Friday, February 27, 2009

My Sewing Mentor

Here's a student produced interview with a Brevig Mission elder, Rita Olanna, that has taught me all about Eskimo skin sewing. I enjoy her sweet and joyful personality as we spend time together sewing and chatting. This video has some information about some aspects of traditional skin sewing.

Notice her last words, " . . . and come again". This is what people in Brevig always say in their farewells.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Birthday Gathering

Here's the crew that came over to celebrate my birthday. We ate funky chicken and socialized. C.O. and I get our kicks out of inviting a bunch of people over who don't really know each other.

What is it?

Last week I posted this photo and asked what is it? Most people were fooled into thinking that is was something with spokes, or something that spins. Tim did notice the unique way that the tubes were connected to the hub, but was not sure what it was for.

The object is actually a connector for a Triodetic building foundation system.

In most of the rest of the world you dig down to stable soil or bedrock and pour a concrete foundation for your building. This technique does not work well here in the arctic with permafrost and other unstable soils. Building in these conditions presents many interesting challenges. You must make sure that the permafrost does not thaw out and you need to spread the weight of the building over a large area. The usual solution is to build the structure several feet off the ground with a foundation that contacts the ground in many spread out locations.

The Triodetic system is made just for these applications. It consists of these aluminum connectors with galvanized steel tubes between them. The ends of the tube slide into the slots in the connectors. All of the pieces can be assembled by hand without any special tools or equipment. Each connector has threaded rod in the center of it to adjust for uneven ground and settling. When assembled the system of connectors and tubes makes a solid base for the building to sit on.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


Amuk is the Inupiaq word for how I'm carrying Harold. It's the traditional way Eskimo folks carry their children around. It works pretty well, in this climate, to be wrapped up together to protect us from the cold arctic air. We didn't do it much last winter because Harold would make such a fuss. However, this year, he's a fan and often asks to be amuked. Doesn't he look so snug and cozy?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Happy Ending

All of us in Brevig, and around the Seward Peninsula, are relieved and thankful for the happy ending to the recent airplane crash that happened Thursday night near Nome.

We first heard about it from a first grade student at the school who yelled to us, "That airplane crashed." We then got a call from a friend with some more detailed information. She said the plane that had just left Brevig had crashed somewhere near Nome and that they couldn't find the plane. The next couple hours were pretty scary as we all hung by the phone for news, fortunately the last phone call of the night was a good one.

Here's the story.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


In a blog post last October I had mentioned the book opening of "Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range" by my friend Aaron Brown. I read through the book before Christmas, in fact, and am reluctant to say that it has taken me this long to finally write more about it. It only took about a week for me to read it and I enjoyed it very much. I can now recommend the book with more authority since I've actually read it and not just because my friend wrote it. As others have said, it's informative, entertaining and reads like a novel.

It was kind of strange for me to read since I've known Aaron since the second grade, shortly after the infamous (in Cherry anyway) Cherry/Forbes merger. Actually, I had heard about him before that because his photo had been in the newspaper. He had won an invention contest and a trip to Washington D.C. which apparently really impressed my grandma. My grandma had clipped the article out to show me even though I had no idea who he was. For some reason, I remember that photo of Aaron with the seat belts. I wonder why? Perhaps it was my grandmother's enthusiasm and the fact that he won a trip to Washington D.C. as a first grade student! Anyway, the two schools coming together and the invention contest are both mentioned in the book.

My friend Kelly and I talked about reading the book last time we were together. We both said the same thing, "I didn't know Aaron (fill in the blank here with most of the stories from the book)." Through the book, I learned more about the history of the Iron Range and even got to know Aaron a little better. I felt like I got to swim around in his head for a while. Speaking of swimming around in someone's head, Being John Malkovich is a movie about just that, only people are actually swimming around . . . in someone's head. It's an interesting movie. I'd recommend it. Just like I'd recommend buying and reading Aaron's book, Overburden.

My friend Erin, from Cook, bought the book for her dad for Christmas. She said that her dad enjoyed it so much that while he was reading it, he would laugh and point out passages to her. So, there you have it. Erin's dad liked it too.

Aaron will be at a book signing and reading tonight, (Feb. 18th), at the Hibbing Public Library. If your don't have plans, I encourage you to go on over and check it out. If you're busy tonight, there are a few more lectures and book signings lined up for the near future. The places and dates can be found on Aaron's Blog.

