Tag Archives: uas
May 19, 2010

Final Stretch

I’m back from Florida and it feels like we are really beginning to accelerate towards our departure date.  I basically have two weeks left at work, time in which my major responsibilities include training the coworkers I’m leaving behind and packing up my personal belongings.  Oksana will be working through the month of June, training her own replacement, and I’ll spend our last month in Juneau making sure all our possessions are safely packed away.

We also have a thousand-and-one other things to do.  Arrange for medical/travel insurance, complete our vaccinations, set up new bank accounts, cancel most of our utilities and make arrangements on the others to pay up a year in advance, buy ferry tickets, pack, fix the website, and somehow keep posting content (even if it’s Spartan, like this.)

On the plus side, my new Sony Vaio laptop arrived yesterday (after much struggle with FedEx Ground!)  Somewhere around here is my Adobe Master Collection serial number and as soon as I find it, I’ll finally get to try editing actual AVCHD files.  My previous Dell didn’t have the horsepower; let’s see what these i7 chips can do.


April 14, 2010

Ecuador: Scariest Ride to Baños

The view out the back of our ride

There was a wall of rock on one side, a 300-foot cliff down to a dry riverbed on the other.  Alicia and I were sandwiched into the back of a pickup truck with our rented bikes, gripping its sides as a car battery and broken glass slid around our feet.  Our driver seemed to be chatting with the three other men in the cab while he raced up the Andean mountain road.  Our tires literally squealed on the pavement as he drove us, more often than not, into the oncoming lane.  It occurred to me, while rounding another blind curve, that going over the cliff was the least of our worries.  At that speed, sitting in the back of a pickup, any accident was likely to be fatal.  I thought: This may be the scariest ride of my life.

And that was before they pulled out their guns.


April 4, 2009

Peru: Crossing the Andes

Typical view of our road to the jungle

New Years Eve in Cusco. Fireworks, drunken revelry, pouring rain. Alison, Megan, and I had a 5:30am van picking us up for our five-day jungle trek and there wasn’t much sleep to be had in our hostel that night. For example, when Alison stepped out in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, she came back to find someone sleeping in her bed. And that was just the first time a stranger tried to crash in our room.

Somehow we were awake to meet our driver, and after a few stops to pick up equipment and food, we were on our way out of town. Perhaps only getting three hours of sleep was a blessing in disguise. With a whole mountain range separating us from the Amazon basin, it was going to take upwards of 12 hours to reach the Manu Reserve. We’d have ample time to catch up on our sleep.

After crossing a rickety iron, single-lane bridge over the churning Vilcanota (Urubama) river, we said goodbye to smooth pavement. Our drive was now punctuated by streams coming out of the mountains, eroding small, rocky creeks into the hard-packed dirt.

January 28, 2009

UAS Peru Trip

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

You might think that traveling to Peru and bearing witness to the wonders of Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I would have thought so, too, except that I just got back from my third trip there.

I’m always the one advocating some new and exotic locale whenever Oksana and I plan our travels (with the whole world to see, why keep going back to the same places?), but somehow Peru just keeps falling into my lap.

The first time I went was in 1998, when my roommate and I stayed in South America for a couple months after a university trip to Ecuador.  The second time, in 2002, was when I was invited by the university to help lead a class through the country.  Last month, six years later, opportunity came a’knockin’ once again.  Peru had treated me well twice before; how could I say “no?”

Even with my desire to see something new, these recurring trips never disappoint.  The first time there, we flew to Machu Picchu on a helicopter because the train tracks leading to the ruins had washed out in a storm.  The second time, we hiked the Inca Trail and visited many more of the ruins around Cusco.  This time, I was a part of a group that headed down into the Amazon basin for a few days in the jungle.

This was also the first university trip upon which I lugged my video camera around.  The students gave me permission to point my lens in their direction after I promised to make them a great DVD of their adventures.  I shot 14 miniDV tapes worth of footage while we were down there and I plan to add a few more hours of interview footage in the coming weeks.  Before I started editing a project of this magnitude, however, I needed to familiarize myself with what I already had.  It seemed like putting together a short music video would accomplish that goal nicely.

