So I did some travel for work this week, which was originally going to entail a quick day trip to one of the rural hub communities for a regional meeting on Monday. Then a couple of visits to communities in another region got added on, since the flights worked out well to go to that region’s hub, to overnight there Monday night. Then we were going to go to one of the communities Tuesday, overnight there, then fly to the second community Wednesday morning and back to Anchorage that evening. A bit complicated, but combining the trips seemed to make the most sense.
The first part of the trip went fine; I went to the first regional meeting, which went well, then to the other regional hub where I spent the night. The visit to the first community the next day also went well, and we overnighted in the school there in the expectation of continuing with our itinerary the next morning.
Well, morning came, and with it heavy snow and the intensely strong winds for which that area is famous. We ended up staying three more days, each day waiting to see if the weather would clear up enough for planes to get in, and each day being disappointed, until today, when the storm finally broke and it was beautifully cold and clear. The flights today worked out fine, and I just made it back to my apartment in Anchorage. It’s awfully nice to be home.
It’s obviously not pleasant to be stuck somewhere for much longer than intended, but the experience this time was actually not that bad. The school was very hospitable, so we always had a warm place to sleep and plenty of food to eat, and there is a store in the community where we could get any additional food or supplies we wanted. The school also had internet access, so I could get some work done and keep track of how things were going in the office. It was interesting to see what it’s really like to wait out a storm like this, and the community itself was very welcoming and friendly, so it was a pretty pleasant time given the circumstances.
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake, the most powerful in recorded US history, which caused immense destruction in Southcentral Alaska and permanently reshaped the economic geography of the region along with its geology. Two years ago I wrote a post about the quake and earlier ones in prehistoric Alaska that may have had comparable effects, so I won’t go into the details now. It was an important event and this is an important anniversary, however, so I figured I should at least note it.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, Brian Switek has an interesting article on what we know (and don’t know) about the sex lives of dinosaurs, as well as a blog post looking at the possible role of the crests on hadrosaurs such as Parasaurolophus in all this. Interesting stuff, although I for one would like to hear more about the role of chai tea and Scrabble.
When I was a dinosaur-obsessed kid growing up in Albuquerque in the nineties, I used to spend a lot of time at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. There, in the main exhibit hall for dinosaur bones, there were a few mounted casts of full skeletons and a smaller display case to the side showing a few vertebrae of what was said to be possibly the biggest dinosaur of them all: Seismosaurus, which had been discovered in New Mexico only a few years before and was still being prepared and studied. This was a big deal at the time, at least locally, and I had wondered over the years whatever became of it. Now Brian Switek has the answer with an interesting post explaining how it was determined that Seismosaurus was actually smaller than initially thought and therefore not a new species but just an unusually large Diplodocus. The picture illustrating his post shows the fully mounted Seismosaurus skeleton in that same exhibit hall, which seems to have been substantially changed since I last saw it, and a post he links to with more details confirms that the full skeleton was mounted in 2004. A bit disappointing compared to the hype when it was first found, but interesting nonetheless.
What happens if you give cocaine to bees?
That sure is a lot of snow out there.
The news out of Haiti regarding the effects of the earthquake there is pretty dire and depressing. I don’t know a whole lot about the political and cultural context, aside from the oft-repeated fact that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but this page (via apostropher at Unfogged) is very useful in providing background information. The devastation reminds me of the Port Royal earthquake of 1692, which effectively destroyed what had been the capital of Jamaica and killed two-thirds of its population. The epicenter of the Haitian earthquake seems to have been similarly close to Port-au-Prince, and as a result it sounds like the country’s governmental institutions have been crippled to a degree that makes them essentially useless. Port Royal never recovered, although Jamaica eventually sort of did, and Haiti today is a much poorer country in relative terms than Jamaica was in 1692. It’s all very sad.
Via Yglesias, a very good Op-Ed about how climate change is all about collective action, not individual morality. Lobbying the Senate to pass cap-and-trade is vastly more important than any amount of diminishing your individual “carbon footprint.”
The weather’s been kind of weird here lately, going back and forth between cold and rainy and warm and clear. Now it’s snowing pretty significantly, although it hasn’t begun to stick. I’ve found it interesting being back in the Northeast and adjusting to the very different weather patterns after being in the Southwest for a while.
My mom and my sister came out to stay with me at Chaco for Memorial Day weekend. There were some family events in Farmington yesterday, and they figured it would be both cheaper and more fun to stay with me than to get a motel room in Farmington. I don’t have a roommate right now (although that’s likely to change soon), so that worked out just fine for me. They brought my mom’s new dog, Mimi. It was fun to have her around, and it was a nice visit overall.
It’s been kind of intermittently stormy here lately, with small storm systems moving through quickly and dropping small amounts of rain followed by periods of clear skies. Not long after my mom and sister got back from Farmington yesterday one of these systems moved through, and as it was clearing up there was a really spectacular rainbow. I took some pictures of it.
We were talking about it later, and my mom mentioned that when she was growing up in Philadelphia she always thought rainbows were this extraordinarily rare phenomenon that people saw maybe once in a lifetime. I found this really surprising, since for me, growing up in the west, rainbows were a frequent occurrence. Whenever there was a rainstorm, which wasn’t often, there would be a rainbow after it. I had never really thought about it before, but in the east the rain doesn’t work like that. Instead of coming and going quickly the way it does here, it just sort of lingers and gradually tapers off, with no rainbows.
In some places, like Ithaca, it basically just never clears up for months at a time. Philadelphia’s not quite that bad, but it has the same basic pattern. Plus it’s really humid all the time, so there isn’t the same contrast between wet and dry air that I think is key to rainbow formation.
So my mom had never seen a rainbow until she moved out west as an adult. Wow.