Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Daily Grind

UAF Museum of the North
(All photos clickable)

I hate to ruin this perception for anyone, but my life in Alaska is not all photography and Denali and aurorae. I know at least a few people would be interested in where I go every day, so let's start with school.
First, the Reichardt Building, also known as NSF (Natural Sciences Facility):

UAF Reichardt Building

This is where two of my three classes are held, as well as where the two astronomy labs I'm running meet, and where my office (shared with 7 other grad students) is located. This is not a good picture, but there isn't really a good angle, with all the signs and trees and lampposts outside.

UAF Geophysical Institute and IARC

The closer, gray building is IARC (International Arctic Research Center). The taller one with the giant dish on top is the GI (Geophysical Institute), which is where I will likely be moving next year when I start research. Not visible here, but behind the GI is the West Ridge Research Building, where ARSC (Arctic Region Supercomputing Center) is located. My third class is in the ARSC facilities there.

In between Reichardt and the GI is the Museum of the North, which is the building at the top of this post with the crazy architecture. I haven't been inside yet, but hope to remedy that soon - maybe this weekend. Here are a couple more shots of the museum:

UAF Museum of the North UAF Museum of the North

So that's school, at least the West Ridge of campus. There's a whole lower campus at the bottom of the ridge. Oh yeah, did I mention these buildings are on a ridge with a great view of the Tanana Valley right out the front door? On a clear day you can see all the way to the Alaska Range and Denali. I'll have to get a pic of that sometime...
Anyway, now to home - the cabin:

My Cabin My Cabin

My Cabin My Cabin

My Cabin My Cabin

The white box next to the bed is the oil heater, taking fuel from a 200 gallon tank outside. The big blue bottle on the counter next to the sink is for water, with a hand pump to make water come out of the sink. I have four of those bottles, and I go fill up when two are empty. It costs 25 cents to fill two of them. The last shot is the area I don't know what to do with, currently holding the things I don't know where to put. I guess that makes it the storage area. Yes, someday I hope to own a sofa to set in that space next to the big window that looks like it's begging for a sofa.
I'll put up shots of outside, the deck and yard another time.

So it's a one-room 'dry' cabin. It's kind of ascetic in some ways, and I'm enjoying it a lot. It's strange how standards of living, what is 'essential' and what is 'luxury' change from place to place. In Arkansas, a 'dry' cabin means the roof doesn't leak. In Fairbanks, it means there is no running water. In Arkansas, that's unheard of. In Fairbanks, it's common, and nobody even raises an eyebrow if you mention it. In the lower 48, we incorrectly identify running water as a necessity, rather than the luxury it is. If you allow your perspective to go beyond US borders, even a simple dry cabin like this is still rather grand and palatial by most standards. All that room for only one person? Electric lights? Reliable heat? To say nothing of surround sound or wifi.

Our culture values us as people based on the quality and/or quantity of the things we own. Things. We are not our things. Most people would agree with that statement, as long as you didn't ask them to actually give up any of their things.

That's what I'm enjoying about this place. There's a sense of simplicity and living within your means - not financially, but ecologically. I'm not saying everyone needs to be bush hippies and live in the forest, all I'm saying is we would be better off if people kept a sense of perspective about the things they need vs. the things they want, and the impact of acquiring those things on other people and the planet itself.

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