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Friday, January 27, 2006

Greetings from a cold, dark place!

Hello, readers, from Anchorage, Alaska! I've been here since last Friday night, attending a meeting. What organization holds its meetings in Alaska in January, you ask? The International Moosefarming Society? Why yes, I guess so, assuming such an organization actually exists - and if it does, I want to join. The actual group is the American Association of Physics Teachers, a swinging fun group that includes enough people interested in science writing to make it worthwhile for me to go. Since I've been here, I've been learning quite a bit of Alaskana, which I will now share with you.

Some of the locals refer to this town as "Los Anchorage," which I find hilarious considering its 2000 Census population of 260,000. It takes about 15 minutes to drive from one side of town to the other, and the convention center is so small as to be adorably cute. However, Alaska has a total 2000 Census population of 626,932, meaning that Anchorage accounts for 41% of the Alaskan population.

The first thing that one notices about Alaska in the winter is that it's cold. Although truthfully, Anchorage is not that bad. The average January high temperature is 22 F (that's -5 C to you, TDEC), compared to an average January high of 25 F (-4 C) in Chicago. However, this week has been COLD. The temperature on Wednesday hovered around 0 F (-19 C). After about 15 minutes outside, I could no longer feel my fingers or toes. The cold sneaks up on you, too - one minute I felt fine; the next minute, I couldn't feel my extremities.

In the winter, many people leave Anchorage, but many moose arrive. Anchorage has the biggest moose concentration of any American city, with more than 2,000 spending the winter there. The moose hang out by the airport, welcoming visitors with fruit baskets, and by the university, taking French literature courses. In spite of the presence of so many moose, I have not seen a single one. I leave tonight - hopefully I'll see one at the airport. Antlers crossed.

Alaskans are also very proud of their state, and tend to snicker at Texans for living in such a small state. Alaska is more than double the size of Texas. Alaskans love to express this by pointing out that "if you split Alaska in half, Texas would be the third largest state."

Perhaps the best thing about Alaska is the fish. Ship Creek runs straight through downtown Anchorage - but in the creek, you can catch 4-foot (1.2-meter) king salmon. If you charter a boat and take it to the ocean south of the Kenai peninsula, you can catch 400-lb (181 kg) halibut. I have managed to have either salmon or halibut for dinner every night since I've been here.

Alaska is a beautiful place. I'd love to go back in the summer, to compare the view to what I've seen this week.

Back to the moosefarming...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a native Fairbanksan, I'd like to point out that the Los Anchorage moniker is (a) meant to be pejorative, and (b) has more to do with the "big city" attitude of Anchorage's denizens more than its size. (Laughable in itself, but you have to remember the reference group.)

Here are a couple others:
-- the best thing about Anchorage is that in just a half hour's drive, you can be in Alaska
-- Why is the capital in Juneau? Because it guarantees the Anchoragites can't find it

Friday, January 27, 2006 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Slag said...

Thanks for the information!

I love the joke about the best thing about Anchorage. I'll have to tell that to my Anchoragian (Anchorageite?) friend next time I see her.

Go Nanooks!

Monday, January 30, 2006 12:20:00 PM  

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