While many of these snippets of video will only mean something to those of us that were in Peru, I trust that the imagery will convey not only the amazing sites we saw, but also how fun, adventurous, diverse, and just downright awesome the people in our group turned out to be.

November 1, 2008

Halloween 2007: They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard

The Hobbits of UAS

Last year for Halloween, the UAS IT department decided to dress up as hobbits and decorate the office as the Shire. Big floppy feet were slipped on over their shoes, typically hairy faces were shaved, and a giant inner tube was iced with gallons of Crisco.

As always, I followed my coworkers around with a camera that day. They didn’t put on much of a show, just sort of stumbled around campus with their thumbs tucked into their lapels, and yet they still managed to win “Most Unique Department or Costumes.”

I usually try to start editing the previous year’s Halloween music video in September, but I was dreading this one. I couldn’t remember anything memorable caught on tape, and I worried that no theme would ever crystallize. With this year’s Halloween rapidly approaching, I finally sat down to capture the HDV footage in mid-October .

Watching it again for the first time in almost twelve months confirmed what I already knew: I had nothing. From almost an hour of tape, I pulled aside just nine or ten clips that seemed usable. What was I going to do with so little? I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I procrastinated more.

I had a fallback plan, but I didn’t really want to go with it. They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard was an Internet meme that was passed around sometime after the Lord of the Rings movies were released on DVD. Footage from the movies is edited to a devilish earworm of a song, repetitive in the extreme, which proves that excessive repetition is indeed funny in its own right. The Rule of Seven by way of Tolkien. On Monday, with a self-imposed deadline rapidly approaching, I decided that They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard was the best I could do.

I was surprised – blown away, really – by how quickly it all came together.

You can watch it below, but I warn you: If you haven’t seen the original, it’s not going to make a lick of sense…

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

May 22, 2008

Oksana Midgett, MBA

Oksana and her diploma

On May 4th, the University of Alaska Southeast held its commencement ceremony.  After almost two years of hard work, Oksana finally received her fake Masters of Business Administration diploma.  Fake?  Yes, well, see… the document they handed out on stage was actually a placeholder.  She still has a couple more electives one capstone and one elective to go and won’t officially qualify for an MBA until the end of August…

Still, I’m mighty proud of her.  When she started the program back in 2006, it seemed like a great idea.  She had her day job pretty much under control and we could get free tuition through my university benefits.  A quick two years of evening homework assignments and she’d have three new letters to put after her name as well as a head start on the educational requirements for a CPA.  Unfortunately, we soon realized that the “free tuition” didn’t cover the inexplicable $400 “super tuition” fee that was appended to every class, and when her job’s workload doubled last year, she had far fewer hours in the week to tackle homework.

Me?  Thanks for asking.  I’ve been playing a lot of World of Warcraft.  Sometimes, if she manages to keep all the plates spinning, I get to see her on Sunday evenings.

I wish I could say that we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I’m only going to give her a small break at the end of August before pushing her to study for the CPA exam.  If she doesn’t do it now, while her study habits and time management skills are sharply honed, I think it will be much more difficult in the future.

November 4, 2007

High Definition SEAMONSTERs

The view out the helicopter door, photo by Logan Berner

Sometimes I really love my job.

At the end of September, on what would otherwise have been just another Friday, I got to tag along on a free helicopter ride up into the Juneau icefield.

It was the end of the tourist season and most of the local heli-tour companies were shutting down.  The sun was out, the weather cooperating, and there was just time enough for one more data collection run.

Matt Heavner, one of our Environmental Science professors here at UAS, was working on a remote networking project called SEAMONSTER.  One of his students, Logan, was taking pictures for use in Microsoft’s Photosynth project (Logan also gets credit for the photos posted here.)  Another student and faculty member filled out their team, but even so, there was still one seat left.  Would Media Services like to send someone along to document the afternoon?


Normally, I’m low man on the totem pole for video assignments.  We have at least two other staff that shoot and edit on a day-to-day basis and are more qualified to capture video.  (Most of my video work is in the authoring of DVDs or converting their video to online formats.)  But on that Friday they were busy getting ready for a live evening broadcast.  Me?  Free as a bird and just looking for an excuse to test out the new HDV equipment.