Jon Claerbout's official retirement celebration for alumni and friends

Alumni! Friends! Family!

This web page is my invitation to you to attend my formal retirement party to be held in Alaska in May. Everyone is invited. All you need to do is reply (RSVP) to Diane Lau so we can plan. Need the email address of any classmates to find out if they might come? I have most of them. Ask me for a list.   Want to know who has replied so far?

Where? Why Alaska?

I have many things to be grateful for in my life, but one mistake was waiting until I was 56 years old before I went to Alaska. Long I have sought, and only now finally found the best opportunity for me to give you an excuse to take some time out of your life to be able to feel some of the grandeur and primal joys of Alaska. We'll be going to Seward, Alaska, two and a half hours south of Anchorage by car or by train. (Don't leave town on an empty stomach!) We'll be gathering at the Windsong lodge.

When? SEP meeting and alumni celebration

My formal retirement celebration for alumni and friends immediately follows our SEP sponsor meeting. All SEP sponsors, Stanford alumni, and friends are invited to the full four day function, Mon-Thur, May 12-15. The first three days will be the annual SEP sponsor meeting. By tradition, the morning of Thursday May 15 would be sponsor presentations to students proposing for them some useful directions. Instead, this year we will expand to all day Thursday May 15, 2008. For Thursday this year we are inviting SEP alumni to make presentations to students and other alumni on anything in your professional life that might be nice for students to know. All are welcome to any or all days, but please register with Diane Lau for your meals!

Between the sponsor events and alumni events, the afternoon of the third day, Wednesday May 14, we are planning to take a boat to the far side of the inlet for a dinner at beautiful, remote, and primative Fox Island. We'll have dinner at the only lodge there. The boat crosses protected waters so we expect no rough seas (though it can be cold and windy on the island). More details later, but this is a standard tourist destination you can find described on the web. It seems certain we will have the island to ourselves. Sunset will be at 10:30pm. Start here and zoom out until you spot Anchorage (or Houston).

The May 15 alumni presentations.

Alumni and friends are invited to make presentations on May 15. on the morning theme of anything in your professional life that might be nice for students to know or the afternoon theme 35 years of SEP people, computers, projects, and fun.

Here is the Preliminary Program.

Please join in the speakers program!   The deadline for the program is April 1. (Biondo tells me some alumni may need to show a good program in order to get the day off work to come). The deadline for hotel reservations is a week or so later. Diane Lau provides that, and a registration form for meals.

Services in Seward

Be aware that coastal Alaska is cold and wet in May. You can expect the daily temperatures to have a max=52F=11C and min=39F=4C.

There are 4-5 decent restaurants in Seward, at least two really nice ones. You will not have any trouble finding them as most everything there is on two streets. If you'd like to stay in town instead of at our conference hotel a couple miles outside of town, of the 4-5 hotels there, I'd recommend the Holiday Inn Express . It's a grand place for watching the fishermen, but I found their WiFi too weak in my hotel room (fine in the lobby).

I've been assured by the management at our conference hotel, Windsong Lodge, that our wireless is free (contrary to its web site) and that it is strong enough in all the rooms (also available in the lobby).

Want to save money? There is a waterfront campground in central Seward. You should be warned that it rains a lot in Alaska. I can recommend purchasing an Alaska umbrella at the local Ace Hardware.

Here I am at the Windsong Lodge enquiring about its suitability for an SEP meeting: 15 minutes, 50Mb quicktime.

I've been asked about mosquitoes. Seward had none on my previous visits in July, August, and September, but spring is more notorious for mosquitoes. I noticed no swampy ground near there. You'll be able to purchase repellent at the grocery or hardware store.

Nearby Activities (a few miles)

There's lots to do nearby!     I'll be updating this page as the date approaches.

We had planned a two hour lunch Tuesday to hike up to the nearby base of the Exit Glacier (picture on left). See my glorious enlargement or a description.

Unfortunately, due to recent heavy snow that activity will be impossible for most of us. This link explains alternate activities.

Seward promotes itself as the halibut fishing capital of the US. If you are a fisherman, you might like to look into that.

There is a nice little aquarium in Seward, The Alaska SeaLife Center. We tried to book a conference dinner there, but the school kids of Alaska take precedence over us. Hooray for them! You can still get in (small fee) to see the fish and their exhibits.

If you are a runner, you'll be interested in learning about the Mount Marathon race run every 4th of July up Mt. Marathon starting from downtown Seward.

Fun things to do within two hours of Anchorage

It's a good idea to expand your journey to include the full week and two weekends. Here is what I'm doing with family members. You are welcome to join us. Below are my recommendations for these and more great things to do.
  1. Portage glacier lake and cruise: If you've got only 90 minutes and hope to see a glacier calving into water, but you are afraid of any waves on the water, you might like the Portage Lake excursion which you will find halfway back to Anchorage off a 10-15 mile spur road to the east.
  2. Whitter and Prince William Sound cruise: If you are a glacier nut having a half day and wanting to see as many glaciers as you can, You might try the glacier cruises leaving from Whittier (near Portage above). It may also be the choice for you if you are fearful of any waves and weather since Prince William Sound is more protected than our local 4-5 hour Aialik glacier tour which gets a bit of ocean exposure. Worried and want to check the map? Aialik glacier is on the inlet just west of the Seward inlet. Use Google Earth, not Google maps. Having trouble deciding? Some photographer says the very best glaciers in Alaska are in College Fjord, sail NE from Whittier. "Better than Glacier Bay." But don't let me scare you away from our local Seward glacier cruise. I've done it. It's fabulous. Maybe you can get dropped off on the way back at Fox Island for dinner.
  3. Alyeska Resort at Girdwood: Also half way back to Anchorage and maybe 5 miles off the highway. We came very close to scheduling our SEP meeting here. (Next year?) They offer delightful off-season rates. A tram will take you up the mountain to two restaurants up there. Great swimming pool. I think I'll stay a night or two there before or after our conference and try the trail there, the Winner Creek trail. I'm hoping to make it the 3 miles to the hand tram crossing.
  4. Matanuska glacier: a "walk on" glacier. I love it. It is about two hours drive on the other side of Anchorage There is a park service look out, but you can't get to the glacier from there. You need to drive 2000 feet (0.2 mile) beyond (Glenn Highway, mile 102) and find a side road down and over the river. Another mile or so you find a gate keeper. It may cost you $15 or more to proceed, but when you see the road work the owner needs to do to keep up with the outwash, it's fair. It's quite level walking from the parking lot onto the glacier. You may not be sure just when you've crossed, but once on the glacier it's amazing. I've learned the guide service (not required) will not yet be open for the season, so I might instead choose from many fun things at the nearby Knik glacier.
  5. Cooper landing, Soldatna, and Kenai for fishermen, especially salmon. I'm not experienced myself in Alaska fishing, but from what I've seen, I'd suggest checking out Cooper's Landing (1 hour drive) or Soldatna (2 hour drive), or Kenai (2.3 hour drive) from Seward.
  6. Anchorage is a really nice place. It's only 20 minutes away from Alaska! The name of the place might give you the impression you'd carry away memories of the waterfront. Not likely. But on the highway to or from our conference, if the moon and sun align, and if you time it right, you will get to see the tidal bore. It's written that you should look 2 1/2 hours after low tide. On May 12, our arrival date, a weaker bore runs about 10:30am and 10pm. But on our departure day, there will be 28 feet of (low) tide at 12:30pm and we'll be driving about 45 minutes alongside the water arriving at Anchorage about 3pm. Should work! Counter-intuitively, the bore runs away from Anchorage towards Girdwood, so if you want to chase it (12 mph) you'll need to make a U-turn. If you are stuck at home, you can always get an idea of it at youtube.

Preparing yourself for Alaska (with many smiles)

Two books Jon has read and highly recommends:
  1. Here's a little book of 28 chapters, each a fictionalized account of a disaster you could have in the commercial fishing industry. Highliners: The Classic Novel about the Commercial Fishermen of Alaska by William McCloskey . These are bar-room stories, mostly with more than a grain of truth.

  2. How about an insider's humorous account of real Alaskan "culture", Fashion Means Your Fur Hat is Dead: A Guide to Good Manners and Social Survival in Alaska, by Mike Doogan
  3. Video podcasts: Look for "Alaska Podshow" at iTunes or

Fun places that are likely too far to include in a one week trip

If you are skipping all the stuff above you'll have time to visit some of these nifty places. The web will give you more information about them.
  1. Homer: Most Alaskans would like to retire in Homer.
  2. Mt. Denali: is the tallest mountain in North America -- usually clouded in. Rick Ottolini writes, "I visited Alaska 4th week of May in 2004 and 2006 and would not write off Denali National Park then. They tentatively plan to start the interior park buses May 16. The entrance is always open. The 17 mile driveable road may be open May 16 too. Denali is also accessable by train from Anchorage and Seward. In 2004 it rained 6 of the 7 days and in 2006 it rained 1 of 7 days. I'm going again this year after the conference."
  3. Kennecott historic mine: in Wrangell St.Elias National Park.
  4. Valdez: Nothing much to see here besides the pipeline.
  5. Salmon glacier: Hyder, AK (population 97) is at the end of the fjord that separates US from Canada. It is 920 road miles from Vancouver. Twenty miles beyond Hyder is my favorite glacier view, a glacier splitting in two directions, and coincidentally my best picture of me. Shows what a nice picture you can get with good light and clear air.