Saturday, February 24, 2007

Let's Rondy!

This weekend in Anchorage was the beginning of The Fur Rendezvous Festival. What is this festival all about? According to Wikipedia:

The Fur Rendezvous Festival (usually called Fur Rendezvous, Fur Rondy, or simply Rondy) is an annual winter festival held in Anchorage, Alaska in late February. The self-styled "largest winter festival in North America", Fur Rendezvous is highly anticipated by many Anchorage-area residents as marking the beginning of the end of a long winter and the approach of spring.

In 1935, Anchorage had a population of only about 3,000 and was very isolated, so to bring the community together and lift spirits, resident Vern Johnson organized a three-day sports tournament, called the Winter Sports Carnival, timed to coincide with the rendezvous, which brought increased activity. As the fur trade was then the second-largest industry in Alaska, folding it into the event seemed natural, and it was renamed the Winter Sports Tournament and Fur Rendezvous from 1937, and later just Fur Rendezvous.

Fur Rendezvous was canceled during the war years, but resumed in 1946, when the festival began to draw visitors from Outside, and has been held every year since. Since 1955 the event has been run by the non-profit Greater Anchorage, Inc.

Traditionally Fur Rendezvous lasted ten days, but since 2004 it has extended through early March, in order to lead into the Iditarod and draw more visitors. Its importance has declined over the years as Anchorage has grown and become more closely connected to the Lower 48 and the rest of the world, removing some of the need for events like Rondy, but it remains extremely popular.


Since this was our first oppourtunity to attend a community event, Adria and I decided that we should head downtown and check it out. After parking our car, we found park that had a bunch of ice sculptures, like this whale:


And this sculpture of a dolphin (unfortunately, there was no Gilbert Arenas ice sculpture).

If you look behind Adria, you can see a quite a bit of ice. The entire square had a nice smooth layer of ice, as if they had taken a Zamboni and smoothed it out. They even had a section of this ice surface blocked off so that people could play curling. Neither of us had ever seen a live game of curling, and what little curling we had watched was only in the Olympics.




Because Rondy is at its heart basically a fur traders convention, there were lots of furiers selling their wares. Almost every fur store that we came across was having a sale on their furs. There were even some fur booths set up on the sidewalk


This particular booth had hats made of beaver, fox, wolf and muskrat as well as wolf and fox pelts. We also attended a fur auction. The auctioneer in this picture is trying to auction off a pillow made out of a white fox. As you can also see from the picture that most people in the audience are wearing at some article of clothing made with animal fur. When I told Adria about this festival and its origins she said "This event would never fly in Portland." While Adria realizes that fur is really warm and has many benefits as a material, she isn't ready to purchase any fur just yet. I, on the other hand am desirous to unpack my rabbit-lined fur hat. One thing that I didn't expect to see was so many fur hats that still had the head of the animal still attached. An example of this is below:

Another major Rondy event is the Fur Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race. While this race isn't as long or as prestigous as The Iditarod or The Yukon Quest, this race seems to be one of the more important dog sled races around. Although we missed the start of the race, we were able to catch some of the teams as they crossed the finish line. It was interesting to see the dogs up close as they approached the finish line because their slobber had frozen and turned to ice around their mouths, kind of like a what happens to a mustached-football coach during cold games.




There also are fireworks to celebrate the beginning of Rondy, but we missed them. But thanks to YouTube, you can see that they looked like this:


Here are some other pictures from our time that we spent at Rondy:

We saw this bear on the side of a building:

Adria thought that these ponies were cute. They were giving rides to kids just before we took this picture

Here I am with a bear and raven statue outside of The Bear & Raven Adventure Theater.

Here is a statue commemorating the dogs that took part in the 1925 diptheria serum run to Nome.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Will Brake For Airplanes

On my drive to work today I drove past Lake Hood, and I came upon what normally would look like a railroad crossing, but instead this is what I saw:



Yes, this was not a railroad crossing, but a plane crossing. For lunch as I went out with the guy that I am going to replace and he had me drive around Lake Hood to show me a back way to get to work and as we were driving around the lake, we reached an area that had a bunch of signs that reminded drivers to always yield to airplanes.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Pictures of Anchorage

Here are some pictures of the mountains around Anchorage that I took as I was driving back from the office today.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Snowzilla!!!

One of the things that I was looking forward to do when we got to Anchorage was to go and see Snowzilla. Today, I got to fulfill my wish.

We went to go look at an apartment in the same area of town as the giant snowman (located at 1556 Columbine, Anchorage, AK), and I was able to convince Adria that we needed to go see a 22-foot tall snowman.

