Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crazy Cool Alaska Pictures

So, here is a collection of pictures from the last 3 months that highlight life in Alaska.

First, a few weeks ago, we came across a religious moose after choir practice outside our church. Don't worry mom, these were taken from the safety of our car.
Can you believe what they'll do for food? Awkward.
One afternoon we went exploring around the coast and found this park with ice blocks surrounding picnic tables. I'm not sure who actually takes advantage of them, but there is a great view of the sea ice and distant mountains on the other side of the inlet.
The following are pictures taken from the school I teach at (the trailer you see in the bottom photo is the one I teach in). The first two are icicles that blew my did they freeze sideways? The next ones are during a "cold snap" during January when it was so cold the kids couldn't even go outside to play. It was around -20 to -25 for a little over a week straight. The thing I loved about it was the way it made the trees look. The whole world was literally white from the ground to the trees to the telephone poles. It was beautiful.
We saw a moose in our front yard!! We were coming home from church, and I was talking to Matthias as I was getting out of the car and all of a sudden he said, "Watch out! There's a moose right behind you!" Sure enough, I turned around and there it was about 10 feet away. I jumped back in the car and spent about a 1/2 hour staring at it as it munched on some dead leaves in our yard. Matthias got bored (or hungry--probably both) so he went inside but I was too scared. I've been told by a reliable source that moose are more dangerous than bears. I tried about three times to get out of the car and jumped right back in because I felt so vulnerable. Finally, I was so cold I bolted up the stairs and into the house. I managed to get the camera in time to snap a few pictures from our porch.
Conclusion: Alaska provides plenty of adventure. Stay tuned for pictures of the Iditarod, world-class ice sculptures, and a real, live ice hotel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Denny's Redeemed!

Some of you may remember the recent difficulties that Michelle and I faced at Denny's:

We threatened to declare non-violent war on Denny's if we weren't reimbursed for the "free" Grand Slam breakfast that we were promised. Well, after standing for weeks on the precipice of war, Denny's relented. There is peace in our time:Not only did Denny's pay us back for the Grand Slam, they refunded our entire bill. Basically, Michelle got her extra hash browns for free.

So on this note, Denny's, we'll let bygones be bygones. We won't boo you, we won't brainwash our kids to hate you, and we'll stop fomenting a boycott among our friends and family. Someday we might even stop in for a Reese's peanut butter pie:
Thanks everyone for supporting the boycott. We couldn't have done this without you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March Madness Picks: Cicotte v. Obama

OK, so I was originally planning to just post my picks, but I just had to get something off my chest. President Obama is obviously a bold guy; he had the guts to challenge Hillary Clinton with less than two years in the Senate. He also had the guts to print and borrow money like Weimar Germany in his first month on the job. That's bold. (Wait, is "bold" the right word?)*

Then I looked at his NCAA picks:
5 upsets out of 32 in the first round (two of which are 8-9 matchups)
1 (ONE !!!!) upset out of 16 in the second round (a 5 over a 4 seed)
1 upset out of 8 in the round of 16 (a 3 over a 2)
1 upset in the elite eight round

That's 8 upsets TOTAL in the entire tournament. Would you like to guess what the smallest number of upsets in the sixty-three game tournament is? The answer is 12, and it only happened once. The next lowest is 14, which also happened only once. The average is 17. And he's predicting 8.

Are you kidding me? Mr. President, I've seen gutsier brackets filled out by nine-year-old girls who pick based on the mascots. Consider your man-card revoked. I can only conclude that you were scared to pick any big upsets because you thought you might offend the residents of some state or another. I'm imagining how you picked your final four:

Obama: "Well, boys, I asked you to pick at least one upset in each round to make it look like I actually thought about this, and I see you've done that. Now, I just need one upset pick for the final four. How about Duke over Pittsburgh?"

22-year-old Harvard intern: "Sir, I think that's a bad idea. Most people hate Duke."

Obama: "How do you know that?"

Intern: "Secretary Jordan from the Department of Basketball went to UNC, and he told us so."

Obama: "We have a Department of Basketball?"

Intern: "It was in the stimulus package. Besides, Jesse Jackson called to say that if you pick 'those preppy white kids from Duke', he'll denounce you as an 'Uncle Tom'."

Obama: "Fine. Syracuse over UNC?"

Intern: "A 3 seed over a 1? Are you sure you're ready to take a risk like that?"

Obama: "No, you're right, let's not chance it. How about Michigan State over Louisville?"

Intern: "That could be a good pick, considering that Michigan is sort of a swing state, but I think you should take Memphis over UConn. Connecticut is full of evil stockbrokers and insurance company execs. Not many tears will be shed for them."

Obama: "Sounds good. Now that I've got this trivial matter off my schedule, I can focus on what really matters to this country: Rehearsing for Leno."

Here are my upset picks by round (feel free to comment on them):

1st round:
Arizona over Utah

N. Iowa over Purdue
Maryland over California
Tenn over Okla. St.
Portland St. over Xavier
W. Kentucky over Illinois
Michigan over Clemson

2nd round:
Arizona over Wake Forest
W. Kentucky over Gonzaga
ASU over Syracuse
(I also have Florida State, who will have to upset Xavier if Portland St. doesn't)

Sweet Sixteen:
Kansas over Michigan State
Washington over UConn
Missouri over Memphis
Florida State over Pitt
ASU over Oklahoma

Elite Eight:
ASU over UNC
Washington over Missouri
(I also have Duke, which will have to upset Pitt if Fla St. doesn't)

That means my final four is Louisville, Washington, Duke and ASU, with Duke beating Louisville to win it all. If you can't tell by my picks, I think the Pac-10 is better than people think, and the Big Ten is worse than people think. Also, I typically pick against small-conference teams with high seeds (i.e., Gonzaga and Xavier). I am also completely biased towards ASU and Duke. I figure it's all luck anyway, so may as well pick teams you're rooting for.

By the way, that's eighteen upsets with two pseudo-upsets, Mr. President. I may go down in flames in the first round, but at least I'm going down swinging.

*Bonus points if you recognized that as an allusion to "The Office" (from when Michael photo-shops himself into his girlfriend's family photo, with his face on the body of her ex-husband)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Europe Photo Entry #14: Paris and Versailles

(Keep an eye out for several new posts over the next few days. On Thursday I'm posting my March Madness picks, plus over the weekend we'll put up pictures and video from the Iditarod, with pictures from our trip to Fairbanks after that.)
Paris was just great; we only had a night and a day to spend, which actually was juuuuuust enough to see everything we wanted to. The first night we were there, we went to see the Arc de Triomphe:
The Champs-Elysees
The next morning we went to see the Palace of Versailles, which was a top-five experience for me:
The gardens at the Palace:
The famous Hall of Mirrors (where, I learned, the actual Treaty of Versailles was signed)
Notre Dame:
Michelle took about 9,483 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, which truly must be seen to be believed. You would think that such a famous landmark would be overrated by now (as in, "Oh, I thought it was bigger"), but that just isn't the case with the Eiffel Tower. It's definitely worth seeing in person.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Only in Alaska

I took this picture at the airport:
In case you want a little background: