TerminationDust.Net http://terminationdust.net Alaskans, on Alaska Tue, 23 Mar 2010 03:59:22 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.6 en hourly 1 http://terminationdust.net http://terminationdust.net/wp-content/plugins/maxblogpress-favicon/icons/tdicon.ico TerminationDust.Net Fairbanks Receives Unexpected Accolade http://terminationdust.net/?p=156 http://terminationdust.net/?p=156#comments Mon, 22 Mar 2010 23:52:31 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=156 Re-posted from “Alaska Vacation Blog

I have always been a bit of a weather nut. Those of you who are also weather nuts know what I mean. At a point earlier in my life, I was destined to become a television weatherman, but alas, I was defeated by calculus. But before I suffered that defeat, I did get my feet wet in that field, and I even worked for NBC News in Washington, DC, where I was assistant to their longtime weatherman, Bob Ryan.

One of the main reasons I moved to Alaska was my love of winter weather. I moved from Washington, DC to Fairbanks in 1986, and to say that the winter weather in Fairbanks was different, well… that would be an understatement. But I fell in love with the Fairbanks winters, and when I got into the business of creating custom tours for clients, I always thought that there was room to do winter tours in Alaska – after all, the first thing that many people think of when it comes to Alaska is snow and cold.

No matter how much I love winter, I thought it was a bit of a stretch when I heard that The Weather Channel had declared that Fairbanks was among the top ten winter weather locations in 2009-10.

Wow.

Really, it isn’t that big a stretch to realize that winters in Fairbanks are pretty spectacular… but it is a little surprising that others would figure it out. It is true that Fairbanks gets modest amounts of snow, but the climate is otherwise dry, and late in the winter (like in February through April), the skies are clear and the sun is bright most days. The weather is just perfect for winter activities, and a lot is happening in Fairbanks in March, including the World Ice Art Championships, and the Open North American sled dog races. Many of our guests go to Fairbanks in the winter for dogsledding adventures and a visit to Chena Hot Springs. I even created a special website just for Alaska winter tours.

So, a hearty thank-you to The Weather Channel for recognizing something we here in Alaska already knew.

We do winter right!

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Whats happening in Talkeentna http://terminationdust.net/?p=151 http://terminationdust.net/?p=151#comments Mon, 08 Mar 2010 20:05:54 +0000 Kathy Stoltz http://terminationdust.net/?p=151 Thursday & Friday, March 18th & 19th

Description: The folks that brought you “Flanagan’s Wake” and “Carol on my Wayward son or Stuck in a Manger with You” are at it again. This time they’ve turned their satiric wit upon the myriad absurdities of love and romance…Alaska style. An ode to the joys and heartbreaks of local courtships, “How to make Love Like an Alaskan…Sleepless in Soldotna” invites its audience to peel off the layers as we examine what’s sexy in America’s most bundled up state. Adult content. Thursday, March 11th is a dress rehearsal open to the community on a “pay what you can” basis. Tickets can be purchased in advance with credit card by calling 733-7929 during box office hours Mon-Fri 10-2pm. Cost: $10 DAC member / $12 lodging key / $15 general admission

Oosik Classic Ski Race- March 20th

The very best ski race in the state. Start Friday night with the Denali Drama presentation, Ski on Saturday, then Buffet and then Party on at the After Ski Party.

Did you know that this race is listed as one of the top 100 Toughest Races – (www.100.peak.com)

Submitted by: Kathy Stoltz
Meandering Moose Lodging
www.meandering-moose-lodging.com

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Here’s What’s Up in Talkeetna http://terminationdust.net/?p=129 http://terminationdust.net/?p=129#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2010 00:22:19 +0000 Kathy Stoltz http://terminationdust.net/?p=129 Winter in Talkeetna is a much slower pace than when our summer travelers arrive.   As all those living in Alaska know, winter is a wonderful time of the year and here in Talkeetna it is no exception.  Talkeetna with is close proximity to Anchorage, Wasilla and Palmer is a great location for a “sta-cation” This term was told to me by my daughter who lives in San Diego.   They see many tourists travel thousands of miles for a Va-cation and they have termed this for a stay in your area and enjoy a vacation in your backyard.  So here is a little of what’s happening in your backyard in hopes you will come out, do a little cabin camping on your “sta-cation” in Talkeetna.

Local Musician – Benefit  – Sat,  Feb 27  Talkeetna is a community and a large part of the community is the local artists and musicians.   There will be a community benefit to help with medical bills for musician Murry Nash.  Murry performs with “Bath Tub Gin” as well as with other artists in the area.  Plans are in place for music throughout the day and night, and auctions.   We are hearing that musicians from all over to join in.   Make your plans; mark it on your calendars now.   Begins at 5pm Saturday goes till 4 pm on Sunday- Denali Arts Community Hanger and Fairview Inn.

 The Oosik Classic X-Country ski race is scheduled for March 20th.   For those that have participated you know that this is the premier ski race with lots of activities for the weekend for family and participants.   Last year was a phenomenal race that took advantage of great river conditions.    What route do the organizers have planned for this year?  Well, let’s just give a few hits:  snow, rivers, views, sloughs, views, mountains and did I mention Denali Views and more.    The trails are already being groomed setting a great base for this year’s event.     The fun begins on Friday night March 19th with our local Denali Drama presenting:  “How to Make Love like an Alaskan… Sleepless in Soldotna.   For all of those that enjoyed the show last year, this time they’ve turned their satiric wit upon the myriad absurdities of love and romance… Alaska style.  An ode to the joys and heartbreaks of local courtships.  They invite the audience to peel off the layers as they examine what’s sexy in America’s most bundled up state.  Last years show was”Flannigan’s Wake” was sold out event, so make your plans and reservations now.     

 Well, that only starts the weekend off. Saturday’s events include of course the XC Ski Race (25K & 50K).  The website and like to register for the race is: http://www.anchoragenordicski.com/Events/oosik.htm,    The fun of the race in Talkeetna does not stop as participants take off their skis,  the event continues with a buffet at Sheldon Hanger,  then time to enjoy the afternoon in Talkeetna before the after ski party at the Sheldon Hanger with fun and dancing.   For those wanting more of course there is the Fairview Inn for the after-after ski party.    Sunday morning the place to gather and fill up is the Famous Talkeetna Roadhouse for Breakfast as seen on recent TV episode of “Man vs. Food”.

 Hint:  make your reservations for lodging, also, as the town fills up.

1st Annual Homebrew Contest is scheduled for March 27th   -  Denali Brewing Company and the Great Northern Brewers Club welcome all home brewers from around the state for the first Annual Homebrew Contest.  Come bring your delicious hand crafted brews to beautiful downtown Talkeetna for a chance to be a brew master for a day.  The winner gets to use their recipe and create their award winning beer onsite at Talkeetna’s own local brewery! Come join the fun!

Live Music Venue – Whole Wheat Radio – Whole Wheat Radio supports singer/songwriter/musicians with live performances in one of the most awesome venues – House Concerts in the Log Cabin home to Whole Wheat Radio.   Other than say that this is one of the very best things in Talkeetna, I am unable to express in words the atmosphere that they have created at Whole Wheat Radio and the caliber of artists that perform.   If you are lucky enough to be in Talkeetna on a night of a performance, this is a must do.  For performances and times you can link to www.wholewheatradio.org.

In addition to the events listed above, Talkeetna is a great place any day or weekend.   Snow machine by day on the groomed trails, including our trail to Petersville Road for access to South Denali (only 4 miles by trail to Trapper Creek).   Or if you prefer enjoy the groomed trails for XC skiing.  Snowshoe and enjoy the views of Denali or take a flight.   Enjoy the art community at the art showings or events at Denali Community Arts Center.    After a day in the snow or enjoying shopping in our quaint village you can enjoy the evening in Talkeetna with great dining and entertainment.

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What Boo Saw – Adventure With the Great Sled Dogs http://terminationdust.net/?p=109 http://terminationdust.net/?p=109#comments Sat, 30 Jan 2010 02:52:51 +0000 Leslie Goodwin http://terminationdust.net/?p=109 I have owned sled dogs for 16 years and been a sled dog tour operator for ten of those years, and this January, while Interior Alaska has been mostly bitterly cold and low on snow, I had the chance to read a book or two and reflect on why it is I do what I do.  I asked myself, what has it meant to me to spend practically everyday from October to April on the back of a dogsled for nearly sixteen winters?  What compels a person to go out at -50F, hook up and dogsled and convince people that it’s fun? Why do I feed fifty dogs for 365 days, when I get to drive them only about half that time?  I could pat myself on the back and read the guest book that over and over states what “an experience of a lifetime” everyone had, or remember the thrill of a new musher take successfully to the runners in ‘Mushing School’ with a huge grin on their face.  But at this point, I realize there is so much more to it.