To give a sense of scale on how big Snowzilla is, here is a shot of Snowzilla from about a block away.

And here is the closeup of Snowzilla:


Snowzilla isn't looking as daper as he did back in December, as he is missing his top hat and an eye, but he is still 100 times more impressive than any snowman that I ever made.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

North to the Future

Adria and I arrived in Anchorage last night, almost 10 months after I accepted a job with the Postal Service here. We are excited to finally be up here after detours of 7 months in Portland, a week in Salt Lake City and 3 weeks in the Seattle area.

While there is a lot of snow around, the roads of Anchorage were clean on our drive from Ted Stevens International Airport to our hotel. Here is the view from our hotel room:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Perfect Storm, Scrabble Style

Over the weekend that Adria and I spent in Portland before heading up to Alaska, we played quite a bit of Scrabble.


If you look at the bottom left of this Scrabble board, you will see the word "Detainee". This word now represents the highest scoring play that I have ever had in Scrabble, it also is the only time that I have played all 7 of the tiles in my hand in a single play. But what makes this play a perfect storm is that it also uses 2 triple word score squares. All told this play was good for 140 points. It may not be as good of a word as "Rematerialized", but it will live on in my memory for quite some time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Boeing Factory Tour

On Valentine's Day, Adria and I (as well as my co-worker Alyse who is also doing training in Federal Way) took a trip to Everett, Washington to go on the Boeing Factory Tour. Neither Adria or Alyse had visited the factory (which is the largest building in terms of volume in the world) before. I, on the other hand, as a former Boeing intern am fond of saying that I lived the factory tour. Below is a picture of the factory that Adria took as we were driving past it on the highway.

The tour itself was good. The tour guide talked about how many employees work in the factory and about how to park close to the factory is a mark of working for the company for 20 years, otherwise you have to park further out and walk 15 minutes to work. On the tour we went up to a observation area inside the factory that overlooked to bays where they assemble the airplanes. In one of the bays they were building 777s. The other bay was undergoing site preparation to build the 787. Production of the 787 is expected to begin in the spring which would have been interesting to see because the 787 is going to be built differently than any other plane that Boeing has ever built (although I doubt that you will be able to see much of that from the tour). The big difference between how the 787 is going to be built and how Boeing presently builds planes is that they are going to greatly shorten the time it takes to assemble the airplane by having the major assemblies of the plane (i.e. the wings, the fuselage) preassembled by the time they arrive at the factory. To do this, Boeing has re-designed a few 747s and turned them into special cargo planes whose sole duty is to fly around the world to where the parts are being built and fly them to the factory where they will then be assembled.

After going on the factory tour, we spent some time in the Future of Flight Gallery where they had some exhibits on different Boeing airplanes, as well as some mock-ups of the 787. In the gallery they had an exhibit on jet engines. I am standing in-front of an engine for the 777 in the picture below.

In a couple of ways I liked the exhibits here better than I did at the National Air and Space Museum that Adria and I visited when we were in Washington D.C. in July. It seemed like the Air and Space Museum focused more on the history of flight and wasn't able to give proper context to the items that they have on display. These exhibits were more geared towards the immediate future of flight and the present state of the art of aviation, which I found more engaging.

Also while in the gallery we participated in a study that was looking at how intuitive the signage in airplanes is (or isn't). For our troubles we received $5.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Day In Seattle

On Saturday Adria and I and my co-workers with whom I am on this business trip went to Seattle and saw some of the sights. Our first stop was Pike Place Market where we walked around for a while. Adria was surprised that there was so much fresh produce available in February. Adria also enjoyed some honey sticks that we purchased at the market. Also at the market we stumbled upon a wood carving of a Sasquatch:

After walking around the market, we visited "The Pirate Store" as well as Ye Old Curiosity Shop. When I first told Adria about Ye Old Curiosity Shop and told her that the curiosities contained in the store included mummies and shrunken heads she didn't believe me (much like she didn't believe me at first when I told her that there where llamas living behind our apartment in Keizer). However, once she saw the shrunken heads, Adria thought that they were the best part of the trip to Seattle. Adria spent a lot of time looking at shrunken heads because Ye Old Curiosity Shop has the largest display of shrunken heads in the world.

After leaving Ye Old Curiosity Shop we swung by the Space Needle because my co-workers were desirous to see the most well-known building in Seattle. They, however were a bit disappointed as they had imagined it to be bigger than it really is (although when it was built it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Better Pictures of Mount Rainer

Here are some better pictures of the view of Mount Rainer that we have from our hotel room than I showed in the last post: