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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Steak Night at Lisa and Gregg's

Nora working hard on her vertical poses at Lisa and Gregg's

Last night we had planned to meet Lisa and Gregg at the Rendezvous for Steak Night, but it turned out we tried to make our reservations too late and they were out of steaks.  So we decided to buy steaks and cook them ourselves at Gregg and Lisa's house.  And that's what we did - Gregg cooked up the steaks and baked potatoes while I brought a salad.  Our kids don't get to eat beef steaks all that often, and Nora asked, 'Daddy why don't you cook steaks more often - these are delicious!'  So I vowed to cook deer meat as steaks - a challenge to get it right!

The kids did have a good time and Nora had a great time conversing with Lisa about houses and Instagram.  Nora loves to check my Instagram account and heart the posts with dogs in them.  Gregg and I talked hunting and skiing.  The get together went so well that at the end of the night we decided to make it a monthly tradition.

Earlier in the day I also took all the doggies up the mountain for a ski.  The last couple of nights it has frozen hard in town and this has set up the snow so that the doggies can walk on top.  I love skiing with the dogs.  They trot along on the skin track in front of me with such purpose that I can't help but smile.  Patrick

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Miscellaneous Moments

Glorious and golden morning light catches Nora reading while Tank sleeps in

This morning I am ashamed to admit I was staring at the computer when the sun came up. I missed it rising out of the ocean. Instead, when I looked up the sun was already above the horizon and the bright light blinded my eyes.  To my credit, I stopped looking at the computer and looked around the room.  What glorious light.  Our house is made of logs and all the walls glowed golden.  I walked out into the living room and Nora was reading a book in the corner spotlit in the light of the new day. It was a special moment impossible to capture on film.

I'd like to say that for the rest of the day I focused on minutia and the moment, but that would be a lie.  Instead I carried my camera out and about and took a number of photographs documenting the day's activities.  It was only at the end of the day when I downloaded the images from my camera that I noticed that the day had had a theme focused on the moment and minutia.  And I did not even take a single picture while skiing!  Patrick

April's birthday tulip

Miniature waterfall made big

Rooted trunks gripping tenaciously

They're Alive!

They're alive!  And no I am not talking about the slugs (I bet they live too).

Last fall I planted over 40 garlic cloves in one of my raised beds.  I carefully mulched them with grass clippings and leaves.  After Christmas I added spruce boughs from the Christmas tree for insulation.

The last couple of years I have really enjoyed my garlic, but we have had mild winters.  In both years I could see little sprouting garlics by February.  Not so this year.  This year we had a normal winter and the garden died and froze hard.

For the past couple of weeks I have been peeking under the mulch to see how the garlic is doing.  And nothing. ... Just rock hard dirt.  That is until Monday.  Then I noticed one sprout.  I dug around some more on Tuesday and it looks like quite a few are sprouting.  I am hopeful I will have fresh home grown garlic for the third summer in a row.

And best of all scapes!  Scapes are the flower stalks that shoot out in July and that I pick so that more garlic energy goes to the bulbs rather than reproduction.  Last summer I made pesto with the scapes and even froze some that I had on pasta just the other day.  It kept well in the freezer and I think I will do it again.

Brewster in Motion a couple of weeks ago

Yesterday was also the last day I'll probably be able ski to the road on Pyramid.  I barely made it, and I had to shoot across a couple of bare patches to do so.  Up on the mountain the snow is like corn soup.  I took Brewster and not the other dogs because the going is hard for dogs.  Brewster sinks in quite deep with every bound and falls far behind as I ski down the mountain.  It's good for Brewster (he sleeps on the drive home), but would be unnecessarily hard on Tank and Sheba.

The last 'ski to the road' day of 2017? Pretty sure it's so - I barely made it 200 ft shy of the silver car in the distance

Monday, April 24, 2017


 It's been foggy of late on Kodiak.  Foggy during the walk through the trees in Abercrombie, and foggy skiing in a whiteout on Pyramid. In the forest by the ocean I love how the fog blurs the distance in the trees.  When taking a picture, if you don't get something clear and distinct in the foreground it all just looks like a blurry out-of-focus picture.  Whereas, on the mountain in the whiteout anything that's not white pops up as clear and distinct. Brewster looks yellow in a whiteout.  Patrick

Visitors and BarBQs

Now that's a lot of ribs!

Last week a couple of archaeologists, Holly and Justin, stayed at our house while attending the KAMSS conference.  In the old days visiting archaeologists always stayed at my house and I want to re-establish the tradition.  We had a grand time attending the conference and then staying up late at the house afterwards telling stories and drinking beer.

On the last night a bunch of friends came over and we had the first backyard fire pit of the season.  We cooked up a humongous batch of deer ribs from last summers' harvest.  Lisa M brought some, Justin had contributed a set, Philip T had helped with the harvest, Ryan and Molly had contributed a set, John and Katelyn did not contribute ribs but they helped eat them.  It was a hunter's feast.

During their stay I also took Justin and Holly around to look at various archaeological sites.  Justin is an old Kodiak hand, but it was Holly's first time looking at Kodiak archaeological sites.  She has mostly worked in Alaska's Interior.  And so it was fitting that she found a flake of obsidian eroding out of the site.  Obsidian is common in Interior sites, but extremely rare on Kodiak.

Cooking up the ribs on the open fire

Holly and Justin at an archaeological site I showed them

We even noted a flake of obsidian - we left it right where we found it - obsidian is VERY rare in Kodiak sites

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Diamonds 'as big as your head'

The open pit at the Premier mine when I re visited in 2004 - over a kilometer across!

The other day Stuey was reading a science book and asking me questions about the Periodic Table. I was casually answering his questions.  'What is Helium?' etc.  And then he asked me about diamonds, and it brought a smile to my face because I know diamonds.  I once worked at a diamond mine in South Africa (click here for old post about my time there) - coincidentally at the mine home to the largest diamond ever found.

Stuey asked how much would a diamond 'as big as my head be worth'.  I tried to explain that the value of diamonds varies according to the 4 C's - cut, color, carats, and clarity.  But that a diamond as 'big as your head' has never been found.  The largest one ever found weighed just over a pound (3100 carats - 1 1/3 pounds) and was about the size of a closed fist.  That was the Cullinan Diamond and was found in 1905 at the mine where I later worked - The Premier Mine in Cullinan, South Africa.

Anyway, the discussion piqued my interest to go back into the archives and look at old photos of the mine. And at some other photos I found on the internet after a google search. I gather it is now a big tourist attraction and that there are guided tours.   I even found a quaint picture from today of the offices where I once worked at as a personnel trainee.  I remember entering those offices during a strike and having to push through all the NUM (National Union of Mines) workers outside who were on strike, and waving their fighting sticks.  My black co-workers did not have to go to work on those days because getting through the crowd would have been dangerous for them.  But they did have to go to work in some capacity because as 'senior' staff they were not in the mine workers union; whereas, the black unionized mine workers could legally strike.

History tends to forget that Apartheid South Africa did have fairly liberal labor laws that dated back to the early part of the 20th century.  To before 1948 when the National Party took power and established Apartheid.  Prior to 1948 South Africa was a relatively progressive and liberal place. Coincidentally 1948 is also the year that marks the establishment of Israel.  There is a certain irony and parallel there that I will not get into - but just think 'homelands' and 'pass laws'.  In any case, I believe that the history of negotiation between the labor unions and the government had a great deal to with the largely negotiated and fairly peaceful transition from white rule to a democracy.

My office (at one point) was in one of these buildings - I later worked out of the hostel

Aerial view of the big pit - the mine extends twice as far under the bottom of the pit!

The Chris Hani beer garden at the hostel where I used to work as seen during my visit in 2004. I used to help brew 'Mealie-meal beer' or Mahewu for this place back in 1989.  It is a very low alcohol fermented product that is white in color (as I remember it).

Anyway looking through the pictures, I focused on one from my return visit to the workers hostel in 2004.  It is of the old beer garden where the workers went to relax.  I remember helping management to brew the beer and even grinding up the meat and mixing it with mustard and spices to make the boerwurst served in the establishment.  In the photo I noted that it is now the 'Chris Hani Beer Garden'.  The name struck a chord, but I could not place the context.  So I looked him up on the internet and it all came back.

He was a big figure in Umkhonto we Sizwe the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) that fought to end Apartheid.  He was almost as popular as Nelson Mandela and was assassinated at his home by a foreign white extremist in 1993.  This was at the time when F. W. de Klerk and the National Party (NP) in power was negotiating with Nelson Mandela and the ANC to end apartheid.

At the time I was taking a break from graduate school and visiting my friends in South Africa after a 3 year hiatus away from my old job at the diamond mine.  I was driving from Capetown to Johannesburg when Chris Hani was assassinated and remember that all hell broke loose.  Angry protesters were dropping bricks from highway overpasses onto the cars passing below.  The townships were on fire.

I got back to my friends' house outside Johannesburg and we all hunkered down and did not leave the apartment for a couple of days.  No one went to work and we listened to what was happening on the radio.  I seem to remember that they closed down the highways to the international airport - then named after Jan Smuts. There was a very real fear that the whole negotiation process would break down and that South Africa would erupt in a violent insurrection.  It was scary.

And then Nelson Mandela came on the radio and calmed the waters.

Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. ... Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.

The event galvanized the transition negotiations and just over a year later South Africa held the elections that ended Apartheid.  Patrick

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hunting Seals with Nets 5000 Years Ago

This past week I attended the Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium and gave a paper that focused on part of what we've learned at Community Archaeology the last few years.  I realized I forgot to advertise my talk with a blog post! Here are some slides from the 15 minute presentation.

Anyway, the talk was all about the evidence from the Kashevaroff Site that indicate that around 5000 years ago the locality was an Alutiiq seal hunting and processing camp.  They used nets to catch the seals that were themselves chasing fish into the lake that once existed in front of the site.  They then dispatched the seals with spears and dried the meat over low heat smoldering fire pits.

