am not 100% sure that a "cake walk" is unique to this area, or if it is pretty common elsewhere and I just never heard of it. Well, since I have never heard of it before, I'll assume everyone wants to hear about it. It is a way of making money, in this case for some women's basketball association. This is sort of an alternative to a bake sale.

It is set up with a circle of numbers on the floor. For each round, everyone pays to walk (in this case, 50¢). Everyone who is in stands in a circle around the numbers. Someone plays music and everyone walks around the numbers. When the-power-that-is turns off the music everyone stops and stands by the number they are closest to (one to a number). Then the power-t-i draws a number from a bag and whoever is on that number gets a cake. (If no one is on that number, she draws again.)

I did not win any cake. :-(

Sunday, March 05, 2006

138. Not sure what to do

The school changed my heater for one that works. The problem is, this heater gives off a high pitched squeal a lot of the time. It also smells like stove oil is seeping into my house which might mean that carbon monoxide is backing up and poisoning me. The squeal is stopping me from sleeping and as a result I have had a bad migraine for several days. There is no where to get a carbon monoxide detector in Deering. (I also don't have a smoke detector. Is it legal to rent a house with no smoke detector?) I can't continue like this, but I don't know what to do about it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

137. Please don't make me

I don't want to go outside several times during the night when the windchill is -32 F / -36 C to brush the snow off the exhaust pipe from my heater. Please don't make me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

136. Latest Jewish Conspiracy

Headline in Iranian newspaper:

Cultural Advisor to Iranian Education Ministry and Member of Interfaith Organization Lectures on Iranian TV: Tom and Jerry - A Jewish Conspiracy to Improve the Image of Mice, Because Jews Were Termed 'Dirty Mice' in Europe

Exerpts from the speech:

Some say that this creation by Walt Disney [sic] will be remembered forever. The Jewish Walt Disney Company gained international fame with this cartoon. It is still shown throughout the world. This cartoon maintains its status because of the cute antics of the cat and mouse - especially the mouse.

Some say that the main reason for making this very appealing cartoon was to erase a certain derogatory term that was prevalent in Europe.

The Jews were degraded and termed 'dirty mice.' Tom and Jerry was made in order to change the Europeans' perception of mice. One of terms used was 'dirty mice.'

No ethnic group or people operates in such a clandestine manner as the Jews.

Tom and Jerry was made in order to display the exact opposite image. If you happen to watch this cartoon tomorrow, bear in mind the points I have just raised, and watch it from this perspective. The mouse is very clever and smart. Everything he does is so cute. He kicks the poor cat's ass. Yet this cruelty does not make you despise the mouse. He looks so nice, and he is so clever... This is exactly why some say it was meant to erase this image of mice from the minds of European children, and to show that the mouse is not dirty and has these traits. Unfortunately, we have many such cases in Hollywood shows.

To see the speech, go to

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