We made it to Fairbanks today (from Copper Center).  I am using the hotel computer, as our laptop is still very ill.  We had a great drive up here through some beautiful country.  Saw moose along the way plus some very beautiful lakes and mountains.  I’ll put up pictures when I get home.

 Tomorrow we fly off to Prudhoe Bay.  Takeoff at 8:30am.  I’m pretty sure we won’t have Internet access but we will be back in Fairbanks on Thursday night and I’ll check in again then.

 Besides the computer problems, all is going well.  Wish I could share more with you all.

Computer Woes

Just a quick note to let you all know that I’m having some problems with the laptop and may not be able to post a lot for a while. 

 Otherwise things are fine.

Juneau to Anchorage

Juneau was a bit of a disappointment. Mostly because of the weather and because we were staying near the airport rather than downtown with more to do and see.

Here is on picture from Juneau that gives an idea of the weather. This is the Mendenhall Glacier and a lake that I didn’t learn the name of.Mendenhall Glacier

From Juneau we took another ferry, the M/V Kennicott, and headed north again. This ferry was a little smaller and less fancy than the previous one. One of the stops on the way was the fishing village of Yakatak. We got off and wandered around a little. Here is a picture of the general store, which was surprisingly well stocked with anything you might need.Yakatak GS

The end of the ferry ride for us was at Whittier. Here’s a picture of the port area with numerous small shops and restaurants.Whittier

We arrived in Whittier about 7:30am and were scheduled to leave by train that evening at 6:30. In that time we had scheduled a sight-seeing cruise of Prince William Sound. Here’s a shot of that boat, the Nunatak.Nunatak

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Our journey on the M/V Columbia took us from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Alaska with stops in Alaska at Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg. Here are some of the many pictures we took along that route.

Note: As I don’t have PhotoShop on this laptop, what you see is not as high in quality as I would like. One of the negatives of near real-time bloging.

The first morning on the ferry turned out rainy, cool and very dark looking. Here is a view of one boat deck that AM


For the first part of the trip we were in Canadian waters. Here is a picture of part of the village of Bella Bella, BC.Bella Bella

Just north of Bella Bella is the picturesque Dryad Point Lightstation. Dryad Point Lightstation

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On The Ferry

Got up late Friday (the 8th) morning and spent a nice few hours getting used to the new time zone and catching up on-line. After noon it was off to the ferry terminal to stash our luggage in lockers and while away a few hours before boarding. We wandered around an area of Bellingham called Fairhaven and had a nice lunch at “The Big Fat Fish Co.”

Click for larger image Back at the terminal we were able to get on board and find our small but nice cabin. Then we wandered around the ship, locating the important places like the restaurant, observation lounge and the bar.

Click for larger imageHere’s our ship, Alaska Marine Highway’s M/V Columbia, at the Bellingham ferry dock.
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There were a lot of hikers and backpackers on this ferry – many even pitch their tents on the deck in designated areas. It I were 30 years younger I would probably enjoy doing this.

Sailing was delayed a little due to late vehicle arrivals. It’s amazing how many campers, motor-homes, cars and trucks they were able to cram on this ferries. We even saw a trailer full of cattle brought on board !

Once underway, we had a great dinner in the dining room followed by some wine in the bar. Then we crashed a little early, mostly because the ship runs on Alaska time and we were still not even adjusted to Pacific time.

Next – sights along the Inside Passage.

Bellingham, WA

It was a long day of travel today. We were supposed to leave Cedar Rapids at 9am but when we got to the airport we found that flight was delayed. Luckily we were early enough that we could (barely) catch an 8:15 flight. That left us with enough time in Minneapolis for a nice breakfast.

Then it was on to Seattle. Again we encountered the dreaded “Delayed” flag on our next flight (to Bellingham WA). This turned into one of those rolling delays. Horizon Airlines, who runs flights to Bellingham was really screwed up.

First we were assured that the delay was just because of accumulated little delays throughout the day and were specifically told it was not a mechanical problem. When the inbound plane arrived the story changed to “maintenance is on the plane.”

Our original departure time kept being bumped up in increments of 15 or 20 minutes. Individually not enough to cause us to make drastic changes in plans but cumulatively it eventually added up to 3-1/2 hours total.

By the time we left it was around 8PM (PDT) which felt to us like 10PM to us. After waiting for luggage and the shuttle to our hotel it was well after 11PM to our tired bodies.

At least the room has high speed internet!

We plan on sleeping in late tomorrow – we don’t have to show up for the ferry to Alaska until the afternoon. We are not likely to have internet access for the next few days so don’t worry if you don’t hear anything.

North to Alaska

In a few days Jan and I will be heading off to Alaska for an extended trip. We’ve been planning this for a long while and we’re really psyched about it. The bags are nearly all packed and all the arrangements are set (I think). As long as the airlines cooperate we are good to go.

Click to enlargeHere’s a map of our trip, not counting the air travel to and from. I hope that we will have Internet access at many of the stops and I will be able to blog in (almost) real-time and with photos too.

