Negative Numbers

We’ve been teaching Mark the set of Natural Numbers, as I suppose parents do the world over.  And, like parents do the world over, I tend to thing that my children are a bit above average when it comes to thinking.

The other day, I thought it’d be cool to ask him questions about the relative sizes of the numbers, so we started with simple questions like, “What is number is bigger than five?”  He said right away, “Six.”

“What number is between four and five?”

“Four and a half.”

“What number is less than zero.”  He thought for a while with a concerned look on his face, then tilted his head. “There’s no number less than zero daddy.”

“Well, actually there are a whole bunch of numbers less than zero.”  Now I had his attention.  “Negative one is less than zero.  And do you know how small it is?

“No.”

“Negative one is so small that it’s less than nothing.  It’s less than zero..  As a matter of fact, it’s so small that if you have a negative number of something, you have so little that something that as soon as you get any of it, you have to give it away immediately, because it’s not even yours when you get it.”

“So, do you know what’s less than negative one?”

“No,” he said.

“Negative two, then comes negative three, and negative four. See, if you have negative four of something, you have so little that if you get one, you can’t keep it.  And if you get another one, you can’t keep it either, you have to give it back.  And even if you get two more, you still can’t keep them.  All you can do is give them back.  Then, all you have is zero again.  Then finally, after all that you can finally keep one.  Isnt’ that crazy? See if you can guess what number is less than negative four?”

He smiled and said really loudly, “Negative FIVE!”  Then we got out a pencil and paper and drew a number line and put a few numbers on it.

Which I thought was rather fun.

A couple days later, as we were going to bed, I asked him, “What number is right between one and negative one?”

He thought for a long time on that one.  He is just four right now, after all. Then tilted his little head and said, not too confidently, “Zero?”

Holly and I both that that was pretty fun (but I probably thought it was more fun).  We’re’ starting to work on skip counting the odds and evens next.

I suppose we ought to start working on the numbers higher than the days of the month a bit more (Holly does the monthly calendar with him most days).  Then after that we ought to start in on writing numbers with a crayon, or something similar, and then do some addition.

Actually, what I need to do is my taxes.

I just finished Ordinary Wolves, by Seth Kantner

Every now and then I come across a book that is almost to realistic to continue reading.  Seth Kantner knows what he’s talking about when he writes about the arctic.

I finished ‘Ordinary Wolves’ two nights ago and have to say it’s a wonderful books.  It’ll definitely make my top ten list for the year, come Christmas letter time again.  I look forward to reading Seth Kantner’s next book, and wish him the best in terms of getting it done and enjoying life up in Kotzebue, which is, I believe, where he lives now.

Luke and Mark say they’re hungry right now, so I better go and get them some food.

Family Portrait

Jack & Family During Spring Break, we got out the strobes and took some shots of J6 using a basic three light setup: key, fill, & Hair

Here’s a picture of Jack, Jennifer, John, Joy, Joanna, and Jessica who we visited in Anchorage two weeks ago.  Betty helped me arrange everyone, we got them dark clothes to wear at Wal-Mart just for this photo.  I guess the sad part is that they just had a miscarriage a couple weeks before, or they would have been J7 before too long.  

The only real criticism I have of the shot is the overblown highlights on from the hair light.  When shooting with any lights, they should be adjusted when the subject changes position with respect to the lights.  Right before this shot, I’d been shooting people sitting down on a box, then for this shot we had Jack standing in the back and the decrease in subject to light distance caused the highlights to be to strong.  Oh, well.  We live and learn.

Book Recommendation: Alaskan Life

Lately, I’ve been reading Seth Kantner’s book, “Ordinary Wolves.”  It’s about a boy named Kataq that grows up in the arctic in a sod hut near a tiny remote (non-regional hub) village and how he struggles to find his place between the modern world and the old ways of the arctic.  I strongly recommend the book to anyone from the bush, or to anyone that has family that spent any serious time up there. 