I enjoyed the book Aaron, well done. There are many people from your humble roots that are proud of you!

Monday, February 16, 2009


Harold sports his latest cold weather gear,
they were a gift from the Crocketts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pocket Wrench

I normally carry a small wrench in my pocket, because you just never know when you might need to work on something. The wrench that I have had for years is a 4" crescent or adjustable open end wrench. It is small and light weight, unfortunately it only opens up to 1/2" and many bolts have a 9/16" or larger head.

The green wrench is my old 4", the silver one is a new 6" crescent wrench that I modified. The 6" wrench will open much bigger than 1/2", but it was too big to carry in my pocket. I decided to cut it down shorter and add a screw driver to the handle.

The end result is just a little longer than the green wrench, but will still fit in my pocket ok. The screw driver part is from a "4 in 1" screw driver, it has a removable bit with philips on one end and a straight blade on the other. I cut the handle off the wrench and the screw driver, then welded the pieces together. After welding I ground and polished all the sharp corners off.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blowing Snow

We had some blowing and drifting snow last night.

This is what we saw when AnnMarie opened the door to leave for work this morning. She had to climb up over this snow to get out of the house.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eating Out With Kids

I have a challenge for all of the parents out there. We should start taking kids to restaurants (even high end ones) more often. It's a little scary, I have to admit but here's how I came to my conclusion.

I didn't have this view until after our trip to San Francisco when we had two good experiences (with a just turned two year old) in some pretty nice restaurants. We ate one evening at a little Italian place and one evening at a French restaurant. I was a bit leery when C.O. suggested we eat at the French restaurant, Piperade. I'm usually pretty worried about what people will think if Harold is noisy or makes a mess or decides to throw food or whatever in public. But C.O. assured me that Harold generally does pretty well and if they are a well trained staff, they'll treat us like any other customer. If they don't, just be cause we have a kid with us, then they're not really that good. So, we went. It was one of the best dining experiences I've had in a long time. The food was awesome and the service was above and beyond anything I expected.

It turns out there isn't a children's menu at nice restaurants, which is fine since we never order Harold his own meal anyway no matter where we go. He doesn't eat enough to make it worth it and our meal portions are usually too big anyway so there's plenty to go around. Well, as we normally do, we ordered, and planned to share with Harold. After our food arrived and we had started our meal, a server came out with a bowl of French fries and some ketchup for Harold. How sweet! We hadn't asked for anything for him or expected anything special. The menu was tiny, (so you know it was a fancy restaurant) and we couldn't really pronounce any of the meals so I can guarantee there weren't any French fries waiting to be deep fried in the kitchen. They must have specially cut up some potatoes for him. I snitched some and they were yummy btw.

Throughout dinner, we were pleased with our service. No one seemed put out or annoyed that we had brought a child along. In fact, it everyone appeared to enjoy doting over Harold. He is charming and beautiful after all. =)

C.O. was right the staff was well trained and treated us well, even with a toddler in tow. So, there's no reason to be afraid to bring kids to these sorts of establishments.

As parents, we have a duty, like those servers, to have well trained children. At home we practice good table manners daily. Harold has far from mastering all of them, but we're working on it. He has to eat what we're eating, no special "kid food". If we have a big old salad, Harold eats a salad too. Sometimes he loves what we're eating and sometimes he doesn't and eats very little. But we're training him to get used to different sorts of foods being offered to him. Something tells me if we would have ASKED for French fries at Piperade, it wouldn't be o.k. but since we were willing to feed him off the menu, they were willing to accommodate us. At home Harold has to stay at the table until we're done eating and can't play with his food, or shout etc. Being at restaurants is a good chance for Harold to hone in on those manners.

I have to admit, we did have one pretty bad experience with Harold in a restaurant. We were outside of D.C. visiting C.O.'s Aunt Phyllis and decided to go out to eat at The Peking Duck. We weren't worried about Harold's behavior at all. At 18 months, all he thought about was food it seemed. As soon as food was put in front of him, he was happy. But not that night. That night all he wanted to do was walk. So, when we put him in the high chair, he screamed. It was a quite night at the restaurant so his cries were echoing through the room. It turned out C.O. or I had to take turns being outside with Harold and letting him walk around. We now often refer to the "Peking Duck Episode" and hope to never repeat it.

