Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

Unlike many other blogs, I’m not going to do a year of pictures or a year in review. I looked through my photos and really couldn't think of anything that really stood out. Kinda sad, eh? Lots of pictures of the Ural in front of snow-covered trees or things that I thought were scenic at the time but now, not so scenic. When I took this picture, I kind of knew what I was looking for but wasn't quite able to get it. There was a minivan behind me so I couldn't get quite far enough back. The sun was shining under the clouds when I stepped outside but after getting the engine started and my phone dug out of my pocket, it was much less picturesque. Oh well...

We do have some rather loose plans for the coming year. In a week or so we will be heading back to AZ to pick up where we left off. Hopefully, there is no issue with either the truck or the trailer. I must admit that I have been more than a little worried about leaving the truck and trailer for an extended period in Arizona. Dom had driven by and checked it out in December and all was fine but I tend to worry about such things.

We have a reservation at the same RV park in Benson, AZ, then we plan to head to Quartzite, AZ, for a ham radio specialty convention known as Quartzfest. It is meeting on BLM land south of Quartzite and they schedule it to coincide with the huge RV show and the gem show. After Quartzfest, we have a week or so before our reserved campsite in Needles, CA. This is at the same RV park that we stayed at back in October. We are planning to stay there for the month of February.

After that, things are kind of open except for a mini-reunion in Murietta, CA, a small town southeast of Los Angeles. There is a Thousand Trails park near there that I was going to try and reserve for a week or so straddling the reunion date. We have no plans after that though I'm thinking of attending D2D in Dawson City, YT, in June and the Sidecar rally in Couer d'Alene, ID, in July. This would be a Ural trip complete with tent camping...

This morning brought dangerously warm temperatures. Dangerous due to the very slippery roads that usually accompanies warm temperatures. I’m sick today and waiting for a call from a plumber. I think that this cold has run through everyone else in the house and I’m the last victim. What a way to end the year. I’m looking forward to whatever 2019 brings!

BTW, the plumber came around 3:30 and cleared the clog which was about 35’ from the kitchen. And, my last batch of kimchi is almost spicy enough to melt the glass jars. Maybe I should’ve used the chili on the drain. The person at the Asian food store was right. Don't use as much of this chili powder.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Rest of the Week

Thursday Morning - This morning when I headed to ACRC (coffee place), it was -2°F. Borderline but fine for riding. When it was time to head back home, it was -8°F. Definitely not the trend I was hoping for. All of the heated stuff seems to be still working or at least functional. The engine definitely sounded "happier" on the way to ACRC then on the way back reinforcing the thought that the Ural cutoff should be somewhere above 0°F. This is with 5W30 synthetic oil in the engine.

The degree symbol (°), is more of a pain on the Surface than it is on either the Mac or the iOS devices. There isn't a keyboard shortcut within Windows so I have to switch to HTML mode and use the ampersand+#176+;. A shortcoming of Windows and not the Surface hardware.

Thursday Afternoon - The afternoon was spent at the local Toyota dealer getting the Prius serviced. I think that this was the 64k mile service which shouldn’t be anything special. They have free WiFi plus the Food Network on one of the TVs. Not an unpleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Friday - Back to ACRC again as it had warmed up to 0°F this morning. When I stopped at Fred Meyer afterward, a guy came up to me in the parking lot and just stared. When I backed out, he had a huge smile and gave me a thumbs up and went away shaking his head. Not at all sure what he was thinking. I didn't get home until the afternoon and the sun was finally shining on the frosty trees. But I just didn't feel like stopping and taking a picture as the pictures end up looking the same. I was browsing through my photo library for the last year and there were a lot of pictures of the Ural parked in front of snow covered trees.

Saturday - Morning coffee at the coffee place on 2nd Ave in downtown Fairbanks. Good coffee and a good company. Some longtime friends came by to visit and they are all playing what sounds like a complicated board game. The most "exciting" to happen today is the kitchen sink is now plugged. Somewhere between the sink and the main drain for the upstairs. Part of the problem could be the lack of a proper vent for the kitchen sink. The earliest non-emergency repair window is Monday.

Other than that, it's been a pretty boring week...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day

It’s been a while since I’ve cooked up a holiday meal for Christmas. If there are only a couple of people, there really is little reason. Since four of the five boys were here plus one spouse, there was more of a reason. Plus, I managed to avoid preparing a holiday meal on Thanksgiving. The turkey was brined for a couple of days, the dressing (not stuffing) has just about everything I could think of in it including one small batch with oysters (yum!), and the yams was a super simple recipe that I saw on YouTube. One large can of yams, one can of apple pie filling, one can (or equivalent homemade) cranberry sauce and chopped pecans. Then bake the whole thing at some random temperature for a random amount of time. In other words, it didn't really matter. My kind of recipe. Plus, I made some of the standard stuff and pie. I think it turned out pretty good but then again, I’m biased.

Today, it eventually warmed up to above 0°F so we went into town early in the afternoon. Not to look for any super sales but to try and avoid any store that might have a super sale or an item return line. For example, avoid Fred Meyer but Safeway should be pretty empty. There was some discussion of the origin of the term "boxing day" and none of them had anything to do with shopping. How things have gotten distorted with holiday commercialism.

Tonight, Bridget and I are visiting a colleague from the university and bringing the honeyberry pie. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season and hope you have (or had) a very merry Christmas.

Our local temperatures aren't that conducive to outdoor activities so no riding today. I did go to coffee this morning and there was a pretty good group there. I hadn't been back since being up north due to a busy schedule.

I started cooking for our Christmas dinner and some things are new. Such as a yam, apple pie filling, cranberry sauce, and pecan dish. I thought that the combination sounded pretty tasty. Or the honeyberry pie. These are some of them that we picked last summer at the Big M farm near Nenana. According to the Internet, it's best if the berries are frozen then allowed to thaw in a colander to allow them to lose some of their moisture.

From the Weather Underground graphic, you can see that the seasonally cold temperature will continue through Christmas. I hear that it's warmer in AZ. Only a couple more weeks...

Friday, December 21, 2018

'Tis the Season

It's that time of the year when ornaments are dug out for the Christmas tree. When I left for Barrow, there were no ornaments just lights. There are three motorcycle themed ornaments on the tree. But this is the only one with a sidecar. There are a couple with cruisers probably modeled after HD as that's really the largest market. At least in the U.S. though I'm not sure about the rest of the world.

Bridget had picked up the trailer ornament last year and, I believe, that it is the only RV ornament. This wasn't picked up on any of our trips but was found in Fairbanks last year. There are probably about 150 ornaments on the tree. Bridget seems to have gone all out on the Christmas decorations this year with decorations all over the living room.

Anyway, I arrived back from Barrow on Thursday afternoon. While in Barrow, I had received a message that the Surface Pro 6 that I had ordered had arrived. I picked it up that afternoon and started to get it set up. To be fair, I'm going to try to use it exclusively for the next couple of weeks.

My first impression, it looks just like Windows 10 on the Lenovo Helix. Some things work much better such as the touchscreen. The touch resolution of the Helix wasn't as accurate. Photo transfer through Google Photo seems to work great. Within minutes of taking a picture on my iPhone, it's available on the Surface. On the Helix, it took hours to sync and on iOS it wouldn't show up until the next day. Maybe there is a setting somewhere. The keyboard on the Surface is much nicer to use than the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard. So my first impression is that the functionality as a tablet is much better than any iOS device. It's a decent laptop though I still prefer OS X. There is only one USB-3 port. A USB-C port would have been much more functional. My son mentioned that a lot of the functionality is due to the stylus. I didn't get the stylus since I never really used the one on the Helix or the iPad Pro.

The best feature has to be the kickstand on the back. It is infinitely adjustable and holds in just about any position. The keyboard angle is close to ideal. About the same as a MacBook though the MacBook keyboard is terrible. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Another Day in Utqiaġvik aka Barrow

This is Ukpik-2, the housing provided to research groups here in Barrow. I believe that it was originally constructed to support offshore oil exploration groups but that project got put off. But not before this housing was built. It's pretty nice inside with dormitory style rooms with nice commercial kitchen facilities, laundry and shower rooms down the hall. But at 8 AM, it kind of looks a bit dismal outside. The temperature was about -10°F so most groups are letting their trucks warm up a bit before heading out. I was assigned the NSF Nissan crew cab around the middle of the picture and it is very nice to drive compared to the NSF owned F250 crew cabs that always seem to have problems. Walking around is discouraged as there have been multiple sightings of a polar bear with two cubs around the NARL campus.

I've been asked about what I do when coming up here. On this trip, a big part is cleaning up some of the accumulation of the past years. This is just a portion of the network cables that I removed. We initially had a pile of servers both real and virtual. This was back in the day when we only had a satellite T1 of bandwidth and more stuff needed to be hosted locally. Now with ~3x the bandwidth and terrestrial service, the need isn't there so most of the servers are now shut down and network cables pulled. It was confusing the vendor who is thinking of bidding on IT support for the building. I also removed about half of the VoIP phones as they were no longer used/needed. The native corporation came in and installed their own phones for the logistic support organization and provided actual long distance service. We only provided local and toll-free calling as there wasn't any system for billing.

This is the entry into the building. There are some mammoth tusks on display under the TV information display. I replaced the TV last August when the older one finally died after being turned on continuously since the grand opening of the building which I think was in May 2007. Samsung televisions seem to be pretty reliable. The replacement is the same model that we pulled out of one of the labs. The break room is just behind the wall and they now have an espresso machine in there. I'm taking a break with a cappuccino.

I worked some with a group who set up some equipment out on an island with a radio link back to the BARC. Their site included a webcam. This is just a snapshot of their streaming video but it shows an example of what field work is like here in the Arctic. You can see snow blowing across the field of view. It's not really that bright but the camera is illuminating the scene with infrared LEDs. They are planning to leave this laptop here in the building to collect the data then send it back to their location on the east coast and are using 2.4 GHz Ubiquity radios. They probably went a bit overkill with the antenna size as the bigger the dish the more it needs to be secured from movement due to the wind.

I also talked to another group here from JPL and they are now thinking of trying some 900 MHz radios. The lower frequency should give them a pretty good range. They were here to retrieve a rover that was stuck under the ice. Apparently, there was a lot of ice chipping involved as no one seemed to have a chainsaw. Maybe the lack of trees has something to do with that.

There is a lot of activity in the building today as several groups are trying to wrap up so they can head back home for the holidays. And UIC Science, the logistics support organization, is having their Christmas party with their parent company, UIC, here this afternoon. This is the large conference room where I had set up a lot of audio and video gear. The last photo is during their gift exchange.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Utqiaġvik, AK

I brought the Raspberry Pi DMR hotspot up to Utqiaġvik to call in on the Alaska Statewide DMR net which is every Monday evening at 7:30. I was joining in on our last road trip from where ever we happened to be. The Pi does have a WiFi dongle but I figured that it was simpler to just plug it into the wired network. The large copper bar is to allow anyone to tie into a good earth ground in case there was a need. Every lab has the ground bar circling the room. That's a lot of copper.

Just in case you ever wondered about the lack of daylight north of the Arctic Circle, this photo was taken looking due south at noon. If you use your imagination, there can see a bit more light on the horizon. It isn't as dark as other times of day but there really isn't that much light. I'm up here mostly emptying the network of no longer used devices to simplify the transition from university management to whomever the logistic support organization chooses.

Tuesday Morning - We had a warm spell last night! There was about 6" of snow on the truck this morning but since it's cold, the snow is light and fluffy. The kind that just blows off once you start moving. The weather app claims that it'll stop snowing this morning but it doesn't look like it.

This is how my morning starts up here. Coffee and whatever I had picked up for breakfast. Actually, the ramen is pretty tasty. I had picked up a box from Costco with the selling point of non-fried noodles.

And this is how the day ended, bento box 3 at Osaka’s. I was hoping to have the soft tofu soup but they were out of the soft tofu. I’m not used to these long hours. 12 hours yesterday and almost as much today. But I am getting a lot done.