I look at Boo, the wise, 14 year old leader, who has seen and accompanied me on a lot of trails and through a lot of learning curves.  Why did she do it?  There’s no steering wheel, no gas pedal and no forcing a sled dog to do what they don’t want to do.   From big adventures to daily tourist rides, Boo always had a sense of loyalty and sense of adventure – a what’s-around-the-next-corner type of excitement.

Boo on a break

Boo on a break

Her sister,  Cranky,  was never a particularly great sled dog, but got the job done.  For Cranky,  it was about what’s in the trees.  On several occasions she ran head-on into trees,  checking out birds and squirrels in the treetops.  Once, while giving rides, my mushing companions watched her take me, my guests and a whole team of twelve dogs into the trees chasing a squirrel.

I was never so embarrassed.

Last  summer I watched another great sled dog with superior will flail on a fun run behind the 4-wheeler.  Doc’s back-end quit on him, but he was determined not to let that stop him – he dragged the back-end with the front-end until I made him stop and recover.  Once he relaxed the muscles that had seized, he stood back up and took off again down the trail. He wasn’t interested in going home,  just farther down the trail. Doc has always been an honest, hard-working wheel-dog who just didn’t quit.  Just because his body didn’t work was no reason his head and will were not intact.  He lives out his days at 15 years old at the kennel getting pats and posing for guests.  He needs a wake-up knock on his house at feeding time because he can’t hear so well, but his tail still wags with affection and I know he’d rather be with the team.

On one particular 300 mile personal wilderness adventure along some desolate Interior Alaska trail, a mushing partner and I encountered what I’ll call ‘less-than-desirable’ trail conditions.   Hindsight being 20/20, we realized in the middle of our trip that with rivers breaking up behind us, we had left about two weeks too late for this particular outing.  We either had to fly two dogsleds, all our gear and twenty dogs out of a tiny village in tiny planes and spend non-existent mucho bucks or tough it out.   Being adventurous sorts - or lunatics –  whatever fits, we chose the latter.

I believe it is on this trip that I learned how tough a sled dog really is.  With battered paws from a tromp over a plowed, rocky road (that wasn’t supposed to be plowed yet) and dog fur soaked through to the skin from a dip in a slough where the dogs chose to head towards the swirling blue water instead of going upstream in moving overflow, we marched into a tiny village 200 miles from our starting point.   Along the way we had been through three-feet deep snow, 20+ miles of no snow at all on bare, knee-deep tundra, gorgeous sunny and hot  spring weather, complete with snow and river ice melting, and rain. Our frozen meat even thawed.  We came across dead caribou when we chased a herd off of a frozen lake (the dogs loved that). It was so late in the mushing season that there were geese on a small lake.   Boo, my courageous leader, found the trail when I thought we were lost – she had miraculously found an old trail left behind by a single snowmachine for nearly 20 miles over that  knee-deep bare tundra.  The only discernible trail to the human eye was an occasional ribbon of melting hard-pack where the snowmachine had packed down the snow.

We had planneed to travel another 100 miles, but we decided to stop, and call this trip a ‘learning experience’.  It wasn’t necessarily the glamorous ‘Call of the Wild’ trip of a lifetime we dreamed of as kids, but we all made it.

Heck yeah, I’d do it again and I will always look forward to the adventure.  Each time I put myself on “the edge”, I learn something new – the edge may not be the most comfortable place, but for adventurers, it’s nourishing.   I trust my dogs more than ever - or maybe with more experience now, I am able to trust my instincts as to what the dogs are telling me.   And I never forget to listen to the weather forecast – just for entertainment.

On another adventure

On another adventure

Reflection time is good.  I must never forget why I chose this path.  For me, just remembering is not enough.  It’s time for the next big adventure.  Boo entertains us from her house at this point in her life so she isn’t really up big adventure anymore.  Her eyes tell stories… and I wish I could put her wisdom in a young sled dog body.   However, there is a whole crew of willing and capable candidates with a mysterious unfailing desire to run to the edge to see what Boo saw.  I will always revere the great sled dogs for their unequalled stamina, solid conviction regarding that which they are passionate and the trust they grant their humans who wish to follow the uncertain path.

Leslie Goodwin is the owner of Paws for Adventure - a premier dog sled tour company located in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Paws For Adventure  provides dogsled adventures from short rides to multi-day winter camping excursions driving your own team of sled dogs.

