I look down and toe the red-brown dirt at my feet. I look up, and a vast horizon unfolds before me, the carpet of dirt for miles, dotted with the occasional tenacious yellow-green scrub bush. Far beyond, a ribbon wall of canyon cliffs lines the horizon. It is striped vermillion, pink, and a subtle purple in the dawn light. Distant rocky mountains toooed with snow peek out from beyond some unseen border. Above, the sky begins to lighten to its blue blue tint for the day, a vast and airy canopy smudged by some unseen but zealous artist with wisps of cloud.
The fresh bracing air whispers by, and carries a faint low of distant cows breaking their fast.
When I close my eyes, I can still see the desert, and it whispers in my ear with tranquil calm from eons of age.
All the chili paste I could find had fish sauce/shrimp contaminant in it, so I couldn’t have it in my house due to allergy. However, my roommate/partner/spouse brilliantly bought Korean chili paste instead, a.k.a. gochujang. Even better. Specifically, Mother-in-Law’s Gochujang, with a reassuringly hipster-y label.
I used half a yellow onion and one quarter of a red onion on hand. Red onions made for beautiful contrast. We had lots of onion left. I am excited to make noodles or something else with the leftover sauces.
Just bring your stickered bike helmet in when you arrive on two wheels, and not only will you save marginal cost on gas and car maintenance, but literally get a discount when, say, buying a cup of coffee. If your coffee is ridiculously expensive at $5, getting 5 cups of coffee already breaks even for buying the sticker.
Note: they did not pay me to say this, just thought of it as I was finally buying a sticker after seeing it the 100th time at a local Seattle coffee shop.
One of many excellent recommendations per our VRBO hosts was to book with Just Short of Magic** for a sled dog ride (a.k.a. mushing), a little drive north of North Pole. After a late-night pickup of our friends J & G who courageously agreed to share in our Alaskan adventures, Jenni found us some excellent (late) breakfast at the Creperie in downtown Fairbanks. Then, off to dog sled ride via a thirty minute drive. As mentioned in the previous post, sled dogs have been a fundamental companion to Alaskan life for centuries, so I was really excited to partake in even a small, touristy way.
Jenna called us as we were a little late showing up at a designated cushion time, to make sure we were safe, and tell us not to worry. So nice of her! Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the staff did some standard checks that we were layered up properly (maybe in case it suddenly turned into below zero weather rather than 30?) Of course, that turned it into a competition for me. Continue reading →
As I mentioned in part 0 of Alaska adventures, I flew in to Fairbanks around midnight. I got to sleep in the delightfully welcoming cabin (this one booked via VRBO) by about 3am, and yeah, it was in a city called North Pole. (!)* I loved staying at this cabin, and found the hosts helpful and responsive. This post may have a lot of photos, but consider it obsessively curated for you to get the full experience.
On the Road:
After a healthy breakfast of DIY oatmeal and Starbucks fancy-coffee, K and I headed out for the 2.5+ hour drive south to Denali National Park. Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but I hadn’t put the two names together, Mt. McKinley and Denali, until I was packing for this trip and reading my copy of Fodor’s.
Fun fact: President Obama changed what was previously known as Mount McKinley back to Denali, an Athbascan name meaning “the High One”. At 20,310 feet, it is the highest point on the continent, and tallest mountain in the world.
On the way, we drove through lots of snow clouds kicked up by passing trucks that would obscure the entire roadway briefly, and whole clusters of buildings boarded up for the winter. This was definitely not high tourist season, and while it was an intermittent exercise in faith (faith that the road was relatively straight in a snow cloud), it was also a very scenic drive. The Athabascans named this northern forest “land of little sticks,” and I couldn’t help but agree as I gazed at the sweeping landscape, laced on road side with countless trees poking up toward the sky together.
To try: we stopped in at the Alaskan Coffee Bean in Healy for some caffeine.
Apparently, a sludge cup is brewed coffee + 2 shots espresso, popular with truckers. I was curious, but abstained since the midnight flight was already messing with my sleep. Let me know if you try it. The folks there were friendly, and plus, the place was open, hooray!
Alaska is often called the Last Frontier, but it’s also home to some of the oldest pieces of our collective human heritage. We crossed this very river mentioned on our drive out of the North Pole! Amazing.
The oldest human remains found in Alaska are 11,500 years old, the second-oldest Ice Age remains to be found in the world. Found in Central Alaska near the Tanana River, the remains of a three-year-old girl are thought to be those of an Athbascan ancestral relative.
Fodor’s Alaska p.20
At Denali National Park:
A video gift for you, hope it brings you some serenity and delight. Click subscribe at the end for more!
Where one can let the spirit go with joyous abandon, to sense the freedome of the wilderness.
The first time I remember camping and absolutely loving it, I was twenty-one years old. My significant other and I had scored a great deal on tickets to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula from Minneapolis. As we landed and walked off the tarmac in Anchorage, I swore I could smell the ice and pristine air wafting in from the mountains of “the Last Frontier.” Continue Reading
Food the Wong Way has involved a healthy dose of outdoor activity this winter, including a fair bit of snowboarding and snowshoeing, which historically has been hard on my knees and back. My friend Katherine recently talked me into going with my local German pub Prost on a ski bus, so despite appearing to have packed for the apocalypse, I tried to pack lighter. That’s when I came up with this light short-term remedy for sore knees. Continue reading →
Well folks, I can officially declare success. Last week I hit the 8 hour target average time for sleep. Hooray.
Data Points (according to Fitbit data):
All 2016 Average: 7 hr Pre-experiment Week 0: 7h12min (while on vacation, i.e. includes random gluts of sleeping in) Week 1 (1/8-1/14): 7h 23min, asleep starts ranging from 10:21 to 11:46pm Week 2 (1/15 – 1/20): 7h 50 min, asleep starts ranging from 8:51 to 11:59pm, mostly in the 10:20 area Week 3 (1/21 – 1/27): 8h 7 min! Asleep starts ranging 9:54 to 10:55pm, mostly around 10:30.
Observation 1: Sadly, if you compare this last full week to the week 2, there are also more little pink lines, which show when I fully woke up, around 2 or 4 in the morning, and then went back to sleep. It’s exhausting! This is how you get enough sleep, but not enough.
I started reading this book, Dreamland, by David K. Randall.
There’s a description in there about how we used to have two sleeps. First and second sleep, waking up in the middle of the night.
Is this the second sleep?
Is this what happens when you are recovering from a cold and weird back pain recovery at the same time, and also experiencing heightened worry-nightmares about having your healthcare coverage taken away and green-card-holding relatives ejected from the country?
I didn’t have this problem before I started this project, so it’s a bit perturbing to discover it this week. That’s what the little book excerpt in week 2 sleep goal recap is about.
Observation 2: K___ and I compared our Fitbit data and found we were chalking about the same amounts of sleep, even though I go to bed later than him, and he gets up before me most mornings. Aha! When he was sick, I went to sleep earlier and when I was sick, so did he.
Observation 3: it’s 10:44pm and I’m posting this…so, that’s also how you don’t get enough sleep, you like yourself get carried away completing something.
Your partner’s habits matter (people or pets).
The mystery of the mid-sleep wake-up continues,
as does a gradual movement of bed times (which is fighting with being extra wired after capoeira workout fixed at 7-8:30pm), but I’m done blogging about it for now.
Sleep training children may be harder in other ways, but easier in that it’s an external force getting you (the kid) to sleep.
I can probably continue this progression, and the gains in hours should help the rest come along.
If I were to design a multi-week plan, I would try:
Week 1: Better your sleep environment, and sit down and make a pact with any co-sleepers, furry or human. Looking at eating and exercise schedules, and hours of daylight absorbed. Observe how you feel with different sleep times, and set ultimate bed time goals, divide difference in fours and add those in per phase. See: Huffington Post on 37 Science-Backed Tips for Better Sleep.
Week 2: start shifting bedtime, phase 1 + same wake time
Week 3: start shifting bedtime, phase 2 + same wake time
Week 4: shifting bedtime, phase 3
-Recover sleep on weekends as needed.
-Keep track of the quality of sleep too.
Thanks for bearing with me while I experiment with other content on this blog!
*I am not endorsing that you read Dreamland, still in the middle of it. In fact, time will tell if I’d be better off having read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream-land” instead. I may just go fish out my Wide Awake at 3AM book, of which there somehow ended up being two copies in my parents house. That’s how much we liked that book, apparently.
**Thomas Edison: famous for sleeping only 4 hours a night. However, also had a cot in his workshop for naps -thanks to Jennifer for alerting me to that tidbit via postcard!
Any additional comments on lunar new year from me will be in some other post. I spent all my energy cleaning the house and hosting hot pot Saturday for it, no more juice left for an obligatory entry here for now. Instead, here’s one that started as a video and grew into some commentary below.****
On Sunday, I helped lead a group of people snowshoe up Paradise Point on Mount Rainier. It was for Cynthia‘s birthday, with some snowshoe newbies, so I wanted to optimized the chances of a good experience: Continue reading →
First, let’s make that previous target more specific:* average 8 hrs’ sleep
Getting off my phone a bit beforehand, switching to reading a book or staring blankly at the roku tv.
Rescheduled watching Vikings to dinnertime.
Start reading a book on sleep for more ideas based on the science behind it (see text excerpt standing in for this week’s feature photo).
Covered the little green lights that blare from my Fitbit and jar me awake occasionally. This worked for one night’s sleep and then I couldn’t bear to part with the data it collects via heart rate to tell if I’m asleep.
STill in process: change iPhone bedtime to 10:15pm, then 10, then 9:45 (gradually over 6 days) to see when it tells me to start going to sleep. Maybe it’s been telling me too early.
Getting some sun
Data Points (according to Fitbit data):
All 2016 Average: 7 hr
Pre-experiment Week 0: 7h12min (while on vacation, i.e. includes random gluts of sleeping in)
Week 1 (1/8-1/14): 7h 23min, asleep starts ranging from 10:21 to 11:46pm
Week 2 (1/15 – 1/20): 7h 50 min, asleep starts ranging from 8:51 to 11:59pm, mostly in the 10:20 area
Week 2 Drawback: caught a cold, back tweaked out again, so need even more sleep.
The problem with competing against yourself is that you can keep moving the goal post forward, and it can be difficult to ever declare victory. Exhausting.
Today’s Trial Habit-Shift Rating:
Nothing like catching a cold to help you get more needed sleep. First my spouse, and now me.
On the other hand, my exercise activity is barely staying above my 3h45min per week threshold (from a previous year’s improvement project), what with back pain + having a cold. Hopefully this will even out..
Likelihood of Repeat: indeterminate. Maybe I just don’t care about this goal and that’s why it’s eluded me for years..
*SMART Objectives, per business school jargon: it’s best to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.