The very short video below is the kimchi stew at Osaka's that I had on Sunday night. This may be my new favorite dish at the restaurant. The photo was originally taken using the "Live Photo" feature of the iPhone. It takes a bit of video before and after the shutter button is pressed. The Google Photo app will convert the Live Photo to a short video allowing it to be uploaded to YouTube.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Heading North

It's 8:45 on Sunday morning and I'm sitting in the airport again. Fortunately, it’s a just a local Alaska flight though I do need to head south before I can head north. I think it doubles the distance and dramatically increases the time. There is a layover in Anchorage and another shorter one in Deadhorse. Sunrise is still over two hours away but at least here in Fairbanks, there will still be a sunset every day. According to the weather guessers, it’ll be warmer in Utqiaġvik than in Fairbanks.

Just for comparison, here is the same graphic that I had in my last post for Fairbanks except for this time, it's for Utqiaġvik aka Barrow. Note the lack of any yellow (sunshine) in the December column. Also note that there are grey and violet showing dawn and dusk so it really isn’t dark as portrayed by the media. I’m hoping that there will be someone to pick me up at the airport as much of the staff could have gone to AGU in Washington D.C. last week.

This is Anchorage today. Snowing and 34°F warmer than Fairbanks. A layover of a bit under two hours before the flight north, over Fairbanks to Deadhorse. There, another wait before the flight continues to Barrow. Total time between arrival at the airport and destination, including layovers, about ten hours. Oh well…

Just a quick picture out the window at the Deadhorse airport. Not much to see as the last sunset was about a month ago. Though even when the sun is out there may not be much to see. Though lots of people flock here just to check it off of their list. The weather app says that it’s -20°F with a 14 mph wind. “Feels like” -43°F. So much for the tour of some airports. Next stop is Barrow.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Just a Few More Days...

It's almost that time of year when the daylight stops getting shorter. This graphic is from the site where you pick your location and they show you infographics such as this. Right now, we are the very light grey line on the right side just above the Roman numeral XII or twelve for December. The orangish color is dawn and the purplish area is dusk. The yellow is sun above the horizon. In about a week our slide to the shortest day is over and we start to pick up daylight again. Today, we have 3:48 of “daylight” and the shortest day wi be 3:42.

Many folks up here have commented that it barely feels like winter as the temperatures have been pretty mild. It looks like next week that trend may change as the forecast is full of negative numbers. But all were happy that the days will be starting to get longer soon with Spring right around the corner. I mentioned in my last post that I don't seem to be enjoying the Fairbanks winters too much. Maybe I need to start doing some outdoor activities again.

No riding on Friday due to the temperature. A few days ago it was a couple of degrees below 0°F but today it was getting into double digits. I'll pass.

Another "impulse" trip to Costco. I went in for butter for baking and left with a few more things including a new printer. The last PhotoSmart Printer was dumping ink all over the place. It's another HP inkjet printer but only has 2 cartridges instead of 5 so I'm hoping that the cost per page is lower. Plus, it was $90 off so the new printer plus another spare set of ink cartridges was less than one set of 5 cartridges for the old printer.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What to do on a Cold Day...

Rode to the coffee shop again this morning. It was around +4°F with some light snow. I had adjusted the rear brake a few nights ago and wanted to see if it worked any better. I think that it may be dragging some so not better. In the winter, 90% of my braking seems to come from the front anyway. The rear, when it works, just sort of drags on the snow. I ran a couple other errands around town and I'm still amazed that all of the heated gear continues to work. As Bridget pointed out in a comment on one of Dom's posts, I'm not a real fan of winter anymore. I thought about taking a picture of the Ural with all of the snow covered trees but never found the "right" location. The sun never really came out.

I stopped at my office again to continue the iMac setup with the new SSD. I'm impressed with the speed improvement from the SSD. It feels like a brand new computer instead of one that's about 4-5 years old.

My project of the day was home-made granola. Ingredients are rolled oats, chopped almonds, pecans, sunflower kernels, walnuts, wheat germ, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, olive oil, shredded coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, and dried cranberries. Basically, the kitchen sink. I was inspired by Bridget's brother making some in Virginia and was reminded of an old recipe that I had used in the past.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Short Days

More Fairbanks winter temperatures today. And a light dusting of snow from sometime last night. I went ahead and rode to ACRC (Alaska Coffee Roasting Company) and met a handful of people there before heading to the university to check on the status of a work order. The fusion drive in my 27" iMac died sometime during our last road trip. I use the iMac as a host to get access to network resources in Utqiaġvik. We replaced the fusion drive with an SSD. Half of the drive space but so much faster. Granted, I could just check the status of the work order on the website but I'd rather check in-person.

This was about 10:30am or about 10 minutes before sunrise. This is from the parking lot entrance to the Butrovich building where my office is still located. I still have a few more errands to run around town. Today was the first time in a couple of years that I actually used the rubber face mask and visor heat that are part of the Bombardier modular helmet. The last couple of times riding, the visor was fogging up. The face mask redirects your breath through vents on the side of the helmet to help minimize fogging. The good news is that everything is working for a change. Both heated gloves, both heated grips, heated liner, and heated visor. In the past, it seems like there was always something not working. So very toasty while riding around.

And this sunset photo was taken at 2:30pm from our back deck. Not a very long day, eh? 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Winter Days...

It's starting to feel like winter around here and I'm not sure that this is a good thing. This mornings ride was a little cold since I hadn't bothered to look for the flannel lined jeans since we've been back nor wore the Roadcrafter. I went out at about 10:30 to take a picture of the Ural covered with snow but it wasn't even sunrise yet. Only a couple more weeks before the days start to get longer.

Today, we finally ventured into the Fairbanks Costco. It has been open since the Tuesday before Thanksgiving but given the pent-up demand for a warehouse type store since Sam's Club closed last Spring, I didn't even want to venture near there. The store was a bit crowded and the number of items carried seemed significantly more than Sam's. And we probably got a few more items than we really needed.

I'm writing this post on a Lenovo Helix. It is one of those ultrabook/tablet combo machines where you can "eject" the keyboard and just use the touchscreen. I had picked it up several years ago for the techs to use in Barrow as many of them seemed to prefer a Windows machine. I've since upgraded it to Windows 10 and it's a completely useable laptop. Less useable as a tablet. Recently, I've used it to run the Radioddity software to program the DMR radio as the software is Windows only. The keyboard is much nicer to type on than the recent Mac laptops.

Since the Helix is getting a little old, I am going to try out one of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 devices. I've only played with them in the store but have met quite a few people who really like them. I ordered it with the keyboard cover but not the stylus. The Helix has a stylus but I rarely use it. I have an Apple Pencil to use with the iPad Pro but rarely use it. I'm not the artistic type. 

Friday, December 7, 2018


Remember when flying somewhere was fun? Or at least something you looked forward to? I don’t remember that anymore. We arrived in Fairbanks at 2:00 am after a six hour flight across the country, a four hour wait in Seattle, and another three or so hours up to Fairbanks. It was a long day. I used to think flying somewhere was a great adventure. Not just to visit somewhere new but the trip itself. I still look forward to seeing new places but don't enjoy the flying part. According to Alaska Airlines, I've flown with them over 730,000 miles. These days, I'd rather drive...

On Friday, I went to the ACRC (coffee place) and met up with a couple of regulars and also met a long time friend JohnP. He was back in Alaska as part of the "not be out of the state for more than 90 days" rule. It is a very comfortable 20°F and actually feels warmer than the windy days in Pennsylvania and Virginia. It was a nice riding day. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Day 10 - Heading Home

Here are just a couple more pictures from Colonial Williamsburg that I ran into while looking on the phone. Around noon today, we head for the Baltimore, MD, airport for our flight back to Alaska. As you may figure out, the flight gets into Fairbanks in the middle of the night so this is going to be a long day. Just a horse drawn cart that we saw on Tuesday morning along the palace green. It wasn’t moving much and I wasn’t sure if it was a “ride” like the horse drawn carriages.

This was a harpsichord that was being built from scratch and not one that was being repaired. In the front room of the cabinetmakers shop there was another harpsichord that was also built “new” that you could play. Pretty cool instruments. I believe that they are constructed and sold for fund raising as I heard that Colonial Williamsburg wasn’t doing very well financially. A lot of employees are needed to keep a place like this running.