It really takes me back, not to my youth, because I was raised in BIA built housing and had flush toilets and running water in the same types of school housing which was built all over rural Alaska: Kotzebue, Savoonga, and such, but to back to the mind-set of the bush, and the way of speaking up there.  What gives the book such verisimilitude is the dialog which is constantly riddled with Inupiaq words and has its grammar written in the once familiar way I grew up speaking.  Most of the text is written in a fairly literary style which is hard to get through, for the most pat, but the dialog seems so real I just keep on reading. 

Getting emails from old classmates in Barrow is fun and interesting too.  It’s interesting to try to imagine how we are living these days.  I live in a little cabin with my wife and two young boys.  Holly is from the Seattle Area and went to college back east in a private elite women’s college, I think it’s spelled Bryn Mawr College. I keep trying to figure out how I could possibly head up there for the 20th HS reunion to see everyone.  With gillnetting the way it is, I just don’t see how I can take time off.

Spring is here!

Today was the first day in a LONG time that felt like it wasn’t winter.  I suppose we could call it spring.  The sky was partly clear, partly cloudy: there were patches of blue up there and bright sunlight on the mountains and also coming in the windows of our little cabin.


I started off the day by going to the Health Fair and getting my blood drawn for with a bunch of other firemen.  This year, the HFVD paid for  our blood work-ups, so a bunch of us showed up early to avoid the lines.  Before they actually drew the blood, I had my blood pressure checked: 114/73–which isn’t too bad for a guy my age.  Holly of course has much lower BP.  We always compete to see who has the lower BP when we go by one of those automatic BP testers in the stores.  The last time we saw one, we were at Fred Meyer’s in Juneau.  I always go first, mine was a pretty respectable 112 over 68.  I was pretty smug.  Then Holly sat down and got a 102 over 59…  Bummer.

Get yours checked today!


I’m in a bit of a photographic slump.  I’m still shooting for the paper, but haven’t shot much else lately.  Plus my favorite lens (EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM) had to go back to Canon this week because the IS was not working anymore.  I’ve sent that lens back to canon twice now, in less than a year.  I’m beginning to think that the lens is a bit of  a lemon in terms of reliability.  I’ve fallen back on my 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5.

Hopefully the ice climbers will be out and about tomorrow and I’ll get some good shots of them doing something exciting–or at least interesting.

A quiet home. Life is good

We’re all in bed now.  Two of us are sleeping, one is nursing, the other is typing.


There are some really big questions that perhaps we should consider at this time.

  • why are we here?
  • what’s after death?
  • life: evolution or design?
  • is there a God?
  • what about the supernatural?
  • why is there so much suffering in the world?

On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn’t consider these things right now.

Life is good.

I’ll think about these questions later.  Stay tuned.

PS:  Every now and then, I really appreciate friends and their sayings. 

Here’s a quiz, “Who is it that says, ‘LIfe is good!’ and really means it?”

Answer: Charlie Jones

Mark is still sick. Bummer.

When I got home from school, Mark, Holly, and Luke were all super excited to see me and ran up to give me hugs.  The house was in tip top shape and there was a lasagna in the oven about ready to come out.  Makes a guy happy to be a guy.  Not every day is like that.


By the time I had my coat off, Mark was vomitting on the floor–a huge full bore spewing that hit the carpet with a splash.  It was really quite something to see.  Holly ran in there as fast as she could with a pan and escorted him into the bathroom where he continued his activity.  I grabbeed a towel and mopped it all up, real quick like.  I guess were not out of the woods yet.


Mark said to Holly yesterday while I was at work, “I’m glad I don’t have a lazy dad.”  I think that’s cute.  Holly’s been reading stories to him about Jamie O’Roark, or some such dude, who is the laziest man in all of Ireland (or maybe it’s Scotland).  She reads it with a thick accent that’s really cute.


Taking care of kids is hard work.  When you add house cleaning, clothes washing, dish cleaning, and cooking it becomes a monstrous pile of tasks.  If you’re not the one that does most of that stuff around your house, thank your spouse or significant other, brag on them and give them a big hug.  If you are, then give yourself a pat on the back, and make the working spouse a nice meal, because they’re working hard too.  AND if you’re a single parent holding down a steady job, my hat is off to you.  That must be a lot of work.