So, parents, make most every meal time a practice time for table manners and then get out there with your kids. Let them experience fine dining in a beautiful setting. It's never to early to start training kids how to act in society. We want Harold to fit in in all sorts of settings. Whether he's eating raw fish with his hands in Brevig or using the correct fork at a restaurant, he needs to be prepared. Even at the age of two.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


After Christmas I found some great deals on children's clothing at Target. I got these pieces for only $0.98 each. It was so cheap I bought matching outfits for Harold and Ernie just so I could have this picture. It was worth the $3.92 I spent on it. =)

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I have been to a few towns that are known for having big hills, Duluth MN and Houghton MI, both have hills that impressed me in the past. Now that I have spent a little time in San Francisco those two midwest towns seem tame.

Duluth and Houghton basically are built on one big hill side. San Francisco has lots of different hills going in many directions. You can hardly go anywhere in town without going up and down a few hills.

The slope of the hills is also surprisingly steep. These steep hillsides lead to some very interesting engineering and construction issues.

Look at the bottom of this red garage door. How does the floor inside transition to a level surface?

Driving and walking on these crazy slopes can be challenging. But people do walk up and down them. When I lived in Houghton I would avoid walking up the hill at all costs, like most people I drove everywhere. In San Francisco there seemed to people walking all over the place. Even this crazy sidewalk staircase had a lot of foot traffic.

Uncle John

My brother John also attended the reading conference in San Francisco last week. Harold was very happy to spend time with his uncle. Harold is especially entertained by John's beard and his mandolin.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Need a Good Laugh?

I will shamelessly admit that I watched this twice today. It made me laugh till I cried both times.


Tuesday in San Francisco

On Tuesday night, after my conference sessions were over, we met up with our friend Erin. Erin and her husband Bill taught with me in Brevig a few years ago. Erin is now working at a school in Nett Lake, MN. The school she's teaching at also happens to use the same reading program as we do
here in the Bering Strait School District so she was attending the same conference. We had just seen Erin and Bill at Christmas time so it was a special treat to see her again so soon.

We decided to go for a little hike and dinner together. C.O. had scoped out a route and restaurant for us during the day and then took Erin and I on a little tour. We started by taking the cable car to the top of Lombard Street, the crookedest street in America. We hiked down the street and then back up again to Coit Tower. It was getting dark by the time we got to the tower so we didn't go to the top, we just took in the great views of the city from the hill top.

After our walk, we ate dinner at a French restaurant, Piperade. We chose to eat outside and enjoy the relatively warm weather. Locals in general thought it's too cold to eat outside, but we were perfectly comfortable. The meal was amazing! It was a beautiful night, great food and good company . . . an ideal evening.

Monday, February 2, 2009

More San Francisco

Harold and I get to spend our days out exploring the city while AnnMarie is busy with her conference. We look at a lot of the little details that most tourists might not be interested in.

San Francisco has a lot of hills. Some of them are very steep. I took this photo to give you an idea of the slope on a typical street.

There are a lot of boats in San Francisco. We spent a lot of time today walking the docks and checking them out. The boats in this photo are mostly commercial fishing boats. The water front area is full of restaurants serving fresh sea food that comes from these boats.

It is interesting looking at work boats. Nothing is done for show, everything is made to be usable and economical. This photo below shows some construction details of a crane used to haul crab pots over the side of a boat. The interesting thing about this setup is the use of a standard trailer hitch coupler to make a easily removable support member for the crane boom.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

We're In San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco this morning at about 8:30 a.m. after flying all night to get here. We were feeling good when we arrived so we hit the ground running. By 10 a.m we got a taxi from th airport and were checked in to the hotel. (The Hilton is super swank btw.) Then, we started walking. We took tons of photos that I want to share with all of you.

Sure enough the trolleys are still an attraction.
We didn't hop on one until the end of the day,
but we have now purchased a pass for use on all public
transportation for our week in San Francisco.

We walked from our hotel to Chinatown.
We found a little park where Harold (and C.O.) could play.

After we got a little snack at a cafe in Chinatown.

The weather is beautiful here.
The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming,
the faces are cheery.

Harold had to take his nap on the go today.

We took a nice little boat ride around the harbor.
We were the only people on the little 1924 boat
and therefore had a private look about of Alcatraz,
"The Rock", the sea lion refuge, the Golden Gate Bridge
and a WWII liberty ship and submarine.

More to come . . . . .