Anchorage, Alaska for a few days

I spent a few days in Anchorage, Alaska last week. It was for business, as I had meetings with the state emergency management, but did get out for a couple good runs and a moose sighting.

If the skies are clear then the flight to and from Anchorage is probably the best part. I get great views of the southern Alaska coast and Olympics.

I did try to see the northern lights since it was a great week for viewing but missed out. A few of my coworkers were fortunate enough to view them the day after  I left.

Here are a few photos from the trip.

Views of Seattle and beyond

Continue reading “Anchorage, Alaska for a few days”

A Perfect Day for 38 Years

Ethan splashes in the ocean

It was my 38th birthday last Friday and we kicked it off with donuts. Donuts and special events go hand in hand in this family. Actually, donuts seem to go well with anything in our family. I even brought in a dozen to work Friday morning to celebrate my birthday. Our Branch has a practice of staff bringing in treats when something good happens. Another great reason my work is awesome! Continue reading “A Perfect Day for 38 Years”

I’m leaving, on a jet plane….to Kodiak, Alaska

Welcome to Kotzebue! We hope your flights aren't cancelled for weeks on end.

Alaska in August is what I’m talking about. Fire season has died down a bit. The sun is shining. Wildlife is roaming. Next week, I’m in Kodiak for two days for an earthquake training and meetings with the City. This will be followed up with meetings with the State of Alaska Emergency Management and the City of Wasilla (yes, that one) in the latter half of the week. This visit will be in complete contrast to my Alaska visit last February….I’m hoping.

I don’t recommend visiting Alaska in February unless you only plan to visit Anchorage. It’s cold and the weather is terribly unpredictable. I was there for FEMA meetings in Kotzebue (just north of the Artic Circle), Cordova, and Valdez (yes, that one). I only made it to Kotzebue where I was stuck for three days due to extreme weather.

Kotzebue, Alaska winds
The winds pick up in Kotzebue, Alaska

Originally I had only planned to be in Kotzebue for 8 hours. I took the early flight to make a 9am meeting. When late afternoon rolled in, flights were cancelled due to a weather front between Anchorage and Kotzebue. Over the next few days I spent most of time at the Bayside Inn and Restaurant where I checked our flight status and ate…a lot. The food was greasy, internet connection was working and, honestly, I didn’t really have another choice. I was staying at the Nullagvik Hotel next door (for the government discounted rate of $200/night) but there was no restaurant and the internet connection was down.

Chewbacca Lives in Anchorage!
Chewbacca Lives in Anchorage!

On my second night, I was almost taken out by aerial plywood. Myself and a guy with the State just finished dinner at the Bayside. The winds were seriously blowing outside but we thought we could make it to our hotel. As we passed the new Nullagvik Hotel being built in between the old Hullagivk and Bayside, plywood and insulation started ripping off the hotel and flying towards us. We hit the ground, waited for a clearing, and ran back to the Bayside. After telling our story to the Bayside employees, a couple of them went outside to verify. It says something when the locals are in shock and awe of the high intense the winds that were blowing. One of them gave us a ride in his truck to our hotel…100 yards away.

The next day the National Weather Service stated that last night’s storm was not a record storm for that area, but it was somewhere in the top 5 percent. That’s like saying we experienced a .00001% chance storm in the lower 48s. I’m just sayin’ it was intense and I was almost dismembered by flying plywood.

Upon returning back to Anchorage on Friday evening, I explored the City and Turnagain Arm until Sunday evening when I was due to fly to Valdez to make my Monday morning meeting. When I arrived at the airport, I was informed that flights to Valdez were cancelled all day Sunday. Later I was informed that flights to Valdez were cancelled all the next day. After seven days in Alaska I wasn’t about to hang around a few extra days to see if I could “make it” to Valdez. I grabbed the next flight home and landed around 3am in Seattle.

I took some video footage from my February visit to Kotzebue. I hope you enjoy them.

Kotzebue, Alaska Videos (February 2011)




Kotzebue, Alaska Photos (February 2011)


Emergency Management Institute (EMI)

Emergency Management Institute (EMI)
Emergency Management Institute (EMI)

I’m spending the week at the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland. EMI is the national emergency training center for FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration. It’s a beautiful campus located in Emitsburg, just a few miles from Gettysburg, PA. This is my first visit to Maryland since my old punk band played in Baltimore in July 2000.

Emergency Management Institute - 4My training is focused on using a GIS based program titled HAZUS-MH to analyze spatial data and use it to inform the development of a risk assessment in a hazard mitigation plan. HAZUS takes in the building inventory, including location data and building costs, runs a model depending on the type of hazard and its intensity/location, and provides an analysis of what damages may occur or people injured. It’s a powerful program with a variety of uses in emergency management.

Benjamin Franklin and His Relevancy Today

I just completed Issac Walter Isaacson’s book “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” while commuting to and from work for the last few weeks. I’m very pleased that I took the time to learn more about Benjamin Franklin and his contributions to not only American society, but the world as a whole. He lived 84 years through some of the most important events that shaped our country.

I’ll keep this short and point out one speech he wrote that I feel is so relevant today. It has to do with openness, compromise, and listening to others. You, me, and our politicians can learn from his words.

Here is the context of this speech. Monday, September 17, 1787, was the last day of the Constitutional Convention. Pennsylvania delegate Benjamin Franklin, one of the few Americans of the time with international repute, wanted to give a short speech to the Convention prior to the signing of the final draft of the Constitution. Too weak to actually give the speech himself, he had fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson deliver the speech. It is considered a masterpiece.

Mr. President

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right — Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.