Kansas Rambling

Posted by: Steph on November 10th, 2012

I’m on my annual trip to Kansas to attend the Southwestern College Science Advisory Committee meetings. The meetings are usually held on the second weekend in November - on the tail end of Fall in Kansas. The bright colors are starting to fade and the land is starkly beautiful.

Each year, I drive from Winfield east to Grenola in the Flint Hills where our ranch was located. I geocache along the way and end up bouncing around on county gravel roads that divide pastures and fields into perfect squares. Lots of cattle, hawks, horses, windmills, meadowlarks, etc. It really is a vast landscape. I definitely need a wide angle lens or a large format camera. The viewscape just doesn’t fit onto a normal lens.

Hay rolls in the hills:

One tough scraggly tree on top of a windswept hill:

Limestone ruins. I think it looks like an ice house:

My Grandfather Thompson’s graveside marker:
RJ's Gravestone

Uncle Jim and Aunt Blanche!
Aunt Blanche and Uncle Jim

The Thompson family gravesite boundary marker:

Read: Kansas Rambling »

Another Grand Tree has Fallen

Posted by: Steph on July 14th, 2012

On July 3rd, Peter’s stepbrother Bruce died after a long bout with melanoma. Bruce was an amazing man - one of those once in a lifetime people. Smart, funny, caring, great brother, fabulous husband, tremendous son. The list could go on forever.

To lose such a fantastic human being so young is just heart wrenching. But Bruce faced death with tremendous dignity and courage. And he and Andrea (his wife) are a testament to the true meaning of love. They made their way through this past year with humor, courage, love, and dignity. Every time Peter and I visited them in Chicago, we came away richer and more fulfilled.

Bruce’s Chicago Memorial Service was held Monday. It was an intense, sad, funny and amazing gathering of family and friends. Bruce was a large part of so many people’s lives. The audience included friends all the way from grade school through the last year of his life. At least forty college classmates and fraternity brothers attended.

The weekend was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Knowing Bruce and Andrea has made me a better human being.

Below is a slideshow including pictures from the Sunday gathering at Bruce and Andrea’s. I did not take any pictures at the Memorial Service. But I had to include pictures from the Temple’s social hall where the post service reception was held. The assistant rabbi is a rock guitarist and curated an exhibition of album covers that he has collected over the years. The album covers have one common theme - Jews and Music. It was perfect:

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Florida Daily Downpour

Posted by: Steph on July 13th, 2012

It’s been a very intense ten days. Peter’s adored stepbrother Bruce died on July 3rd in Chicago after a long bout with melanoma. The Chicago memorial service was on Monday. Peter then flew to Boston on Tuesday for Bruce’s burial. I flew down to Florida to be with Peter’s Mom and Stepdad. And then Peter joined us all on Wednesday.

I’ll do a long post about the amazing memorial service - heartfelt, intense, sad, but yet a great celebration of close family and friends.

But I did want to post a few pictures I took today of our daily afternoon moonsoon. It’s poured rain every afternoon between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Which is a good thing - Sarasota definitely needs the water. And the storms have been amazing - thunder, lighting, deluges. We just don’t get those in Alaska. We even had a funnel cloud yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, it was short lived and did not touch down.

Here are two pics I took during this afternoon’s downpour:

I just love the way the red flowers stand out during the deluge.
Rainstorm tree

The view out the back. It looks positively biblical:

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A Great Tree has Fallen in our Midst

Posted by: Steph on June 17th, 2012

On June 5th my Uncle, Tom Arthur, died after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. I adored Uncle Tom. He was one of the most important male figures and role models in my life. He was always there – well, at least as far back as I can remember. He always provided support, encouragement, and insight. I was an offbeat little kid and still continue to march to my own drummer. He never criticized. Instead he accepted and encouraged who I was.

He was a true “Renaissance Man.” Art, Poetry, Golf, Mountain Climbing, History, Novelist (!), etc…

As, Bishop Mallory said during his homily,

It is as though a great tree has fallen in our midst. Some might say it was one of the finest oaks in the forest and the forest will never be the same; but our memories are enriched by the memory of the man we are here to honor and remember today. T.A. was a lamp post for many in his 81 years among us. He was a kind of Renaissance man, a man for all seasons who touched and enriched so many lives.