I may add more to this post from the airport but it is scheduled to post while we are in the air between BWI and SEA.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Day 9 - Burke, VA

This picture was taken at a mall in Fredericksburg, VA, where we stopped for lunch. There seem to be some fast food places that some people are fanatic about such as In-N-Out Burger and Chick-Fil-A. We found a Chick-Fil-A in a shopping mall food court. There was actually a line of about twenty people versus no lines at any of the other vendors. That seemed like a good sign. Juicy, tender chicken in a sandwich and delicious chicken noodle soup. I’d go back.

On I-95, we were snowed on for about fifty miles but nothing was sticking to the road. After our lunch stop, we had blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures and no more snow. I didn’t want to deal with snow in a rental car. The above picture is of a fountain with LEDs along what would be the water path. After staying in Burke tonight, we head back to Fairbanks tomorrow afternoon.

I am trying a new iPad and Mac app called Duet that allows you to use an iPad as a second display on a Mac. It works pretty well. It was half price at the app store today so I figured that it was worth a try. There is another app called Luna that requires a USB dongle and WiFi. This just uses the Lightning cable. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Day 8 - Colonial Williamsburg

We visited the cabinetmaking shop and I was a little bit surprised that there were no water powered tools. This is a lathe and it looks like it’s foot powered. The shop repairs furniture but the bulk of their “business” is making suitable furniture for use within the village. Such as chairs that look like the originals but can actually be used.

Another stop was in the kitchen of the Govenor’s Palace. At this time they were demonstrating how they take the cacao pod and make chocolate bars. These bars are not candy bars but closer to cooking or baking chocolate and used for drinks. Such as in milk, water, and wine. Due to the caffeine content, it was never given to children. Chocolate was an adult beverage.

We also toured the Palace. The tour guide said that intimidation was the intent. Not only from the number of swords and muskets in this, the first room a visitor would enter. Flanking this room is the parlor on one side and the butler’s pantry on the other. Other rooms were decorated with velvet wallpaper and gold leaf covered paper mâché trim. The implied meaning was if we (England) could afford to decorate our houses like this just imagine how we could throw money defeating whatever uprising you can come up with.

The swords in the entryway were both these with the basket style guards as well as simpler ones with brass hilts. It was a very impressive display.

This is the Martha Washington character during the time when George Washington was a major. Lots of stories. At this time, we were in the kitchen garden with terraced gardens.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Day 7 - Colonial Williamsburg

Here are some scenes of the fireworks aka “The Grand Illumination”. The fireworks lasted for over fifteen minutes and from where we were sitting on the Palace Green, we had a great view with the Governor’s Palace in the background. There were three simultaneous, synched shows located at different locations within Colonial Williamsburg. I like having the Palace as a background for the fireworks.

The first is a test of an animated “Live View” iPhone photo that’s been converted to a loop. I’m just curious whether it’ll work. The second is a short phone video that’s been uploaded to YouTube, also done on the phone and uploaded while waiting to exit the parking lot. Estimated attendance was around 28,000 which translates to long lines.

I guess “Live Photo” is not supported by Blogger. Here is the same photo converted to a video by Google Photo.

Otherwise, today was an off day. Bridget and her brother are going through old pictures and other paperwork left by their parents.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Day 6 - Williamsburg, VA

This morning, it was warm (60°F) but overcast with a bit of fog. This is the view from the small deck off of the living room of one of the greens on the adjacent golf course. Yesterday, there were a handful of golfers coming through but not today. We are staying at a very nice time-share condo and, until you go into the parking lot, it feels like you are the only one here. No sounds except for the heat pump.

We arrived about 2:30 and it was difficult to find a parking space. We ended up at the visitors center and taking the shuttle into the historic town. Jim and Sharon had purchased seats to watch the entertainment and the fireworks show. At this point, I’m still not sure what to expect.

There was some entertainment (not period) while waiting. I think this is a local jazz group. They were introduced as being from Williamsburg. Yesterday, there was a DJ in a tent playing distorted, over-amplified rock music and it seemed really out of place. This isn’t too bad especially with the blue skies and some nice vocals.

There was a period Williamsburg ghost story by the cast member normally playing James Madison (I think).

This is a short video as the local WiFi is overloaded. Using Verizon for the upload. The second very short video was playing around with time-lapse on the iPhone.