Posted on July 20, 2018

The Harriman Expedition of 1899

Edward Harriman was a railroad magnate and type-A personality. When his physician suggested he take a vacation, rather than relax in the Caribbean or tour Europe, he pulled together a group of the finest scientists and artists of that generation and took them with his family along the southern coast of Alaska all the way to Siberia. 

The Harriman Expedition of 1899 allowed John Burroughs, John Muir and others to study the glaciers and other natural features of Alaska. That group produced extensive notes that we still use today to study the evolution of glaciers, wildlife, and other things. It also gave us many of the names we still use in Prince William Sound: Harriman Fjord, Harriman, Coxe and Barry Glaciers, and Surprise Glacier. See Alaskan author Nancy Lord’s book Green Alaska to learn more about this expedition ( .

Prince William Sound is my favorite place in Alaska. I recently took a tour with Major Marine Tours from Whittier to Harriman Fjord including Surprise Glacier. I posted a short video of Surprise Glacier on my Facebook page and YouTube channel. Here are some photos from Harriman Fjord below—hope you enjoy them!

Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound 1Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound 2

Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound 3Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound 4

Posted on July 13, 2018

#Let’sThinkAbout Media and the Press

As you may know, this year I’m encouraging folks to think about critical thinking. (See more at When we read or view stories online, we might assume that they are accurate. This may or may not be true, and we should always check sources and/or facts to be sure. (Resources like are good for fact checking.) Now YouTube and AP are also stepping up to help us get more accurate media.

In March, YouTube introduced its Google News Initiative to provide more support for journalism. They recently announced new features designed to help the public access accurate information ( This includes helping people get the facts by providing “information from third parties, including Wikipedia and Encyclopædia Britannica, alongside videos on a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation, like the moon landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing.” Another bright spot is a new education program: “Along with the Google News Initiative and, we have teamed up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, Local Media Association, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) to support MediaWise, a U.S.-based initiative designed to equip 1 million teens with digital literacy skills. Six incredible YouTube Creators, including John Green, Ingrid Nilsen, and Mark Watson, will be working with MediaWise to bring awareness to digital literacy and help educate teens.”

It’s also good when legitimate journalists point out erroneous stories. The Associated Press (AP) has a new feature called NOT REAL NEWS, a summary of the most popular untrue stories online in that week. They also point out false claims that people make in the news. You can find them both under AP Fact Checks at


Freedom of the Press is in our Bill of Rights for a reason; it’s that important. The U.S. has a history of a free, independent press that brings us fair, unbiased news. It’s nice to see that more media and journalists are helping us find accurate information so we can use our critical thinking skills and make up our own minds about what is going on in the world.

Posted on June 29, 2018

Literary Ireland

One more observation from my trip to Ireland before I go back to my regular programming on this blog: Ireland is full of literary attractions.

My favorite places in Dublin are in or near Trinity College. The Book of Kells is there, of course.  Seeing the ancient illustrated manuscript pages was a thrill in itself. But after that, we got to see the Long Room, which was the old library. It still has part of their collections including books hundreds of years old, and a set of statues of luminaries like Homer, Socrates and Williams Shakespeare. I could have spent hours in there just inhaling the vanilla scent of old books and looking at everything!

The Long Room 1

The Long Room 2










Oscar Wilde is one of the most famous Irish writers. There are references to him all over Dublin, including a great statue of him at Merrion Square, near his home. The statue is made of different colored stone, and two pillars of engraved quotes stand by him. And he’s only one of many Irish writers we saw references to around the country.  There’s a lot of literature to enjoy there.

Oscar Wilde 1

Oscar Wilde 2










I’d like to think we’ll find references to Alaskan writers here in a hundred years or so—we’ll see!



Posted on June 22, 2018

Ireland and Alaska

I’ve just spent a few weeks in Ireland. I loved it, and I noticed some similarities between the Emerald Isle and Alaska. For example:

The scenery is gorgeous. Whether it’s green, rolling hills, or surf crashing against cliffs, Ireland is just as beautiful as Alaska.

The people are friendly. I met many Irish folks who were just as nice as Alaskans.

The climate is similar–Ireland is about the same latitude as Ketchikan, and they both get a lot of rain. That’s why they’re both so green.

Here are some photos from my trip. Enjoy!

Ireland 3Ireland 4

Ireland 1Ireland 2

Posted on June 1, 2018

Remarkable Ravens, Reprise

With summer gardening, hiking, and other activities, time at the computer is hard to come by, so I’m taking a break from social media. Here’s a favorite blog post from 2014:

I’ve always loved ravens. They are smart, funny, graceful, and curious. Over the years I’ve seen them tease dogs, break into garbage cans, fly through forests, commute to and from work every day, and have elaborate conversations. They have such personality, and I find them fascinating. We see them all year round, but especially in the winter when they stay in town for the easy pickings. They may not look majestic sitting on top of light posts, but they are scrappy survivors.


Ravens are in all parts of Alaska, and in many other places too. They can adapt to different climates and food sources. And their social lives are similar to ours. They live in groups, with hierarchies and specialized roles. They mourn for their dead and communicate with various sounds and calls.


When I was growing up, I learned many of the legends about Raven, like how he stole the sun and moon, and how he made the Milky Way. They all made sense to me. I still talk to ravens when I see them—just in case one of them is Raven.


Recently, I was sent a link on Facebook that explains how ravens learn dynamics of groups other than their own. As the title says, “Ravens have social abilities previously only seen in humans.”

Posted on May 25, 2018

National Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a perfect time to address mental health and our responses to it.

For much of my life, I knew little about mental health, and I bet I’m not the only one. When I was young, a book or movie might mention a mental illness, but I didn’t understand the different kinds or how many people had them. And I didn’t hear about treatments for mental illnesses beyond the occasional joke about Prozac. Even later, when I saw that members of my family had mental illnesses and I had my first bouts of depression, I didn’t know how to take care of my mental health. Now I know more.

I’ve learned that many of us are dealing with this. Roughly one in five American adults experience mental illness in a given year, and approximately one in five American youth experience a severe mental health disorder in their lifetime. Sixteen million adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. (See sources for these and other stats at  With so many people affected by these illnesses, why don’t we hear more about them?

In one word: stigma. People are afraid to speak about these illnesses because others might think bad things about them. We have thoughts like “People will think I’m crazy,” or “People will judge my family if I tell them about my sibling’s illness.” This stigma is keeping people from speaking up about an important part of their health, and from getting help. 

We don’t hesitate to tell others when we have heart disease or asthma or any number of physical health problems. We need to be able to do the same thing with mental illness. And, like people with other illnesses, most individuals experiencing mental illnesses live average, productive lives with professional help.

Want to learn more about mental health, get help for your own, or deal with a family member’s illness? NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great place to start. I took the Family to Family class, and recommend it highly. Check out their website at    

Posted on May 18, 2018

#Let’sThinkAbout Critical Thinking and Libraries

As you may know, I’m pondering critical thinking this year. (See .)

There are lots of places we can go to learn how to hone our critical thinking skills. One of the best is at your local library. Here are a few examples of what librarians are doing online to help us learn about critical thinking:


The Albany Library website has a good page on how to identify fake news at


The Middletown Thrall Library website has lots of resources on critical thinking, with topics such as Fact Checkers and Fake News Alerts, Research Problems to Avoid: Useful Tips for Researchers, and Deceptive Digits: Examining Numbers and Statistics at


Royal Roads University Library has a Critical Thinking Guide, including resources to help analyze logic of articles and argumentation at


Thanks to all the librarians out there who are helping us look carefully at the world around us!

Posted on May 3, 2018

The Origins of the University of Alaska

On May 3, 1917, Governor John F. A. Strong signed the bill that created the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was a logical place for it, since mining and farming went on in the area, but people were skeptical about the territory’s ability to support higher education.

Delegate (Judge) Wickersham (in photo, credit Tanana-Yukon Historical Society) had wanted the college for a while. (Learn more about him here: He laid a cornerstone on the site on July 4, 1915, and met with indigenous chiefs from the area in the following two days, hoping to jumpstart the idea into action.

It seemed to work, as the bill passed a couple years later. The Main Building was erected in 1918, and classes started in 1922.

The College started off small, with seven professors (one female and six males)  and six students (two females and four males). I was impressed by the number of women included, but they were pretty progressive back then— women’s suffrage was the first bill passed by the Alaska Territorial Legislature.  There was no housing at first, so people lived in town and came to campus for classes. Over time, more buildings and programs were added. The school became the University of Alaska in 1935.

Later, other campuses were added in Anchorage and Juneau, leading to our system of University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, and University of Alaska Anchorage with satellite campuses all over the state. Almost 31,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled in 400 programs. University researchers help Alaskans and others with economic, scientific, and other research projects that enhance our lives. Not bad for what started as a tiny college in the middle of nowhere!

You can learn more about the university and its history at 


Posted on April 27, 2018

Garden Daydreams

The long days of light are back–almost 16 hours today! This is the time when gardeners like to daydream. It’s too early to plant anything, but we can start seeds and make plans for the glorious days of summer.

I imagine my vegetable garden full of goodies to eat. I plan to try zucchini, and experiment with more herbs and a few garlic bulbs. I’ve started some seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, and tomatoes. (The last two will end up in our mini-greenhouse.) And I’ll augment by buying some starter plants for lettuces and maybe a few impulse purchases at the nursery.

I am also thinking about flowers and the rest of the yard. I have dianthus and potentilla seeds started, will buy some colorful annuals to plant by the mailbox, and hope to do some work to make part of the backyard more natural by filling in with some native trees and plants.

Will all of this happen as planned? Probably not. But hey, I’ll still have fun playing in the dirt this summer. And these daydreams will get me by until then.

Hope you have fun planning your summer, whether you’re a gardener or not! 🙂


seed starter

Posted on April 20, 2018

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!

As you may know, April 23rd is William Shakespeare’s birthday! 

(It’s also his death day, but I’d rather celebrate his coming into the world.)

I consider Will Shakespeare a personal hero and favorite writer. Not only did he coin lots of words and phrases, have beautiful word choice, and write great stories, he also had a great understanding of human nature. That’s why his characters and plays resonate with us today. Want to study how power corrupts people? He wrote a few plays about that. How women can operate in a mans’ world? He did that, too. How to win over the one you love—or how not to? He’s got you covered.

I also have some personal connections to Will Shakespeare. My mother was an English major and major Shakespeare fan, and I grew up hearing stories and devouring plays and books, etc. with her. My husband and I met at a production of Much Ado About Nothing—he was an actor and I was working backstage. So you could say Will is a big part of my life.

Here are a few links to Shakespeare-related websites for your enjoyment. Some of them are on social media, too—the sites will give you that information as well.

Folger Shakespeare Library:

Royal Shakespeare Company:

Shakespeare’s Globe:

And just for fun, the Reduced Shakespeare Company:

Happy birthday, Will! 😉