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Mount Redoubt Rumbles Again http://terminationdust.net/?p=96 http://terminationdust.net/?p=96#comments Mon, 28 Dec 2009 21:32:32 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=96 The Alaska Volcano Observatory has increased the Aviation Code for Mount Redoubt to ‘Yellow’. According to their website, the aviation code of yellow means,

Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has decreased significantly but continues to be closely monitored for possible renewed increase.

Coincident with the change in the aviation code, Redoubt’s alert level has been raised to ‘Advisory, which means,

Volcano is exhibiting signs of elevated unrest above known background level or, after a change from a higher level, volcanic activity has decreased significantly but continues to be closely monitored for possible renewed increase.

The change in state was made after a marked increase in the rate of repetitive earthquakes near the summit. These quakes started on the afternoon of December 27, and have continued into today.

Mt. Redoubt, as seen from above Potter Marsh in February, 2005

Mt. Redoubt, as seen from above Potter Marsh in February, 2005

Mt. Redoubt erupted last winter and spring, sending volcanic ash across Cook Inlet to many communities along the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Bowl, as well as to parts of Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks.

The Alaska Volcano observatory provides a number of online services for those interested in keeping tabs on Mt. Redoubt, and all of the active volcanoes in Alaska. The main page for Mt. Redoubt shows the current status, as well as providing links to webcams, webicorders (online representations of seismic data, provided in near-real-time) and trajectory plots, which show the forecast direction of the ash plumes, in the event of an eruption. In addition there is a website for your mobile phone that also provides links to this information, and you can find that here.

More links to pieces on Mt. Redoubt:

… and while we’re on the topic of volcanoes, this piece from National Public Radio discusses recent discoveries about the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

 

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Wilderness For the Holidays http://terminationdust.net/?p=81 http://terminationdust.net/?p=81#comments Thu, 24 Dec 2009 20:17:54 +0000 Neil Darish http://terminationdust.net/?p=81 The holidays are here, and by here I mean ‘the middle of nowhere’.   Or at least the middle of one extremely remote place in Alaska.

McCarthy, Alaska is the tiniest of towns located in the middle of the largest protected wilderness on earth.   There are less than 2 dozen people ‘home for the holidays’ in the McCarthy area, scattered around at various homesteads in a 20 mile radius inside 13 million acres of wilderness.

Imagine an historic ghost town in the middle of deep, snow covered wilderness, surrounded by major mountain ranges and glaciers.  During the summer, the town is busy with tourism.   By busy I mean there are about 100 people in our tiny town on any given day between mid May and mid September.   In the winter, however, the town goes from a population of ‘hundreds’ to a few dozen locals that stay through the winter.

The mill building in Kennicott.

The mill building in Kennicott.

Living a remote lifestyle gives you a rare feeling; a combination of natural connections to the land, uniqueness in daily choices you make about each resource, and the satisfaction of living your dream.  For most it takes years of dreaming before attempting to live off the grid in Alaska.   It takes a lot to live remotely in Alaska.  The result is a comfort and peace that is elusive in the 9 to 5 world.

Ma Johnson's Hotel in McCarthy.

Ma Johnson's Hotel in McCarthy.

Strange then, for me to decide for the first time in 10 years, to head out for a 9 to 5 ‘big city’ experience.  I am enjoying the last couple weeks in McCarthy before I head to Manhattan for a few months.  This is one of the only times in almost 10 years I have left McCarthy for more than a few days at a time.   An opportunity to work in NYC for a few months a year, doing something productive and in line with my own philosophy and in such an “opposite” setting, is exciting.  There was some guilt for a while, about leaving this town I have been intertwined with for the past decade, but it is only for 2.5 months.

At least I am home in McCarthy for the holidays now, and I know I will be back in McCarthy in time for the 2010 summer season!

Neil Darish is the owner of McCarthy Lodge, Ma Johnson’s Historic Hotel and Lancaster Backpackers Hotel in McCarthy, Alaska. McCarthy Lodge offers lodging and fine dining to guests from May to September. McCarthy is located in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

HTML clipboardNeil Darish is the owner of McCarthy Lodge, Ma Johnson’s Historic Hotel and Lancaster Backpackers Hotel in McCarthy, Alaska. McCarthy Lodge offers lodging and fine dining to guests from May to September. McCarthy is located in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
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The Cost of Obsolete Technology http://terminationdust.net/?p=35 http://terminationdust.net/?p=35#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2009 21:02:59 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=35 When I first started my business back in 2004, I shared an office with another company, and they allowed me to use some of their computers. The computers were quite old, but they worked, and I was not in the position to spend money on a new computer.

The debate I was having at the time had to do with justifying the tangible cost of a new computer against the intangible cost of lower productivity. As the owner of a fledgling business, every expenditure was scrutinized, and it was hard to justify spending that kind of money, especially since I didn’t have any employees, and the only person’s productivity that was being impacted was my own. In other words, I was happy to sit at my computer for an additional ten seconds waiting for something to load, if the alternative was to spend $600 on a computer.

After a couple of months, I realized that a good part of my day was spent staring at a computer screen while my computer “thought” about what it was doing. It was becoming a problem, and so I finally bit the bullet and bought a new computer.

I never looked back.

This is a common problem for a lot of computer users – their computers get so slow as to be tedious to use, at best, to unusable. And this phenomenon invites a lot of questions, such has how to prevent it, or fix it once it happens. The problem is, even the most computer-savvy users can’t avoid it. Applications and operating systems are designed to operate on state-of-the-art machines, so as users update Windows and applications, they further tax their machines because the applications are designed to run on newer, faster platforms.

While the symptoms of the problem are the same today as they were in 2004, the solution isn’t. One of my business associates has asked me to help with his computers from time to time, and this issue has been at the core of his problems. After taking the usual steps of scanning for malware, deleting unused but running programs, defragmenting disks, etc, the option that seems to remain is to add memory to the computer. Unfortunately, while the cost of memory is relatively low, the cost for memory for some older computers is comparatively high, and for computers that are more than three or four years old, you can’t really add enough memory to bring them to current standards for the applications and operating systems. So while you can improve them, you can’t fix them.

If you’re tech-savvy, spending a computer seems like the thing to do, but when you start to add up the cost of your time and effort, plus the cost of whatever hardware (such as memory) that you might need, the cost of fixing a computer that you can’t ever really fix becomes rather high.

But there is also the cost of doing nothing.

Employees that do repetitive tasks on a computer (such as data entry or responding to emails) are quite in tune with the moment-to-moment health of their computers. They know how long a particular transaction should take, and are willing to wait for a transaction that might take a second or two no matter which computer you use. But when that same transaction now takes four or five seconds, or something that used to be nearly instantaneous now seems sluggish, your employee perceives that there is a problem with the computer. This is a problem for you, because when your employees are complaining about a computer being slow, it is because it is affecting them at the moment that they’re trying to be most productive. A slow computer doesn’t cost you anything when it is idle, but if it slows your employee down by ten percent when he or she is trying to do productive work, that could be a big deal.

So let’s compare some of the possible courses of action. You can “tune up” your computer – add memory, remove unneeded and unwanted software (including spyware and malware), defragment the hard drive, clean the registry, and invest a couple hours of your time (or your IT department’s time, or bring someone in to do the work for you). You’re investing a couple hundred dollars in materials and labor in that process, and it is something that in one year, you’ll probably have to repeat, but with diminished results. You could do nothing, and live with the reduced productivity of your employees. But this is an expensive proposition, too. If your employee is paid $15 an hour, and the computer slows them down by ten percent, and they spend ten percent of their day doing productive work on their computer, than you’re wasting one percent of their daily work waiting for the computer… or $1.20 per day. That’s $26.40 a month per employee. That’s $316.80 per year… and it is possible that your employee is both more productive and more expensive than this.

So when you start to look at the cost of either living with or maintaining computers that are obsolete, you find that the annual cost is between $200 and $350 per computer. That number is getting very close to the cost of a new, basic computer.

Of course, buying a new computer doesn’t solve all the problems. There are the costs of migration – moving files, installing applications, etc. And for computers and users that are something above basic, the calculus goes out the window because the computers get more expensive. But at the same time, the reasoning for current technology is even more compelling when the application is demanding of computing resources. In addition, when you purchase a new computer, you get the benefit of a new warranty.

Not every computer problem is solved by buying a new computer. But sometimes the cost of a working, but slow computer is higher than a new, basic one.


Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Phenom Watch – Stephen Strasburg http://terminationdust.net/?p=46 http://terminationdust.net/?p=46#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2009 00:18:28 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=46 With temperatures hovering near zero across the state, local sports fans flocking to the nearest hockey arena, or camping in front of the television to watch football, there probably aren’t too many Alaskan sports minds thinking about baseball.

But here’s your opportunity.

Saturday morning at 10:30, you can log into the Major League Baseball website and catch the Arizona Fall League Championship Game between the Peoria Javelinas and the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

This may not seem like a very compelling game – after all, the teams are comprised of minor league players, not big-leaguers. However, most are considered to be the best of the young prospects. But the starting pitcher for the Desert Dogs may someday be one of the more famous and dominant pitchers in baseball.

His name is Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg was the first pick in this year’s Major League draft, and signed the largest-ever contract for a draft choice ($15 million). As a player with San Diego State and the U.S. Olympic Team, Strasburg quickly rose to become one of the most coveted amateur players coming into the 2009 draft. He was drafted by the Washington Nationals in June, and signed the contract just minutes before the signing deadline in August.

The Nationals sent him to their instructional facility in Florida to get into game shape, and then he headed to Phoenix for Arizona Fall League, which is an instructional league for the premier minor league talents. In his five games in Phoenix, Strasburg was mostly spectacular, winning four of five starts, and flashing a 100 mile-per-hour fastball that baffled most hitters.

His team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, have clinched their division title, and will play for the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday morning – and the starting pitcher will be Stephen Strasburg.

I traveled to Phoenix to watch Strasburg in early November, and he’s everything that people say about him – he’s overpowering as a pitcher, but he also has devastating breaking pitches. He’s head and shoulders above most of the players, and watching him is a real treat.

Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Surprise Rafters on November 2.

Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Surprise Rafters on November 2.

So if random College Football doesn’t float your boat this Saturday, go to MLB.com and check out the game. You can be the first on your block to see the Next Big Thing in baseball.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Leonid Meteor Shower Tempts (Very) Few Into the Cold http://terminationdust.net/?p=37 http://terminationdust.net/?p=37#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2009 01:25:11 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=37 If you’ve bothered to head out into the night to watch a meteor shower, you probably didn’t do it in Alaska.

That’s because the three conditions that are required to see a meteor shower – clear skies, darkness and being awake and outside between midnight and dawn can  mean only one thing in Alaska: cold.

In other parts of the country, where clear, dark skies are not always associated with winter temperatures, people will take reclining chairs and sleeping bags, set them up away from city lights, and stare into the sky and count the meteors. One of the most popular meteor showers for this sort of thing is the Perseid meteor shower. This shower, which occurs in early August, is a consistent producer of fifty to seventy meteors per hour.

Last night was the annual occurrence of the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. The Leonids are not always consistent, but when they’re good, they’re actually great. This shower has produced “storms” where a continuous fall of meteors has been observed, with estimated rates of as many as 100,000 meteors an hour. This year was not expected to be so good, but some scientists expected rates of as high as 500 meteors per hour.

This forecast was enough to get me to bundle up and head up to the parking lot at Flat Top in Chugach State Park just before dawn. Given the publicity surrounding this year’s shower, I expected to see at least a dozen early-risers staring into the darkness, but when I arrived, there was just one other car there. We set up our camera and stared into the darkness. One thing that many Anchorageans (Anchorageites?) take for granted is how few stars you see here in town. You’ll be rewarded by a spectacular site if you make the short trip up the hill on the next clear night.

The show started slowly, and for the first ten minutes or so, we stood staring into the sky, snapping time-lapse photos, and slowly chilling ourselves to the bone. We didn’t see any meteors. Finally, my companion pointed to the sky and said, “There’s an airplane…” but in fact, it was a satellite. Satellites are another thing that you can see on a dark night, and we saw at least three of them this morning.

Meteor flashes across the early morning  sky over Chugach State Park. Meteor streak is at upper left of image.

Meteor flashes across the early morning sky over Chugach State Park. Meteor streak is at upper left of image.

Finally, we saw our first meteor, and then a second, and a third. My companion and I were staring in opposite directions, so we rarely saw the same one.

I noticed that some of the meteors seemed to be coming from the “wrong” direction. Meteor showers appear to come from a single point in the sky – if you draw a line backwards along their tracks, these imaginary lines all converge at a single spot in the sky. In the case of this shower, that spot is in the constellation Leo, hence the shower name, Leonid. The meteors that were coming from the “wrong” direction were actually part of a different, lesser-known shower, the Taurids, whose radiant point is in the constellation Taurus.

After about an hour and a half, we noticed that the sky in the east was starting to get lighter. We waited another ten minutes, hoping for that last spectacular meteor. We did see a few more, and while they weren’t spectacular, they were quite bright.

It was now after 7 AM, and as we headed down the hill, we encountered people headed to work. At first, one or two, then a dozen, and before you knew it, we were in honest-to-goodness traffic.

