Saturday, December 20, 2008

Circuit Bending...a new hobby and my first video blog post attempt =)

Hello everyone!! I leave for MN/WI in less than two days!!!!!!! I am excited =) So, I have discovered a new hobby to keep be busy these cold, long, Alaskan nights. That hobby is Circuit bending. Here is a video of my first attempt at it.


I accidentally call this "Pitch Bending" in the video. Technically that is what I am doing...but the hobby is called Circuit Bending. I hope you enjoy =)

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Circuit Bending (click here for a great link) is a VERY cool hobby which involves finding old noise making toys/keyboards/games, ripping them apart, fiddling with the wires, and discovering the endless possibility of sounds you can create!! Basically, you just start poking around the inside of toys and find out what happens when you connect this to that. Sometimes you get nothing, sometimes you get awesomeness!! When you find an effect you like, you add a switch, maybe a potentiometer, and look for more awesomeness. This video is the product of about 15 hours of "playing around" with wires. After I made this video, I had some more ideas and updated my "bent" toy to make it even cooler. I will post another video of the new and improved noise maker after I get back to Alaska.

Total cost of this toy is about $15, ($2 for the toy from the thrift store and $10 -$12 in switches, wires, and other electronics...not including the cost of the soldering iron and Dremel) Radio Shack and the Thrift Store are my two new favorite locations!!!

Disclaimer...I highly recommend circuit bending to anyone and everyone. It is easy and fun; however, I must advise you to NOT attempt this on anything that plugs into the wall for power. Circuit bending is meant for low-voltage toys and games (anything that runs on 9 volt batteries or less.) Unless you are an experienced electrician (and even if you are), bending electronic devices that plug into the wall is to dangerous.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm still here =)

Hello everyone! Life is crazy this time of year. I have had two very successful concerts over the last two weeks. The jazz band, varsity band and concert band had a concert last Wednesday (12/3) and it was fantastic!!!! They did such a good job and the feedback from the parents was VERY positive. Choir and orchestra was last night (12/10) and that was also a blast. There were a few more things that could have gone better on the 10th, but over all it was great!!

I have a couple of pictures I would like to share with you that made me smile. First of all, you may remember that US senator Lisa Murkowski stopped by our "Rock-A-Thon" fund raiser...well, she send me this in the mail:
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The senator also signed a few photos for some students. It was very nice!

The second picture was taken today. I am now officially a teacher because a student brought me an apple!!
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Well...I have rehearsal tonight so I need to cut this post short. I am looking forward to seeing everyone in December. In less than two weeks I will be in Minnesota!!!

Rock on
~Mr. Lockwood

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope everyone out there in "Blogging-Land" had a great Turkey Day! I had a blast hanging out with a few teachers and their families. Great food and some wonderful outdoor fun. It was a little chilly (-10) but we dressed warm. Today is much warmer (about 10 above) and I hope to get out and take some pictures. I am house-sitting this weekend, so I have a couple of girls to hang out with (Molly and Su-Su...the pets) I have been having a blast watching Marx Brother movies on a huge flat screen TV with NICE speakers.

Well, my first concert is in five days...so I have some work to do =) I'll try to post again on Sunday...but I may be pre-occupied with concert preparations.

Enjoy the rest of the Holiday weekend!

Rock on,
~Mr. Lockwood.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Murphy's Law holds true in Alaska!!!

Funny story. Today, I took the day off from school to get things done around town that can only be done during business hours, like: get an Alaskan Drivers License, get measured for a tux, get an oil change, look into emission testing for my car, and possibly get a bock heater put in The Swamp Donkey. I got out to the car at about 9:30, opened my door, turned the key...and nothing happened. My car wouldn't start. It got ridiculously cold last night (about -30) and my car did NOT enjoy it. I think it is funny that the day I wanted to go out and winterize my car was the very day that winter messed it up. After a few phone calls, I came to the conclusion that a tow was the only way I was getting anywhere, so I called up my assistant principal for suggestion on a good auto shop. he has been very knowledgeable and helpful in many situations...and this one is no different. I called to tell him my problem, and instead of suggesting a good shop, he tells me he is on his way to my apartment to help. We hook up "The Swamp Donkey" to some jumper cables and wait a few minutes for the frozen battery to take a charge. I get the car started up and I am off to run my errands. My assistant principal ROCKS!!!

I didn't get everything done I wanted to, but I did most of it. I was fitted for the tux I will be wearing on New Years Eve for Satan's wedding, I got an oil change, and I now have an Alaska State Driver's License. It is kinda funny...I get a good picture taken of me once every five years...and that is my DL pic. I hate every picture of me unless it is on a small piece of plastic that I keep in my wallet.

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(I blurred out the information that people might be able to use for identity theft. I trust my readers, but not the other people who might swing by)

Well, I think I am going to go and take a nap before I have community band rehearsal.
Have a great week!
~Mr. Lockwood

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alaska never ceases to amaze me!

Tonight I saw something in the sky that was amazing. I have been told of lights that shoot straight up. I believe this is a type of Aurora, but I am not sure. I have been told that when it gets to a certain temperature, something happens where beams of light may be seen. I wish I was outside of city limits so I could have seen it better. I did have my camera this time, so you can see what I am talking about. If anyone out there knows what this is....I would love some more info.

(Edit: I asked around at school, and it turns out that these light pillars are just street lights reflecting off of ice crystals in the air...who knew that our industrialized lifestyle and mother nature herself could form a symbiotic relationship to create this inspiring nocturnal spectacle)


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I hope people still read this blog so they can experience this phenomenon as well.

Have a great week!
~Mr. Lockwood

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alaska is a Winter Wonderland

The snow up here is beautiful!!! I'll just cut right to the chase and post the pictures =) It has been a while since I have been out shooting.


This is a view about 6 miles from my apartment. Fairbanks is somewhere under that fog:
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The lack of wind allows everything to stay covered in snow. Everything is white and beautiful!!!:
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I was actually pretty scared walking away from the car to take some of these shots for one very specific reason:
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These moose tracks were right next to where I was shooting and I had no idea how fresh they were. Moose do actually kill people here in Fairbanks, so you always need to be careful. The advice I have been told is that if you are ever charged at by a moose, you should run to the nearest tree, stand behind it, and keep VERY still. Moose, apparently, have very bad eyes and are quite stupid...so if you hide behind a tree I guess they can't see you and then they forget what they were charging at.

Needless to say, a moose did not charge me down =)

School is going well. We are in the late stages of concert preparation. Dec. 3rd is right around the corner!! I hope everyone out there in blogging land is doing well.
Only 34 days, 21 hrs, 09 mins, 13 secs from this very moment until I am back in MN =)

Rock on,
~Mr. Lockwood

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bobb's Awesome Alaskan Halibut Chowder.

Ok, so I made myself some "get better soup" this evening because I am feeling a cold coming on, and the soup was AMAZING!!! I do not mean to sound egotistical, but I make great soup (as I found out tonight.) I was given about a pound of halibut a while ago and had no idea how I was going to cook it. When I started feeling a cold coming on, I though chowder sounded great. I looked around for some halibut chowder recipes, but they all had things in them I didn't like and left out the things I do like....so I took the basics of a chowder and made it my own. I thought I would share the recipe with you all. This is a perfect soup to warm you up on a cold winter night!
(warning...this is NOT a low fat/low cal soup.)

Alaskan Halibut Chowder:
Ingredients:
  • About 1 lb. bacon
  • 3-4 medium sized potatoes, chopped
  • *2 jalapeƱo peppers, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can evaporated milk (I used 2%)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb Halibut, skin and bones removed and cut up
  • Instant Mashed Potato Flakes, to thicken
  • Sour Cream and chopped chives, to garnish

Directions:
Cook bacon in a large pot; place on paper towels, crumble, and put off to the side. Save about 1/4 cup of the good stuff left in the pot to cook the veggies in. Saute vegetables in reserved drippings (I put in the potatoes first, then the onion, and finally the peppers so things wouldn't burn.) Add water and evaporated milk; let simmer for 20 minutes. Add cream and halibut let simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. Add potato flakes to thicken, about 1/2 cup. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add crumbled bacon and serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

*I find the best way to de-seed jalapeƱos is to cut the top off (where the stem is) and then, over a trash can or garbage disposal, roll the pepper between your hands...as if you were making play-dough snakes. Go ahead and be kinda rough with them so you can loosen all of the stuff inside. Give the peppers a little slap and most of the seeds should just fall out...a few seeds are not bad. The majority of the heat in peppers comes from the seeds and those little rib things inside the pepper...removing most of them still adds great flavor and a little heat to the dish without over-powering it with spice.

Like I said, this soup was very tasty! I have the advantage of wonderful Alaskan Halibut caught in the wild, but I am sure any Halibut from your local fishmonger/grocery meat section will work great. Try to get it as fresh as you can. I thought of trying this with cod, but I am afraid that cod is too flaky. I hope you try this and enjoy it as much as I did. The best part is, it makes a LOT of soup, so I have leftovers to last me a week!!

Take care everyone!
Rock on,
~Mr. Lockwood

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Love Halloween!!

Hello everyone!! I hope you all had a great Halloween. Before I post some pictures of my epic costume, here is a quick shot the Alaskan snow:
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This shot was taken about 30 miles up the Eliot Hwy. There is snow and hoarfrost on everything. Since there is little to no wind in this area, the snow accumulates on everything. Even the smallest tree branches stay white since the snow is not blown off by gusting winds. It is beautiful!

So now about Halloween:
On Wednesday, Randy Smith Middle School celebrated Halloween. Thursday and Friday were Parent-Teacher conferences, so we had to celebrate a few days early. A few weeks ago, I showed a video in class of The Blue Man Group and the kids LOVED it!! I decided that it would be fun to dress up as a member if the Blue Man Group and go the whole day without talking. It was a challenge but it was also a ton of fun.
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(This picture was taken on my school computer, so the quality is not as good)

It was very difficult teaching five classes without saying a single word, but it was great. I conducted rehearsals with nothing more than a pre-written class agenda on the white board and non-verbal cues. It took me about an hour and a half to put on all of my makeup, but it was worth it. The kids and staff thought the costume was amazing!

One more thing. I have a webcam, so if anyone has a camera for their computer and Windows Live Messenger, look me up and we video chat. I have been talking to some friends back home and my sister and niece via the internet and it has been great not only talking to them, but seeing them! Modern technology never ceases to amaze me.

I hope you all have a great week!!!!
Rock on
~Mr. Lockwood

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

OMG!!!! The Aurora is AMAZING!!!!

So I went out out my car to grab something at about 10:00 and I looked up and saw the most amazing sight I have ever seen! The Aurora is unbelievable. The whole sky was lit with dancing green and pink lights. I just stood outside for over 30 mins in complete awe! It looked like the trees were on fire, releasing incandescent fumes into the air. I wish I had my camera, but I left my memory card at school...DANG IT!! I know everyone says that they want to come to Alaska in the summer time, but you NEED to see this and there is just too much sun for the Aurora to be fully visible. It is about -8 degrees out right now, but I had no problems standing outside for over a half hour appreciating the wonder that is the Aurora. I am actually looking forward to 23 hours of darkness if I am able to experience the Aurora even once a month. WOW!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What a GREAT Week!!!!!!!

Wow! I don't know were to start, so I guess I'll begin at the beginning =)

On Monday, I was invited to a Sukkot party. Sukkot is a Jewish holiday celebrating the time the Jews wondered the desert for 40 years. During this time, they stayed in temporary dwellings called Sukkot (Sukkot is plural for Sukkah, which literally means booth.) The celebration is a lot like Thanksgiving. Everyone brought food, we had a huge bonfire, and the fun part was we slept outside! Part of Sukkot is you need to dwell in a Sukkah. The word "dwell" can be interpreted as eat a meal or sleep...this particular group sleeps outside in these temporary dwellings and let me tell you, in Alaska, that is something! The night we slept outside the temperature dropped to about -3 degrees! There were 15 of us that started outside and I was one of four who made it the whole night (I stayed outside all night, but I probably only got about 45 mins of sleep...it was chilly!!) As most of you know, I am not Jewish; however, I respect all religions and I am very open to trying new things. I was invited to the Sukkot party by a local Fairbankian as a way for me to meet some members of the community and to have a nice home-cooked meal. It was rough, but I had a great time! Here is a link if you are interested in reading more about Sukkot...Click me.

The week kept on rocking!
On Wednesday, I tried to go spearfishing again with the same teacher who took me out last time. I said "tried" to go because it was a little cold. As you remember, it was below zero that Monday night and Tuesday was not much warmer. John picked me up at around 7:30 and we went to the river. On the way there, we saw three moose...almost hitting two of them (a cow and calf.) For such huge animals, they are hard to see! We got to the river in one piece and decided to give it a try. We put on our waders and went into the ice. We traded off holding the lantern and braking a path. On my path shift, I took a spill and ended up in the river! I actually did not get to wet thanks to the waders and I never got cold because I was wearing many layers. We realized that we were not going to see ANYTHING that night. There was just too much ice. When we got out of the river, the water on out waders turned instantly to ice, so taking them off was fun!

About teaching this week:
I had a break though in classroom management this week. I have been doing this thing where if a student is talking or playing when they should be listening, I put a check mark next to their name in pencil. When a student earns three checks, they get a lunch detention. It is pretty neat because as soon as they see a pencil, for the most part, everyone stops talking. I never say who I am giving a check too, so everyone stops in fear it might be them. I could stand in front of the class and compose a grocery list and it would be silent because students would think someone is getting a check (I let them know when they have two checks at the end of class in private.) That was working well, but here is the icing on the cake! This week I drew a self portrait on the white board. When the class as a whole makes me happy, I put a smile on the face, when they are misbehaving or not following directions, I change that smile to a frown. There are for or five different levels of emotions I draw on my face. I have made the agreement that everyday the class ends and the face on the board has a huge smile, I will erase one check from everyone's name. The students know what they need to do to make the face go happier and what negative behaviors make it go sadder (or angry when the eyebrows get drawn in.) I have had LOTS of success with this strategy!

And now about today.
I took the Randy Smith Jazz band to the 22nd annual International Friendship Day here in Fairbanks where we played our first gig...they did GREAT!!!!! I am so proud of them. The crowd was clapping and toe-tapping the whole time. This was my very first performance as a music director. Other teachers who were at the festival said that I should be very proud of my accomplishments...and I am, but all I did was say, "two...four...a one, two, three, four!" and the kids did all the rest! They rock!

I hope everyone out there in blogging world has had a great week like myself and I wish you all an amazing weekend!

Rock on!
~Mr. Lockwood

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fabulous Fishing Fun

Friday night, at Rock-A-Thon, a fellow teacher asked me if I would be interested in joining him for an evening of spearfishing for whitefish...I said "you better believe it!" So yesterday, I went over to his house for some pre-fishing dinner. We had venison and home grown potatoes....very tasty! Venison is actually not as common as you might think up here. Deer do not live in Fairbanks, or anywhere close to Fairbanks...it is just to cold. If you want deer you need to travel to the coast. I believe that is where the deer we ate came from. Anyways, we hit the road at about 5:30-ish. Like I have said before, Fairbanks is great because you travel ten miles in any direction and you are in the middle of nowhere. The river we were planning to fish is less than 20 miles from my apartment. We get to the river around 6, maybe 6:30 and it is still quite light out. Since it needs to be dark out before you can spear fish, we went out to find wood for a fire...I like fires! John, the teacher I went with, also dropped a fishing line in to kill some time until the sun set. He caught a very nice grayling the old fashion way (actually, if you think about it...spearing them is probably the old fashion way, so he caught the grayling the new-fashion way)Once the sun set, we got into the water. I do not believe spearfishing is legal in MN, so some readers may not know how it works...here's the deal:

To spear whitefish, you wait until it's dark, grab a lantern, put on a pair of waders, and walk through the river looking for fish to impale. I believe the fish are attracted to the light from the lantern, but even if they are not, it would be impossible to see them without the light...so a lantern is mandatory. We made this a two man job...I was the lantern holder for the evening. It was pretty amazing. We would walk through the river shinning the light down looking for anything that moved. The water is VERY clear up here. At the deepest point, I was up to almost my chest in the water and I could still see the bottom without a problem. The first fish we saw were in the shallow stuff (knee deep.) We were walking around seeing several fish, but they were all pretty small. John took a few stabs at them, but they were slipping in between the forks of the spear (the spear looks kind of like a small trident, but it has four or five points instead of three.) We were not the only ones on the river that night. We noticed that the other people fishing were in deeper water, staying in one place and waiting for the fish to come to them...so we gave that a try. We found a place that looked good and waited for only three to four minutes before we saw something very large swim up to us and them away very quickly. We knew we were in the right place. A few minutes later, another nice sized fish swam close to us. I shinned the light in the direction and John took aim. "Got him!" We pulled the fish out of the water...a nice 15" humpback whitefish! John took a few few more shots at other fish and got one more. Here a couple pictures John took:

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(The grayling and the two whitefish...funny how the one white fish is not a whitefish, that is the grayling)

This one is taken without a flash. It is quite blurry, but you can get a better look at the lanterns from the other fishers:
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After a while, our feet started getting cold so we decided to call it a night. On the way home we stopped at a place called Hilltop for some coffee and pie. The pie was AMAZING!!

The night was very fun...it was so fun that we might be going back out on Wednesday for round two. We just got dumped on with about 5 inches of snow today, so we'll see if we are still up for another night of fishing.

Have a great week everyone!
~Mr. Lockwood

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Who would have thought the life of a first year teacher would be so hectic? Sorry I didn't get to post last weekend. I wasn't feeling the best and needed my sleep. I feel great today =) Last night was my first music fund-raiser and i was at school for over 15 hours. We had a Rock-A-Thon. Rock-A-Thon is an event that was created several years ago by one of the former band teachers at Randy Smith and it is a GREAT fund-raiser. All we do is bring in rocking chairs from home and rock, for six hours. Students go around asking friends and family for pledges...kind of like a walk for charity. While the students are rocking, they are listening to i-pods, playing video games, and consuming enough sugar to kill a full grown moose. Is was a blast. Every hour they were given a 5 min break so they could use the restrooms and stretch their legs. If you think about it...this is the perfect fund-raiser because once it is started, the person putting it on really doesn't have to do anything; the kids are in chairs the whole time. I went around the room with a cart selling sweets asking in my best British accent, "anything from the trolley." Also, at one point in time Alaska State Senator Lisa Murkowski stopped by to check things out. It was very cool. She went around the room talking with students and giving them a hard time when she caught them not rocking like they should be. Over all it was a very fun evening.

Today is going to be a full day as well. I have my very first violin lesson in about an hour and tonight I believe I am going spear fishing with a co-teacher. I also have several hours of work to get done at school....but that is not as exciting as violin lessons and spearing fish! I will hopefully have time to post again this weekend to share stories from tonight's experience. The only thing I have ever speared before is appetizers with toothpicks.

I hope you all have a fantastic day! I miss everyone back in MN/WI so much. I cannot wait to see you all!

Rock on,
Mr. Lockwood

Sunday, September 28, 2008

You want to hear something funny?

There is snow on the ground in September here in Fairbanks, Alaska!!!

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You may notice that there are a lot of pictures of ground squirrels. They are all over my back yard and very photogenic.

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I kinda like them =) I have named them all Gomer (kind of like George Foreman naming all of his kids George.) They come and visit me all the time. I think they are use to getting food, because they seem not to fear me. I had one yesterday come right up next to me.

So about this snow. Last night I went out at about midnight to take out my trash when I saw the snow. I wish I had my tripod because it was beautiful (it was in my car and I felt too lazy to go out there and set it up.) I have never seen snow fall with absolutely no wind. The flakes fell straight down. It was mesmerizing. It looked like a transparent speckled sheet of white dots being lowered down very slowly. I tried to take a video of it with my new laptop, issued by the school district, but there was not enough light to capture the image. Hopefully it will snow again like that in the day time so I can tape it for you all to see. Also, since the air was so still, the snow had a chance to accumulate on every branch on every tree with out being pushed aside by the forceful gusts of wind.

Teaching in Alaska:
I realize I have not talked about the classroom as much, so here it is...things are going great! I am guessing the reason I have not been writing about teaching is that I have been having so few problems that I am able to focus on other topics. I have just been appointed a mentor to help me out. Most first year teachers in Alaska are issued a state mentor to show them the ropes; help out with classroom management, lesson plans, and other logistical things teachers have to deal with. I unfortunately slipped through the cracks and was not issued a mentor at the beginning of the school year (when it would have been SUPER helpful.) My principal worked very hard to get me someone, and she finally found a retired band teacher who was willing to come in and work with me. My mentor has told me (and apparently everyone else in my school) that I am doing great! She says very few first year teachers (and even some veteran teachers)are at the point I am at. She tells me that my classroom management is fantastic, my planning is great, my time management is right where it should be, and the only thing I really need help with is organization. I do feel very comfortable in front of a classroom, and I have my fantastic cooperating teachers and university advisers who helped me during student teaching to thank for it! I learned so much in those two 9 week sessions that I actually felt ready for the instructional portion of teaching. Of course it is all of the other things that teachers do outside of the classroom that I still need help with, but the important part, the actual teaching, is going very well. I still have a very long way to go, but I am off to a great start.

So yeah...that's how things are here. How are you doing? =)

I have joined the Fairbanks Community band and I'm having a blast playing. I have been away from my euphonium for far too long and it is great to be back playing challenging literature again. Also, I have solved the American obesity problem. All we need to do is make the health food more affordable and raise the price of snacks. Now that I can actually afford to eat healthy food, I am losing weight and feeling great! I am confident that moving to Alaska was one of the best decisions I have ever made with my life. I still miss everyone like MAD, but things are great up here. The only thing that could make Alaska any better, is if all of my friends and family were up here with me. Last night, I made a "Hello from Alaska" video for The Larsons (some very close friends of mine), and it really made me realize how much I do miss everyone. December cannot come fast enough! The video was actually pretty cool. The one I made last night was specifically for the Larsons, but I think next weekend I am going to make a general one and post it here for everyone to see.

Have a great week!!! Remember to mark your calenders for Dec 22nd - Jan 3rd!

Rock on
~Mr. Lockwood

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fairbanks...My New Home.

Hello all =)

I thought I would finally post a few pictures of Fairbanks so everyone in the "Lower 48" can get an idea of what it is like here. When I went out shooting, it was another rainy overcast day, so the colors are not the greatest...but you should be able to get an idea of what the city is like.

Well, here it is - Fairbanks, AK:
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Ok, maybe the intersection of University and Airport Way is not the best representation of the town...but it is a start. There are pretty much four main roads in Fairbanks that surround the town...giving it the nickname "Squarebanks." Airport Way cuts Fairbanks in half horizontally (the road pretty much runs east-west). If you go one direction, you leave town via Steese Hwy (actually it is Steese if you go North and the Richardson Hwy if you go south) the other direction on Airport way take you to, yup, you guessed it - the airport.

The Chena River also runs through the town. The Chena provides tourist attractions like river boat tours, float plane rides, and it also lends its name to about 47 small roads around town:
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The picture of The Chena River was taken about 200yds from Downtown Fairbanks...which looks looks kinda this:
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(Apparently, you need to be very careful in Alaska. They do not impound cars...they impound people!)

Here is a picture taken from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks parking lot. It is pretty high ground overlooking the whole city:
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Speaking of UAF, there is a cool museum there where John Luther Adams has an instalation. For UWRF readers, Mr, Adams was the commissioned composer in 2006. He lives here in Fairbanks. I wrote him an e-mail and he remembers me =) We are planning on going out for coffee in a few months, after his schedule dies down a little bit. Here is the museum:
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And finally, the hotels! Stephen stayed in the nice one. I believe it is called the Regency Hotel:
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I stayed in the loverly College Inn:
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And now I am in the Wedgewood Resort:
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There is a lot more to see here in Fairbanks, but this is a start. Like I have said many times before...the people here are VERY nice. For example, last night a fellow teacher invited me over for fried Halibut. YUMMY! It was a great night full of fish and Nintendo Wii with the kids. As I was leaving, they made sure I had some moose, caribou, halibut, and Alaskan cod to take home with me. Who hands out halibut, moose, caribou, and cod to their house guests? Fairbankians do...that's who! So today I went to Fred Meyer's to buy some beens and tomatoes so I could make myself a moose chili. I get home, start defrosting the moose, cutting up onions, and I realize I do not have a can opener. I guess the moose will have to wait until tomorrow night.



OH ONE MORE THING!!

I almost forgot. I bought my plane ticket today to Minneapolis! I will officially be in MN December 22nd through January 3rd. Mark your calenders everyone because I plan on visiting a LOT of people for hugs!

Have a great week!
~Mr. Lockwood.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Weekend Adventure

So once again I hopped in the "Swamp Donkey" and took a drive. This weekend I went South on the Richardson Hwy to Paxon. Unfortunately, The weather was not in my favor this weekend. The drive was BEAUTIFUL...probably my favorite so far. The road is in fantastic condition and it takes you through some gorgeous snowcapped mountains and glaciers! The rain, on the other hand, not so beautiful. My pictures did not turn out as well as I hoped. The sky was very over exposed and the ground was extremely underexposed (in other words...the sky is too bright and the ground is too dark.) If I would have had the patience I could have set up the tripod, put on my GND filter, and bracketed all of my shoots...but the drive was over 300 miles round trip and all of my shooting was done on the side of the road. I did get a few shots that I am not too disappointed with...I hope you enjoy them:

The drive started out with excitement...I saw my first moose on the highway!
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I ended up seeing three moose on this drive, but this is the only picture I had time to snap. They are surprisingly sneaky for being such a huge animal. The second moose I saw I actually had time to get my camera out and slow the car down, but by the time I got to the place where she was...she was gone. How does a 7 foot, several hundred pound, dopey looking walking venison steak hide in 2 feet of brush? Crazy.


Ok..here are some mountains =)
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(the sun came out for a little bit. If you look closely, there is a faint rainbow in this shot)

And here is my favorite from the drive:
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OK...about my week teaching:

This week went pretty well. Monday and Tuesday were a little frustrating, but the week ended well. I have a loud voice that carries very well. If the student's were chatty, I have been able to get their attention by just talking loudly. That sounds like a great plan...but kids are smart. They realize that if I am able to get their attention because of my loud voice, they are able to keep on talking and they will not really miss anything because I can still be heard. I fixed that. I now refuse to compete with 33 other voices. I can, but I won't. I told my classes that if I keep trying to talk over them, I'll be mute by the end of the semester. Now all I need to do is start giving directions in my soft voice and go on with class. If they didn't hear the directions, it is not my fault they were not listening. They have responded very well to this new strategy =)

That's pretty much all that is exciting that happened at school. Today, I need to go back into class and work on a new seating chart for orchestra...fun!! I cooked the moose I had in the freezer today. It is awesome. I made a moose, rice, and mushroom dish...Moose-a-roni, the Athabaskan treat - DING DING!!!

I hope you all have a great week!
~Mr. Lockwood

Sunday, September 7, 2008

#13 0f 27,952 Things You Must Do in Alaska:
Experience the Aurora Borealis

So after my first photographing excursion, I went to the Pump House for an elk burger...I am a big fan of elk burgers. The people in Fairbanks who have read my blog keep telling me there are better places to eat them the Pump House, but until I get names and addresses, the Pump House's Bar menu is still my favorite food in town (I actually have not eaten in the restaurant section yet.) The reason I am mention my dinning experience is as I was eating my sweet potato french fries, I over heard someone say something about watching the Aurora that evening. In case you are wondering, the Aurora Borealis is better known as The Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis is simply solar winds passing by close enough for us to see them with the naked eye. Also to let you know, I have been calling it the Aurora not to sound snooty and pretentious...it is just that Aurora happens to be the "Lingua Franca" here in Fairbanks. Anyways - Fairbanks Alaska, due to its geographical location, just so happens to be one of the best places in North America to view the celestial wonder that is "The Aurora." I did a little research online and found a cool site that has aurora forecasts (here is a link: CLICK ME.) On this site, it listed the solar wind activity as moderate, so I decided that was good enough for me and made Saturday the night to go.

At around 8:30, I hopped in "The Swamp Donkey and hit the road. I remembered from one of my previous outings a nice place to park with a good open view of the Northern sky. This place is about 30 miles out of town, which is a good thing since light pollution makes viewing the aurora difficult. I am usually in bed by 8, so this is one of the first times I have seen an Alaskan Sunset...and it was very nice:
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I arrived at my viewing location at about 9:30 ( it took a little longer to get there since I stopped to take some pictures of the sunset.) I then waited...and waited...and waited. I read that the best times to view the aurora is between 10 and 2 (also the best places to put your hands while driving!) so I knew I was in for a long, boring, and potentially very cold evening. I waited in my car, wrapped in random suit coats I have yet to bring into my apartment, for FOUR HOURS!!! At about 1:30 I went outside to use "the facilities" when I noticed a band of light starting to stretch across the northern sky. Was this it? It just looked like a low cloud illuminated by the stars (which, by the way, are very plentiful in Alaska!!) As I watched this "cloud", I saw that it was starting to get brighter, and fade in and out in certain areas...THIS WAS IT!!! I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod and sat out for an hour in 30 degree weather shooting:
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Just so you know, the pictures make it look a lot more brilliant than in real life, but it was still an amazing thing to see. The photographs pick up more of the color of the winds. The human eye looks at the light and our brains turn it white, but the camera does not have that issue, so the greens are very visible. According to the website mentioned above, this was just a moderate display...I would LOVE to see one more active!

At about 2:30, my camera battery died so I decided to hit the road. Let me tell you, the drive home was the scariest 30 miles I have ever driven. It is almost 3:00 am at this point and there are moose, elk, caribou, and theoretically bears all over the place. Hitting any of these very large creatures equates to an extremely long walk home in the cold...there is no cell phone reception this far out of town. All along this stretch of road you can see skid marks from, I am guessing, avoiding very large animals. Fortunately, the only "walking obstacle" I saw on the drive back was a VERY lucky porcupine, who I was able to save by positioning my car in a way for him to slide underneath between the wheels.

I will be going on more late night photography trips to try to capture more images of the aurora. This was my first time attempting it, and I learned a few things that might make my next trip more successful. I have bookmarked the aurora forecast website and plan on checking it quite frequently.

Alright readers, that is it for today. Have a fantastic week and I will post more soon. Today (Sunday) I went out and took a lot of pictures of the town, so I will have a photo-tour of Fairbanks, AK in a week or so for you, so check back =)

Rock on
~Mr. Lockwood

Week 3 of Teaching in Alaska =)

What a week. I took TONS of pictures this weekend. Before I get to them, I'll talk a little bit about my week:

This week of teaching went very well. I had a few moments of frustration, but I looked back at what went wrong and asked myself, why? Once I figured out the why, I came up with some new strategies and I found success! My main problem is I like to have fun when I teach. I know that does not sound like a problem, in fact, that sounds like a GREAT thing...and it is, when the students can handle it. I am all about combining fun with learning, but when the fun becomes a distraction, it is time to eliminate it from the equation and just focus on learning; since that is the reason we are all at school in the first place. I LOVE using learning as a reward...so I always keep a few fun and easy pieces of music in the students' folders so at the end of the day, if the students were well behaved, we get to play the fun stuff! The students LOVE to play this music and I can still find teachable moments during this section of rehearsal. Attention to details, such as correct rhythms, intonation, and dynamics, are just as important in the fun & easy pieces as they are in the challenging concert literature.

The school week ended with the first "Social." A social is kind of like a dance...well, it is a dance. There was a DJ in one room, open gym for basketball and other sports in another, and in the commons area (basically the cafeteria) there were stands that sold many items full of nutritious high fructose corn syrup. It was about 2 hours of 7th and 8th graders consuming as much sugar as they could afford and running around like wild chipmunks...it was fun =)

Now for the pictures:
On Saturday, I went for a drive to photograph some of the changing colors. There are trees EVERYWHERE in Alaksa...unlike Southern Saskatchewan:
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After my drive, I went back to my apartment and sat on the steps. I was waiting for one the many ground squirrels to come by and pose for a few pictures, but they were a little shy. However, I did take some cool close up shots of random things next to me. I have been enjoying sitting in one place and looking for photograph-able things. You can find beauty everywhere if you just stop and take the time to look for it =)
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(this one would have been much better if the A.B.C. gum was not in the picture..oh well)

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(I love this one. It is simple, but for some reason I think it is very cool. It is currently the background on my computer)

Well, there are some pictures...I am actually going to put up another post right away with another story and more even pictures from another "Saturday Adventure." I was going to put it all in one big post, but I didn't really think they flowed together well. I hope everyone scrolls down far enough to read this one =)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Angel Rocks

Today is the first day of a three day weekend!!! I have a lot of things to do at school, but I thought I needed at least one full day off so I went for another drive with my camera (still no bear.) I drove up to a place called The Chena Hot Springs. If you have ever heard of The Blue Lagoon in Iceland...this is a smaller version of that. Basically, the way the hot springs work is the ground water is deep enough to be heated by the internal temperature of the earth, and comes out through a spring at, in the case of Chena Hot Springs, about 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Like Iceland, the place smells like sulfur! Wouldn't it be great if I had some pictures of the hot springs so you could see what I am talking about...it's too bad I left my camera in the car (I b smrt) Anyways, I went inside and asked about some cool hiking trails. The lady asked me if I wanted steep or easy...I said I wanted pretty. She suggested that I check out Angel Rocks. It was about 9 miles back the way I came so I jumped in "The Swamp Donkey" and headed for for the trails. When I arrive at Angel Rocks, it was a little chilly, so I put my jacket on over my hoodie and start walking. It was a VERY tough walk....for me. Apparently I am quite out of shape since at the top of the 900 ft elevation change I saw a 70-something year old man hanging out with his, I'd guess granddaughter, looking like he just woke up from the worlds most refreshing nap. Compare that to me, who felt like I've just been dragging a dead ox through seven inches of mud for over 15 miles (in other words...I was tired.) At this point I REALLY wished I would have left the jacket and the hoodie in the car...I was very warm (I'll just mark that one as "things to do different next time #348") I sat down for a while on a big rock an enjoyed the view. It was very pretty, but EVERYTHING up here is very pretty so I am having problems truly appreciating it. It's like eating fillet mignon everyday for dinner...yeah it's really good, but after a while it just starts tasting like meat. I was having more fun admiring the little things I would find along the path than the overview of the valley...is that strange?

Ok...you have read enough. Here are some pictures:

Here is the view from on the rocks
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The trees this far north are already starting to change:
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This is the closest thing to a bear I have seen:
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Here are a few pictures of the little things on the side of the trails:
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(edit: It turns out these last two photographs are Fireweed. Remember the pretty purple flowers...it changes to a cotton-y type plant. sort of like dandelions, and turns a cool red color. I can see why it is called Fireweed...it actually kinda looks like it's on fire!)

Finally, for family and friends, here is another shot of my beautiful face. (I still hate all photographs of myself. This is the last serious one you are getting. From now on I am only making stupid faces! These look too much like senior pictures.)
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Well, I guess that's it. I have nothing else going on this weekend other than working on lesson plans and MIDI tracks for choir.

Have a good weekend!!!!
~Mr. Lockwood