Sunday, September 28, 2008

so much for relaxation...

Well, despite the ongoing litany of safety stand-downs, holidays, and normal days off enjoyed by most of the station, I'm still here working without respite. Sunday 9/28 was my 250th consecutive day at work, and it was a productive one, which they might as well be if you have to be at work. I guess the "highlight" of the day was trying to remove some sensors from the roof, but being unable to do so because the humidity from inside the station had worked its way up into the joints around the sensor assembly and frozen it in place. So, there's yet another thing that's going to take a lot longer than originally anticipated.

We're only a few weeks away from seeing the Basler and Twin Otter aircraft transit down to the Ice for the summer season. Once they arrive we'll begin to get folks deploying to Pole sometime (likely) in the third week of October.

We had our time change yesterday morning, springing forward one hour. The lost hour was not appreciated, particularly here where the sun won't set until a few months into the next calendar year. Who needs to save when the resource is effectively endless?

Sunday Select Cinema's showing of Jurassic Park was fun last night. I ended up watching the jungle in the background about as much as the action. The movie definitely isn't high art, but it really is a good escapist story that has special effects that stand up pretty well, considering the movie is pushing 16 years of age and was one of the first movies to really get the computer graphics done right. I consider JP and Terminator 2: Judgment Day to be major landmarks heralding the age of computer graphics in cinema.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

recording continues, as does work

The recording project continues to make progress, and we'll hopefully be done with all the drum parts soon and be on to the other instrumental and vocal parts for the various bands. Last night tracks were laid down for Triceratops: The Revenge and House Mouse Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder Blues Project. I'm not entirely sure what will be on the docket for this evening.

I'm really close to having my contribution to the end of season report complete. I just now have to look back through records for what happened with the Aurora projects while I wasn't serving as the Aurora Tech. Turnover to the new Aurora Tech will be interesting, since none of us covering those projects got any formal training on them whatsoever.

I had fun doing shooting for the Sunday Select Cinema skit yesterday evening. It's fun using the locations and stuff we have down here to make our own stab at motion pictures. I'd tell you about which movie it was a spoof on, but I'm 1) not supposed to talk about it and 2) not supposed to talk about it...

It's been a bit more clear as of late, which is pretty, but makes for some colder temperatures.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

a glimpse...then gone

Well, we had the sun in the sky, but blowing snow really obscured it not too long after that. Still, it was pretty amazing seeing the sun after all that time. I actually sat in my room late last night and read by sunlight instead of lamplight. The wind has dropped a bit today, but I haven't looked outside to see if the sky is overcast or not.

The Mother of Polestock concert went well last Saturday, though the crowd was really sedate. There was some dancing during the Picardis set, but not a bit for the Irish Band. We're now using a bunch of our equipment to try and record a few songs for each band in a semi-studio environment. Last night the drummer for the two bands laid down six solid tracks, which was good because it was anticipated that his contribution would be the hardest to capture. Hopefully it will all turn out sounding pretty good!

Well, I have another calibration to do out atop ARO today. I also plan on finishing up my end of season report today. I have to go back and add yesterday's power outage. One of our generators had a mechanical failure, but thankfully the various UPS systems that support my projects all properly kicked in and prevented anything from being messed up.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eventful week

Well, this week has been jam-packed with all sorts of work and play thus far, and it's going to finish on up exactly the same way.

I got my big triple calibration for the UV monitoring project done this week, which took about 5 hours. It really is interesting how some projects are so much more labor intensive than others. But, at least that's behind me and the system is pretty much set for the summer.

I had my last day as dishwasher on Thursday. It wasn't too bad, despite there being a bit extra work for all the prep the cooks were doing for our sunrise dinner we had last night. It was a huge Thanksgiving dinner served family style, and was by far the most passing of food I've ever done at a meal. The machinist on station made everybody an individualized brass coin with their name and winterover number. The winterover number is determined by year and alphabetic order when people did their first winter at the South Pole. I'm number 1,203 person to spend a winter at South Pole. After dinner was over the bands had a relatively quick sound check for our concert Saturday night: Mother of Polestock. We had a bit of trouble with feedback, but eventually got things sounding pretty good.

During the day yesterday some of us got to teleconference into a meeting of the Association of Space Explorers. You, um, have to have orbited the Earth at least once to be a member. That's why conversation among this group could include phrases like, "OK, so most of us have flown on the Shuttle..." Good grief, was that cool! Our station science lead here at Pole gave a good presentation that explained what science and operations were performed here at Pole, and there was the connection made about how this is a good testing ground for a lot of topics similar to those encountered in space exploration. The ASE members definitely seemed appreciative of the challenges that working here entails, so it'd be nice if they could communicate that appreciation for high-latitude experience to the hiring folks for the new astronaut class.

Anyhow, outside of all this interesting stuff is a whole lot of report writing for the end of the season. I need to get back to that now. Later.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More pics & work

Yesterday I finally got a repair done to one project that had a recurring problem with its aperture falling out. It had been plaguing us a lot of the winter, so hopefully that's all in the past. This morning I'm working on writing my end of season report (joy), which is one of many reports (huzzah) I have to get done before too long. I guess that's a necessary part of turnover to one's replacement(s), but boy does it fall at the worst time during the season.

More pics follow with further indications that there might be a star somewhere in close proximity to this planet:

Saturday, September 13, 2008


OK, I got a few photos of the growing light on the horizon last night around 1 o'clock. The overcast had cleared up a good deal then, but now only a few hours later it looks to be back to the cloudy pall.

That's such a radically different view than we had for most of 6 months!

There isn't much to report from the last few days, though. Last night I watched the first episode of the first season of the original "Kung Fu" TV series starring David Carradine. It was surprisingly good, but I don't think a show that slow paced could make it on TV these days.

I hear the grasshopper!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Long time, no write

Sorry for the dearth of posts this week. I've been really busy with a variety of work-related activities, particularly my efforts to get the hardware for one of my projects that studies UV radiation reinstalled atop the roof of the Atmospheric Research Observatory. There are three instruments and one GPS receiver that don't stay outside during the winter, which is coincidentally when there isn't any UV here at Pole, so I had to reinstall and verify that they were all working. It seems like everything is running nominally, so that's a bit of a relief.

The big Damoclean sword hanging over my head is now all the writing that I have to do. Between end-of-season reports, turnover reports for multiple positions I hold, SOPs, and other lab documentation I have what feels like another thesis to get through in these last few months on the Ice.

We took our winterover photo this week out at Spoolhenge. That "landmark" is just a bunch of cable spools that have been stacked up out on the (grid) southeast corner of the station. I walked straight there from ARO, and pretty much the whole way got to see lots of the "yukimarimo" puffballs made of windblown snow. I even saw some interesting ones that weren't round, but were more cylindrical or hot dog-shaped.

So, other than a bunch of work and not loads of play, that's about all that has been reasonably interesting this week. I'll take some pictures as soon as it isn't so very overcast here. The colors in the sky have been brilliant when the sky has been clear, and it's really remarkable to see this place clearly again.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The shades come off

Well, yesterday we got to take the covers off the windows in the new station. It didn't really open us up to the outside world, though. The windows are so heavily tinted that they just look like black mirrors with as little light as there is outside. That will change soon enough, and we'll be cursing the low-angle sun blinding us during meals in the galley once again. It actually makes it seem more night-like with those black windows all over the place, but when you go outside it definitely is a whole lot brighter.

I've started the process of setting some equipment back up for the summer, so things are starting to come full circle. The first flight into McMurdo happened on Thursday, so the continent is once again open for business. We won't be seeing anybody (or any fresh fruit) here at Pole until the last week or so of October. It's now just under two weeks until the sun rises here, which means that the bands are going to be shifting back into overdrive to get our sets prepared for the sunrise party.

Being Sunday, I'm naturally looking forward to my weekly installment of Sunday Select Cinema. Tonight we're watching "The Third Man", which should be a good one. I think a lot of folks weren't really captivated by the preview for it last week, so we will probably have a bit smaller audience than the last few weeks. Maybe some folks will at least come to watch the trailer "reel".

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

keep on truckin'

Well, the beat goes on here at South Pole. We had a very successful art show on Sunday afternoon, and there were some pretty neat things on display and being done. A huge photo mosaic, made up of small photos, of one of the UTs was unveiled in its nice frame built by the carps. That will hopefully (and rightfully) take its place hanging out in the main second floor hallway here in the elevated station. It's fun to scrutinize the little constituent images to find photos that you recognize.

In the evening there was quite a rowdy open mic night. I donned my turtleneck and watch cap and sang the sea chanteys "Fiddler's Green" and "Radcliffe Highway" a capella, and passed out little cards with the chorus printed on them so the crowd could join in like we did when singing them aboard the Soren Larsen. Some folks were more than a little impaired, so there was a good deal of activity that I could have done without that evening.

There is generally more light in the sky, I'll try to take some photos in the next couple days, but this has been accompanied with quite a bit of overcast. I guess around the end of the week we'll be allowed to remove the window coverings and get to watch the growing glow from the comfort of our fair station.

I'm still totally in the dark on all job hunt applications I've submitted. None of the companies are getting back to me, and I need to decide how long I can put off making some concrete travel plans. I know I'll spend some time in New Zealand, and sure wouldn't mind going on another Lord of the Rings tour (it's almost that time of year for my annual read to begin). I already have a free pass to go do a really tall (440 feet) bungee jump in Queenstown, so that is definitely on the itinerary.