Usually you have to attend my talks in person if you want to hear me speak, but at this conference they videotaped all the sessions and put them on YouTube.  I have the link pasted in below.  If you fast forward to the 2:05 mark of the YouTube video at the following link you can see my presentation!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sunny Days

All this week I have been attending the Kodiak Area Marine Science Symposium.  But every afternoon I have been slipping away to take the doggies up Pyramid for a ski.  It has been freezing during the night and warm and sunny during the days.  Perfect skiing, and solid enough that the doggies have not been punching down into it but running along on top. 

Here are some happy dog getting exercise photos.  Patrick

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pictures of me in Old Harbor

 I had planned on showing the US Marines hard at work building the new runway in Old Harbor, but realized the military does not enjoy seeing pictures of their personnel on social media.  I think so anyway - and I had such a good experience with them that I decided to err on the side of caution.  That said I took some great pictures of the US Marines in action!

So instead of pictures of the US Marines in action I decided to post pictures of me.  Needless to say, but I got a lot of rides in Humvees and every day after work I went skiing!  Patrick

Monday, April 17, 2017


For the last week I've seen other people's crocuses blooming, but mine did not bloom until yesterday.  This is right when they are supposed to bloom, and I would not mind if, as usually happens, a late winter storm buried them in snow!

I also checked on my garlic and I put so much leaf and grass on top for insulation that the ground is still frozen.  I hope they survived the winter.  I guess now that the crocuses are blooming it is time to start thinking about getting the garden going. Patrick

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pretty Pictures from Old Harbor

Day one - my view from work.  The prehistoric village we excavated in 2013 is down slope on the right.

Yesterday I got back from a work-related 4 day trip to Old Harbor.  Old Harbor is extending their airport runway, and I was there to help them protect archaeological resources.  Basically I watched and looked for prehistoric artifacts or features while the construction crew dug with backhoes and bulldozers.  Back in 2013 I lead the excavation of a 500 year-old village threatened by the runway construction (click here), and the new construction was near that village - hence the need for me to monitor their work.

It ended up being really boring because the crews did not disturb anything archaeological.  I did not find a single artifact and only saw one minor feature.  Basically all I saw was dirt.  The big jaws of the backhoe would bite into the sod and then regurgitate sterile orange ash up onto the pile - Over and Over again.  But hey, for this sort of project boring is good.  One of the few times as an archaeologist that I preferred boredom to excitement.

Anyway it was beautiful down there and every day after work I climbed up the mountain behind town and went skiing.  I'll post about the skiing and working with the US Marines in other posts to follow.  Here are some pretty pictures from the trip.  Patrick

The top of the ski hill behind town - very convenient in that it only took 55 minutes to get to the top from the lodge where I was staying

The view was so stunning I could not stop taking pictures - I had the same problem in 2012 and 2013

Some sort of primrose blooming outside the Old Harbor City offices

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Best Go Dog Go!

Yesterday while skiing I took some more pictures of Brewster running behind.  I set the burst speed to as fast as it would go, and I think I got the best collage of Brewster in motion yet.  You can analyze his gait! It's also pretty hilarious to watch his expressions change.  Patrick

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Go Dog Go

Yesterday I used the 'paparazzi' feature (the clickety, clickety, clack - take a lot of pictures quick thing) on my point-and-shoot to try and capture Brewster chasing me while skiing.  It was really hard to do because when I was watching Brewster I was not watching where I was going.  Also I had to go fast or Brewster kept up too easily, and so I was bouncing all over the place.  Anyway, I got a few good pictures (see top photo), but what I thought was cool was how all the photos displayed in iphoto created a sort of time lapse video.  I decided to take all the pictures and create collages in Photoshop.  These are what I came up with.  Today I might try it again, but this time I'll use the even faster shutter burst (the quality will be lower though).  I also might fool around with less images.  I'm thinking a square 3 frame by 3 frame might be best. Patrick

Are we having fun now?

Sometimes things do not go as planned.  On Sunday I took the kids up to the pass to go skiing.  It was a sunny morning and I figured we'd do a few runs on the old 'bunny hill' that the USCG used to maintain as a ski slope.  However, just as we were on our way and driving through town it clouded up and started to rain.  I told the kids that it was only a squall and, in any case, that it would be snowing at the pass.

Indeed, we reached the pass and it was snowing like crazy.  And blowing!  But Stuey and Nora persevered and we booted up the bunny slope.  We did a run and I was heartened to hear Stuey say, 'Daddy that was boring - it was too easy'.  I guess it was better than too hard.  But clearly no one was having fun either.  So we switched to sleds.

The new snow was slow - so I used a shovel to dig out a groove and we made a luge run.  We sledded for about an hour and it continued to snow.  Finally wet and tired out we headed for home.  And then, of course, the skies cleared and the sun made an appearance.  Next time we'll go up the mountain.  Patrick

Dad this is too easy!