There’s a thick layer of new snow on the ground and more still falling as I speak.  The snow is sticky this time and looks pretty fluffy.  It’s not got the thick (but not too hard) look of the wind driven snow we had the week before spring break, so I doubt if the machines will have much trouble moving it.  Plus the State DOT got out their huge snow blower and made the streets a little wider yesterday in anticipation of the coming snow.  My money says we’ll have school today.

Sicker than a dog.

I’m taking a sick day from school ’cause I’m sicker than a dog.

I’m not sure how dogs got to be ‘sick’, but I’m just going to go with it.

This all started on Wednesday of Spring Break in Anchorage when Luke got sick.  He was sick for three days vomiting and lying about in either my arms or his mothers or his aunt’s.  Saturday we drove home from Anchorage and it was when we went through Palmer that Mark Daniel started to vomit.  At first, all we had to catch the upchuck was a Costco-sized cheerio box–which as you’d imagine leaked like a sieve.  We left Anchorage at 10:30 am and drove straight through to Haines stopping only for fuel, with Mark waking up to vomit at various points along the way, causing quite a bit of excitement each time.  After two or three catches with the cheerio box, we switched to a SS pan that we bought at Wal-mart, as it didn’t leak.

The trip was totally uneventful until around 1:45 AM when we got to the airport near Haines at three mile, at which point the car went into a fishtail, then a slide, then a spin.  We ended up going rear first into the berm on the west side of the road missing the stop sign by about 10 feet.  I got out the shovel and started to clear the snow out from under the 4Runner so we wouldn’t be high-centered anymore.  When we were somewhat cleared out, I flagged down some passerby’s (I didn’t ask them what they were doing out driving around at that hour), and they helped us push the car out of the berm.

Sunday Morning, I was feeling a bit weak, but went ahead and emptied all the stuff out of the 4Runner then went to church.  By the time I got home I was feeling really bad (weak, tired, sore, high temperature), so I just hunkered down in the bed in a sleeping bag for the rest of the day. 

I’m getting better now, because I can sit up without the urge to vomit anymore–so that’s a good thing.  Mark is doing much better now too, and ate some of a grilled cheese sandwich that Holly made on our new 12″ SS grilling pan (I’m not sure what it’s really called).

Jack & Jennifer

I just got word from Jack that their new pregnancy didn’t make it.

We’re pretty bumbed for them.  For those that don’t know, my oldest brother Jack and his wife Jennifer have four kids: John, Joy, Joanna, and Jessica, ages 11, 9, 7, and 5, or there abouts.  They called two weeks ago with the news that a fifth child was on the way, which was quite exciting news.  But today, Jack emailed me the sad news.

Keep them in your prayers.

We plan to spend spring break up in Anchorage with his family.

Another SNOW DAY!

No School again!  Yipeee!  (not that I don’t like school, of course)

  Whatever will I do?

The winds feel ferocious outside.  The drifts are bigger than I’ve ever seen them here in Haines–but nothing like the drifts in Barrow, or Unalakleet–which can get HUGE drifts over night.weather satellite03_06_2007

I need to buy a new shovel and uncover the tank in the back of the house before the snow gets hard to dig.

Holly has already started the laundry–yesterday we deep cleaned the kitchen and I worked on taxes.  Today I also want to take some shots around town of the various houses and buildings in the snow–maybe I’ll do some drive-by shootings.

It’s warmer than yesterday, but the visibility is lower.  Here’s a paste:

Detailed Local Forecast

How to Read This

  • Today: Windy. Snow this morning will mix with rain at times this afternoon. High 38F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of precip 70%. Snow accumulating 4 to 6 inches.
  • Tonight: Cloudy with rain and snow. Low 34F. Winds ESE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precip 80%.
  • Tomorrow: Cloudy with rain and snow. High 39F. Winds E at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precip 70%.
  • Tomorrow night: Rain and snow in the evening transitioning to snow showers late. Low 29F. NE winds shifting to NW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precip 60%.
  • Thursday: Rain mixed with snow. Highs in the low 30s and lows in the upper 20s.
  • Friday: Chance of a few snow showers. Highs in the upper 20s and lows in the low 20s.
  • Saturday: Snow showers possible. Highs in the upper 20s and lows in the mid 20s.

weather03_06_2007

Keep warm, and find something productive to do.