This is a short list of some of what we will be doing. We fly to Bellingham WA and catch a ferry which takes us to Juneau. We spend a couple of days there, then another ferry to Whittier where we take a cruise on Prince William Sound. From Whittier it’s a train ride to Anchorage where we stay another couple of days and pick up a rental car. Next it’s off to Copper Center and on to Fairbanks. From Fairbanks we fly up to Prudhoe Bay, north of the Arctic Circle. Then back to Fairbanks by bus. From there it’s on to Denali National Park with a white-water raft trip plus a bus tour of the Kantishna Wilderness.

More adventures include a Jet Boat ride at Talkeetna. Then on to Seward and a cruise through the Kanai Fjords and on to Homer. After Homer it’s back to Anchorage for our return flight. Twenty four days all together – can you say BUSY ?


We had this beautiful view in the western sky last night.

Moon and Venus

The brilliant (magnitude -4) planet Venus was approximately 1 degree from the 3.5 day old crescent Moon. The photo doesn’t do justice to the entire view with the Moon in the constellation of Gemini, crowned by the two bright stars, Castor and Pollux.

The image above is a cropped portion of a picture taken with a Nikon D80 using a 70-300 zoom lens at 300mm focal length. Exposure was 1/125 second at f/5.6 and ISO 1600.

Next month, on June 18, there will be a similar configuration with the added feature of the planet Saturn also being near the moon. If you have a good place to observe the western sky and your weather cooperates, this should be a spectacular sight. Mark your calender and look shortly after sunset.

Podcast redux

Here is an up-to-date list of the podcasts I subscribe too. I enjoy them all and thought readers here might also find some of them interesting. Links are to the podcasts home pages but all can also be found (free) on iTunes.

StarStuff – Astronomy and space science. Weekly from Australia

Astronomy A Go-Go A weekly astronomy podcast for everyone. Emphasis on observing.

Astronomy Cast A weekly fact based journey through the cosmos. Can be a bit technical at times.

Cranky Geeks A weekly panel discussion of current technology news and developments. Host John C. Dvorak. Sometimes humorous, sometimes controversial.

Daily GizWiz Mad magazine writer, Dick DeBartolo, digs into his massive gadget collection. Daily Mon.-Fri.

FLOSS Weekly All about Free Libre Open Source Software. Supposedly weekly but erratic.

net@nite What’s happening on the ‘net right now? Host Amber MacArthur with Leo Laporte. Weekly.

Planetary Radio Weekly on space science and astronomy.

Security Now
Host Steve Gibson with Leo Laporte. Weekly discussion of computer security.

SolderSmoke Weekly discussion by amateur radio experimenters. Emphasis on DIY construction projects.

StarDate Daily, 2 minute, summary what to look for in the night sky.

The WordPress Podcast Weekly audio forum for news, tips and commentary on WordPress (the program that powers this blog.)

This Week In Tech Leo Laporte and others discuss the week’s tech news.

What’s New Now Weekly (in theory) discussion of technology news and events wit host Jim Louderback and guests .


We’ve had a cat door into our garage, going back to the time when Jan and I both worked. Our cat (Itty) was happier outside and she could come and go as she pleased. We never had a problem except once when another cat followed her into the garage.

After I retired, we stopped leaving her out all day and just let her out when she wanted. I never removed the old cat door, figuring she might go into the garage occasionally and catch any mice that got inside.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the cat door was broken. It’s quite old and I just thought the sun and weather had finally taken their toll on the plastic. We’d been having windy weather and I thought the door flopping in the wind was the reason for it breaking. I covered over the broken door with a piece of plastic, saying I’d replace it later.

The next day the plastic was ripped up and the door damaged more. Clearly some critter had been using it to get in and out of the garage. I removed the old door entirely and covered the opening with a couple of scraps of 1″x10″ lumber as a temporary fix. Then, just in case the critter was still in the garage I set out our Have-A-Heart trap baited with cat food.

The next morning inside the garage looked like a war zone. The trap had been tipped on its side and all the bait was gone. The Styrofoam insulation around the blocked opening had been ripped to shreds but the wood was still in place. What ever the critter was, it was large, strong, smart and still inside. I reset the trap, this time placing concrete blocks on top of it and along the side to prevent it from being moved easily.

The next morning I found we had caught a large, angry and very frustrated raccoon. Not wanting to kill it, we decided to go to a public access area by the river about 8 miles away to release it.

That was an adventure in itself. The one problem is our trap is somewhat hard to open. You are momentarily exposed to whatever is in the trap while you are releasing the catch. Fortunately the raccoon was terrified and stayed at the far end, away from where I was unlatching the trap. Once open, the critter took a couple seconds to realize it was free, then ran off.

I hope 8 miles is far enough that it won’t be back.

To make matters even more difficult, momma raccoon had (unbeknownst to us) left behind four youngsters which I discovered just a while ago. I managed to get them out of the garage but I have no idea how they will manage without the mother.
Left behind in the garage is a huge mess. They had shredded up a number of old cardboard boxes, sheets of Styrofoam and old rags. All tucked behind the place where I store lumber, plywood and paneling. It will take several days to clean up the mess and get rid of the smell.

Just some of the fun of living in the country….