Friday, July 31, 2009

Practical Reading

I was checking to make sure my address would be the same at Pole, and figured that the USAP Participant Guide might make for some interesting reading for folks that haven't been there/done that. You can download individual chapter PDFs, or get the whole shebang in one 8.5 MB file.

Pack Rats & Womp Rats

I'm well along with packing my junk to drag to the bottom of the world now. A lot of the stuff I'm taking is just the same as last time, but I'm tweaking the contents a bit. Last week I went down to Wichita and got a lot of toiletries and whatnot that I needed for my year's supply. While in the big city I went to one of the Warren Theaters and saw the movie "Moon", which was great. I found out afterwards that the director is singer David Bowie's son, which is interesting.

The weather here has been unusually cool in the evenings/nights, which has been nice. I had a pleasant bike ride around the lake last night at sunset, which was only occasionally detracted upon by inhaling a few flying insects. Other than that, I only met 2 cars the whole time, and had a great view of the ball of fire as it headed for the horizon. I still find it remarkable that happens every day here in lower latitudes.

A quick spin out to the east coast for some training with science groups is in the works for me, too. I may be headed to California for another quick training trip as well, but haven't gotten any details about that one yet. I still hope to pull off a road trip out west for a bit of fun, but am playing that totally by ear as the weeks go by.

Hearing about last weekend's events at the Comic-Con in San Diego has been interesting. It sounds like it is a really fun event to attend. The Star Wars Universe seems to have a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline, and I wish I could somehow get to keep watching The Clone Wars when season two finally kicks off. But, timely consumption of contemporary popular media isn't really an aspect of the experience of living at the South Pole.

“One of the most frightening things about your true nerd, for many people, is not that he's socially inept - because everybody's been there - but rather his complete lack of embarrassment about it.”
~Neal Stephenson

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Saying 'Farewell'

Well, it has begun once again; I'm starting the process of bidding adieu to the outside world. There is the philosophical side to this, which includes just enjoying what these temperate climes have to offer (the smell of plants, watching animals do their thing, being around friends and family, etc.), as well as the practical matters of packing for spending over a year in Antarctica and then doing whatever amount of travel on the way back to the States from the other side of the world. That practical stuff is easier this time. I find myself weighing more the purchase of new items against using ones I already own instead of trying to figure out in general what I should be taking at all. I look at living on the Ice as a great way to cull the wardrobe herd, since haute couture isn't something very prevalent there. So, for example, that is why I'm considering things like whether I should I buy a new pair of trousers or just take along those old detachable-leg travel pants that are so much darker on the legs, since I wore them just as shorts more often on various trips than in full pant form. Similarly, I also hope that through regular use that I might be able to finally wear out the shoes I got in 1994 to play in the state football (N. American rules, mind you) championship game, which was played on AstroTurf. I used them for my workouts all through the last time I was at Pole, but they haven't worn out yet. I seem to go through clothes and shoes pretty slowly, which I suppose is a good thing. A lot of the considerations are little things like that. It's not very sexy, but there it is. Que sera, sera.

OK, so the French being bandied about in this little post is a nod to the ongoing amazing sporting event that is the Tour de France. Not only is the athletic feat of riding the entire race impressive, but also the scenery that they ride through is a fabulous highlight each year. You get to see mountains (Pyrenees looked awesome last week), cities, villages, fields, forests, and all the myriad folks that show up along the stages to cheer the riders on. It's just such a cool thing to see these guys riding through some agricultural area, which looks very familiar, even if the fields are a bit smaller on average that the ones amongst which I grew up, but peppered in there are centuries-old chateaux and villages that just aren't part of the fabric of the physical and cultural landscape here in the States. I suppose some folks that watch find some bit of Schadenfreude (sorry, that's German, whatever) in watching the occasional wreck, but it's not really a highlight for me. It's all a grand spectacle. I have a really nice memory of sitting and watching some Tour de France action on TV in Carcassonne, France (the real place, not the board game) in 2001 on Bastille Day. I was staying in the spare bedroom of some folks that ran a fully-booked B&B, and it was fun to share the excitement with them before going out into the crowds that had gathered to see fireworks launched from the vieux ville, which led to one of my favorite photos from all my travels.

“Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Secondary Run-Around

You are always stuck with a secondary run-around when PQing for the Ice. Initially, you get poked and prodded, which is always followed by the mutual poking and prodding required to establish that you've 1) passed all the tests and can go work your happy little job for however long in Antarctica and 2) going to get properly reimbursed for all the costs (not insubstantial, those) you incurred whilst jumping through the aforementioned gauntlet of poking and prodding. I guess it just makes for a sweeter sense of accomplishment once all that is behind you, and you assume that you will have sanity enough remaining to pass the psychological exam in several months.

I had a nice Independence Day, though most of it was spent astride a John Deere lawn tractor. In the evening I enjoyed the raucous fireworks in town with some friends that I had not seen for far too long a time. As one of them said, it sounded like the Tet Offensive with all the banging and booming going on. I grew up with fireworks being illegal, so it seems peculiarly disconcerting (i.e. different) to have them so thoroughly embraced and detonated by the public at large nowadays.

Soon enough my housesitting days will be at an end, and I will be disencumbered from the bulk of my related duties. Whether I will be able to abscond for some travels prior to the initiation of my employment-related activities will depend upon how quickly I can tie up the remaining loose ends of my PQ process. I might just work on getting my SCUBA certification via a dive shop in Wichita, but it would be pleasant to get out and see a bit of the world while I still have a chance.

Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.
~Edward Abbey