Our early morning expedition had us out at the edge of the wilderness, staring into a moonless sky, counting meteors as they fell. In less than an hour, we were back in our offices, starting our work day.

Both the Leonids and the Taurids are past their peak intensity, but a trip out to look at the sky and see the occasional meteor is still time well-spent. Dress very warmly, and head out after midnight and before dawn. This week is a particularly good time for meteor viewing because the moon is in the evening sky, and has set before midnight. If you would like to photograph meteors, you’ll need a camera that is capable of long exposures. One minute is a good practical minimum, though the image included with this entry was a 16 second exposure.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Better Late, But Never Would Be OK, Too http://terminationdust.net/?p=31 http://terminationdust.net/?p=31#comments Thu, 12 Nov 2009 19:13:15 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=31 I sat at lunch yesterday and watched the snow blow by the window of the restaurant. It was the first time this fall that snow of any consequence fell during the day, and here it was the eleventh of November.  While nobody was complaining too loudly – after all, snow in November is really nothing that unusual – there was this sense that we might have been happier if the snow had held off another few days.

We’re a greedy bunch here in Alaska. In most years, we would have had a month of snow already here in Anchorage, but many people still had flowers and vegetables in their gardens up until just a week ago. If you didn’t get your tires changed over before the snow, you have nobody to bale but yourself, do you? In fact, the day I had my tires changed over (November 6), they asked me if I wanted to wait for them, because they weren’t busy at all. Yes, we had an awesome summer, and an amazing fall.

But here’s the part that you might be overlooking. We have thirty-nine days until the winter solstice. In thirty-nine days, the days will actually start getting longer. Sure, we’ll lose a couple more hours of daylight in the next month, but we’ll get them all back by the first of February – a mere eighty days from now. When you consider we substituted a month of fall (a season we sometimes never actually get here) for a month of winter, we’re guaranteed that our winter will be a month shorter than it usually is – and we got that month up front!

Between you and me… you really like winter, don’t you? After all, you live in the Winter Capital of the World. We do winter right. If it didn’t snow, that wouldn’t really be OK with you, would it? If it is going to be dark and dreary, we ought to have some snow around to brighten things up. I bet that when your friends from the Lower 48 call and complain about driving in the snow, you laugh at them, don’t you? I thought so.

All in all, we’ve been lucky this year. We had a great summer (we were due, after last year), and an amazing fall, and so far, a gentle start to the winter. Better late – yes. But never?

No. Thanks for the snow, too.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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May I See Your ID? http://terminationdust.net/?p=27 http://terminationdust.net/?p=27#comments Tue, 27 Oct 2009 03:44:50 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=27 There are a few constants in air travel these days: removing your shoes to go through the metal detector, and showing a picture identification card. The former is just an inconvenience, but the latter appears to be a necessity – and as a phone call to my office proved today, it is one that can throw quite the monkey wrench into your plans.

One of our customers has been out of Alaska for a few days, and we found out that he has lost his picture ID. As you might imagine, there was some concern about getting home, if there is a requirement to produce a document that has been lost or stolen, and you have no way to replace it.

A quick search of the ‘net and a phone call to the airline revealed that the single most important step is to file a police report as soon as you discover that the license is lost. This establishes that you’ve actually lost the license, and also the time and place of the loss.

Apparently it is up to the airline to decide if they are going to issue a boarding pass… and it is only for the Transportation Security Administration to actually screen the passengers. So if you can convince the airlines, you should be able to get on the plane.

That said, the advice is to allow plenty of time to work your way through security (several hours, at least). The airlines pointed out that when you lose your ID when you’re on the road, you already have demonstrated who you are to an airline employee on your outbound flight… so they are more likely to accept alternative documentation for the return. That said, any documents that support your identity are helpful in convincing the airline to issue the boarding pass.

You’d be better off all-in-all to never have lost your ID in the first place… but once it happens, it isn’t the end of the world. Just allow yourself plenty of time, wear a smile, and hope for the best!

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Bird of the Month: Swans! http://terminationdust.net/?p=23 http://terminationdust.net/?p=23#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2009 00:54:36 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=23 There is a lot of spectacular wildlife in Alaska, but this October, one of the most prominent animals are the tundra swans that have taken up short-term residence on local lakes. I was first alerted to them by recent photos in the Anchorage Daily News, but I hadn’t realized how many there were until I made a drive over the weekend down to the Kenai Peninsula.

A swan takes flight at Tern Lake this morning.

A swan takes flight at Tern Lake this morning.