Yesterday was Uncle Tom’s memorial service in Palm Desert (there will be a second service in Chicago in early August). It was a marvelous service and this entire weekend has been wonderful. There have been tears but the past three days have been a tremendous combination of close family, fun, and a celebration of life.

Here’s a slideshow from the weekend. Shots from the memorial service and various gartherings. You’ll also see lots of artwork - mainly sculptures - all created by Uncle Tom. You’ll see an amazing raven, lots of busts - General Grant, his granddaughter Jillian, and Andrew Jackson.

Read: A Great Tree has Fallen in our Midst »

Venus Transit of the Sun and Our Little Home Observatory

Posted by: Steph on June 5th, 2012

I’ve been excited for quite some time about Venus’ Transit of the Sun and today was the Big Day!

This morning, the weather looked quite iffy: cloudy. Two weeks ago, our view of the partial solar eclipse was completely obscured by cloud cover. And this is Anchorage after all. But miraculously, by noon the clouds had completely burned off and all systems were go for the 2:06 PM start of the transit.

At 2:00 PM, I clambered up the ladder to our roof and set up my tripod, camera, and brand new solar filter. Ready and waiting! I started taking pictures right at 2:06 PM, but I couldn’t see the dot. Really, the only dot I could see was the very large dot that was the sun. After a bit, it became apparent that my 104mm zoom lens simply was not big enough. I did a bit more research and discovered that the minimum lens length is 500 mm and 1000 is best. In this case, size does matter. sigh… Oh well, I will be prepared to photograph the next solar eclipse.

But - I still had a great time. The #VenusTransit twitter hashtag had a ton of activity and was great fun. I followed all sorts of web sites and saw a lots of fabulous pictures and videos. This video from “Camilla SDO” is my favorite.. It is wonderful to see people get so geeked out on astronomy and science.

Here are a few shots from this afternoon’s activities:

Our little home observatory. You can just make out the solar filter on the end my camera lens.
Slatrat observatory

The official Observatory Dogs. “What is Mom doing up there???”
Observatory Dogs

And finally, one of my pictures of the sun. Venus is on there somewhere.
Little yellow ball

Read: Venus Transit of the Sun and Our Little Home Observatory »

A New England Wedding (and Geocaching!)

Posted by: Steph on May 30th, 2012

Erin, one Alix’s best friends and one of our all time favorites was married on Sunday in Northampton, MA. Peter and I made the trip back East to represent. Alix was the very unfortunate victim of hideous scheduling - her national veterinary neurology boards were scheduled for the very same day (Sunday, May 27th) at exactly the same time. Really?? 365 days a year, 24 hours per day and exactly at the same time?

The wedding was wonderful - one of the most delightful weddings we’ve ever attended. Gorgeous bride, handsome groom, eclectic inclusive meaningful ceremony, special friends and family, stunning setting, great reception, fabulous food, amazing weather, etc. The stars were aligned.

The slideshow below contains several pictures from the wedding. Take special note of the Matt’s (the groom) tuxedo. It was made by one of his close friends and reflects Matt’s love of color, fun, and the inclusive symbolism of the rainbow.

Monday, we zoomed our way back to Boston for the Memorial Day game between the Red Sox and Tigers. Great day for a baseball game. Warm, sunny, happy crowd and the Red Sox won!

When we returned to our Hotel Marlowe room in Cambridge after the game, there was a surprise waiting for me: Tyge and Echo - well, their picture. The Marlowe provides a fun service - you can email the hotel pictures of the “loved ones” you miss and they will print the picture for you and leave it on your pillow! Tyge and Echo also gave Peter his Father’s Day gift a few weeks early - a limited edition Tommy Bahama “100 Year Anniversary of Fenway Park” silk shirt.

We decided that one of our trip goals was to get at least one geocache in each of the six New England states: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

We slayed Massachusetts and Vermont on Sunday. Yesterday we drove up to Maine to visit Peter’s alma mater, Bowdoin College. What an idyllic campus; pine trees, grass quads, stately brick buildings - the quintessential college experience.

We also stopped by the mapping and GPS company, Delorme in Maine and visited Eartha - the world’s largest revolving globe. What a fantastic place. The gift shop was Slat Rat nirvana - maps, books, mapping gadgets, geocaching goodies, etc.

We snagged the New Hampshire cache at a “scenic” park and grab.