Almost every large lake as at least a pair of swans paddling around. Several are hanging out in Potter Marsh, and quite a few more are visiting the lakes along the Seward Highway between here and Tern Lake.

If you’ve never gotten a good look at a swan – and until I moved to Alaska, most of my experiences were domesticated swans that one might see at some hoity-toity water park – they are very impressive animals. They have spectacularly large wings and bodies, and there’s some illusion that occurs when they’re in the water that makes them appear goose-like in size. But if you get to see one standing on land, or flying at close range, you start to think more of a small airplane rather than a large bird.

Today’s sunny skies gave me the opportunity to snap a few photos of some of the swans I saw on my journey today.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Spreading the Word Far and Wide About Alaska Day http://terminationdust.net/?p=20 http://terminationdust.net/?p=20#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 23:33:31 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=20 It is easy to forget Alaska Day in 2009, given that back in January we celebrated our 50th anniversary of statehood. But we do have a state holiday coming up, celebrating the transfer of Alaska from the Russians to the United States. The people of Sitka observe the holiday a lot better than most of us, but that is mostly because as the capital of Russian America, Sitka was where all the fun happened back in 1867.

But Alaska Day has not been forgotten completely, and ham radio operators across the state will take to the airwaves on Sunday and spread the word to the world with a special event station. The station will have a special callsign, KL5O, and ham radio operators around the world can contact any of the special event stations on the air. Successful contacts will be commemorated with a special card (a QSL card – QSL being a shorthand for confirmation).

KL5O QSL Card

KL5O QSL Card

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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With Snow on the Hills, Kings Are Just a Memory http://terminationdust.net/?p=15 http://terminationdust.net/?p=15#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 23:11:19 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=15 King salmon fishing this year was nothing to write home about – for most people. But a few did land their fish, and a lot more did not. All of them have tall tales to tell.

Mat-Su Valley king in June 2009

Mat-Su Valley king in June 2009

My luck wasn’t as good as most years, but I did get one big one!

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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Alaska Nanooks Sweep Kendall Hockey Classic http://terminationdust.net/?p=8 http://terminationdust.net/?p=8#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 22:41:01 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=8 The Alaska Nanooks came to Anchorage last weekend and swept the Kendall Hockey Classic, beating CCHA rivals Michigan 2-0 on Friday night, and Mercyhurst 5-1 on Saturday night.

Second period action is Saturday's Alaska - Mercyhurst game.

Second period action is Saturday's Alaska - Mercyhurst game.

The University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves beat Mercyhurst 5-3 on Friday night, and lost to Michigan 6-1 on Saturday.

The Seawolves travel north to Fairbanks for the Brice Goal Rush, which is hosted by the Alaska Nanooks. Both Alaska teams will face Robert Morris and Rensselaer Polytchnic Institute over the weekend. Last year, UAA won the Brice Goal Rush tournament.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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An Experiment in Cooperative Journalism http://terminationdust.net/?p=3 http://terminationdust.net/?p=3#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2009 00:21:38 +0000 Wigi Tozzi http://terminationdust.net/?p=3 Earlier this summer, I happened to be in the local Holiday store. I usually read my news online, but on this particular day I hadn’t gotten to that, and when I walked past the sales rack for the Anchorage Daily News, I bothered to pick up the paper… and I was shocked to find that there was hardly any paper there at all!

In a lot of ways, the emaciation of the traditional newspaper is a sad thing… it is a little like watching someone that is terminally ill, waste away. But the print media is like any business, it finds ways to evolve and succeed. It isn’t that I’ve abandoned newspapers, but rather, I prefer them delivered to my computer than my doorstep.

When I looked at that copy of the Anchorage Daily News, I realized that the online version is superior in most ways to the “dead tree” edition… but also, that almost anyone can have a “newspaper” now… hence the creation of TerminationDust.Net.

TerminationDust.Net isn’t intended to replace a traditional newspaper… or even, really, to be a newspaper at all. It is meant to be a place where Alaskans can go, contribute content to their communities, comment on what is happening, and find a sense of community. A little like a newspaper (and certainly, the web layout looks that way), but also like a blog, or a chatroom, or a bulletin board.

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I am hoping to recruit contributors from all across Alaska, from all walks of life, and from all interest groups. If you have something to say here, I would be interested in hearing from you.

Wigi Tozzi is the owner of Alaska Vacation Store, specializing in custom Alaska vacation packages, including custom Alaska winter packages, honeymoons and destination weddings.

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