Today, we did a most marvelous hike and geocaching expedition in the deep buggy woods to the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island Tri-state marker. By polishing off Connecticut and Rhode Island, we bagged all six New England states!!

This is why geocaching is so awesome - you visit places and see things that you would never even knew existed.

We have had a fabulous trip - one of our best trips ever!

Read: A New England Wedding (and Geocaching!) »

Mother’s Day with Mom, Peter, and Da Poochies

Posted by: Steph on May 13th, 2012

We celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday - a day early. Mom had this vision (hallucination?) of hiking the Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood and then doing dinner at our favorite Girdwoodian eatery, “Jack Sprat”. As we turned off the Seward Highway onto the Alyeska Highway, we noticed there was still snow on the ground. As we approached Alyeska, there was more and more snow. Lots of snow. By the time we arrived at the Alyeska Prince Hotel, it was clear that we would not be hiking the Winner Creek trail since we had neglected to bring snow shoes.

Instead we went for a nice long walk along the bike trail which was clear of snow. It was raining with the occasional snow spit intermixed. Definitely not the weather one expects in mid-May. But we had a delightful time. And da phoochinis loved it.

After our cold wet walk, we had a warm wonderful dinner at Jack Sprat. And yes, Carol, we had the Yam Fries, the best Yam Fries in the whole wide world!!!!

Trying to get everyone arranged for the picture. Check out the wall of snow with the emerging sculpture.
getting ready

Peter and Tyge motoring down the trail.
Peter and Tyge on the trail

Crocuses (Croci?) pushing up through the snow.

Mom and Tyge looking very happy on the way home.
Mom and Tyge

Read: Mother’s Day with Mom, Peter, and Da Poochies »

The Ice is Out! And The Winner is…

Posted by: Steph on May 6th, 2012

…Da Ski Boy. Peter is so excited! This is the first time he’s ever won!!!!

I admit, I’m very surprised that the ice went out this early. There was a part of me that was sure that it wouldn’t go out until sometime in June. But it went out today, May 6th. Which is right around the average date.

Even as late as Friday, I was thinking we still had another week to go. But yesterday, I was stunned to discover that 75% of the ice was gone. It just disappeared - there was just a bit remaining at the west end. Must have been the wind on Friday.

Below are the final standings. All the late guesses. I suppose that will teach us - even after a winter like this one, the ice generally goes out between May 2nd and May 6th.

Lagoon 2012 results

Read: The Ice is Out! And The Winner is… »

Ice Classic Entry Deadline Extended One Day to Midnight April 30th

Posted by: Steph on April 29th, 2012

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I set the entry deadline at midnight on April 29th. It should end on April 30th - the end of the month! So, by fiat I’ve extended the deadline by one day. Click here to enter now!

The final sure sign that winter is gone and we’re fully in the midst of breakup on our way to summer is that I put a double coat of “summer storage” wax on my skis and closed up my waxing table.

In the past week, the ice has really started to rot out. There is a large amount of open water on the southeast end. And there are spots and pools of water along the shoreline.

In terms of overall melting, we still have two to three feet of snow in our front yard. But, we’re an aberration (you already knew that). Throughout town the snow is mostly gone and tufts of green grass are sprouting up here and there.

I think we’re wrapping up one of our sunniest Aprils of all time. But the last two days have been cloudy and cooler. That may slow the melting process.

Here’s a picture of Mom, Tyge, Echo and I yesterday morning. We’re on the west end of the lagoon facing south. Definitely much less ice than last week.
MomMeTygeEcho I

Read: Ice Classic Entry Deadline Extended One Day to Midnight April 30th »

Lagoon Ice Update - April 24th

Posted by: Steph on April 24th, 2012

From the National Weather Service, “The tripod on the Tanana River at Nenana fell at 7:39 pm on Monday April 23rd as the ice shifted. This is the fourth earliest time the ice has gone out at Nenana since the event began 96 years ago.”

The earliest the Lagoon Ice has gone out is April 26th. I think I can safely say that the Lagoon will not be following the Tanana’s early ice-out example.

Here’s Echo out on the Lagoon this morning. As you can see, the ice is still pretty solid. With this in mind, Click here to enter your guess.

Echo on the ice

Read: Lagoon Ice Update - April 24th »

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