Sunday, December 27, 2009

busy weekend

So, the Race Around the World was held this weekend, with both human and engine-powered contingents. IceCube had a particularly cool float:

The race course provided a great vantage to get photos of the deconstructing Dome:

The station has also changed a lot in complexion since I first came here in 2007. Long gone is the tacky-looking plywood cladding, which is now covered by this dark paneling that is still being installed on a few areas of the station's exterior.

Hopefully this week will go quickly and without too many hitches. Our band, which has now officially been dubbed SECURITY IN NOISE will have a couple more practices and a sound check before we take the stage as the second of three bands this coming Saturday night.

“It is less difficult to bear misfortunes than to remain uncorrupted by pleasure.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I just can't wait to play with the band next week!!! Wish you were here...

Let the festivities begin!

My Christmas morning started with a trip to the Dark Sector to troubleshoot a project's power system. We couldn't get everything troubleshot in short order, so the staff back in the States were cool enough to say just shut it down and deal with it after the day's big events. It's nice when folks in the World remember that those of us on the Ice are actually human beings that might want to do something other than work 24/7. Thanks Stanford!

The big dinner, for me, starts at 5pm, so I'll have to get a shower and changed here before the rest of my science checks kick off. At least I have plenty of friends that will be ensuring I have a seat reserved, if I can't make it there early enough to fend for myself.

I did get 3 packages yesterday, 2 from home and 1 from Becky. Thanks for the ridiculously varied contents of the box(es). I felt like I'd hit the payday in Vegas or something.

Anyhow, I need to get back to the grindstone for a little bit longer. Best holiday wishes for everybody who takes the time to read this, and travel safe if you're headed anywhere away from home. It's dangerous out there in the World, you know!

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
~Marcus Aurelius
"A friendship like love is warm; a love like friendship is steady."
~Thomas More

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Up and Down, Con/Decon

The CosRay detector platform began to be erected yesterday afternoon. I just kept my distance, but it was interesting to see how high the platform, where the detectors in their 6,000-lb. housings will be located. I'm not exactly sure how I'll get the detector tubes full of Helium-3 all the way up there, which looks to be a bit more difficult than presented to me. Oh well, it'll be a good challenge to overcome.

In the foreground of this photo some of the big fuel bladders brought in overland from McMurdo Station by the South Pole Traverse are visible. I believe each bladder holds something like 3,000 gallons of fuel. At least on paper, the traverse is supposed to be a much cheaper means of cargo transport than flying everything in here on an LC-130 aircraft.

Dome deconstruction continues, though the changes are a bit less dramatic than they were for SkyLab.

Was out in the Dark Sector doing some errands last week and, thanks to R.A.B. for the photo, got to go atop DSL and have a look see at the South Pole 10-meter Telescope. It's a radio telescope probing the microwave remnants from the early moments of the Universe. That's a pretty cool thing to have out in your backyard!

We actually managed to have a full band practice last night, without a power outage, and most of the songs sounded quite good. A few that we've not played as much need some work, but we've another 1.5 weeks to remedy those deficiencies. Planes are few and far between this week, lucky break for the cargo folks, so nothing much (including mail) is really arriving on station. Pretty soon I plan to start reading through the couple books on glaciers/glaciology that I brought down. Who knows whether that major change of career path will happen this time around. I'm doing a pretty decent job of just living in the here and new and not letting my mind stray to what will come after next November, when I finally depart Pole again.

“Time is the only critic without ambition.”
~John Steinbeck
“All men's gains are the fruit of venturing.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Lowdown

Wednesday we had an airdrop of supplies from a C-17. I had to work, and didn't go out to watch the drop, but did get to see the "fly-by" (almost) of the station that the plane performed afterward.

The top of the Dome has begun to be "deconstructed":

A group of parachutists visiting Pole before doing their drop, which will be far away from the station itself. The last time skydiving was done here it did not got so well. I'll let you research that on your own. All the icy menhir have been distributed beside the station so folks can play sculptor with them.

We had a power outage a few days ago, which was a beast to recover my projects from. That day of work ended up lasting from 5:30 AM to 10:15 PM by the time it was all said and done. Last night I managed to really relax and had a great time just hanging out with friends playing video games and watching rugby. What a difference a day makes!

I'll have an abundant supply of uninterrupted days here at Pole over the coming 11 months, since I just notified my employer I will not be accepting R&R in New Zealand next month. It is not what I wanted to do, but it was what that robotic side of my personality and conscience compelled me to do. It's one big, mean robot with nasty pincher claws, my conscience is, so it's usually best to just do as it says, despite the cost.

“Be still my heart; thou hast known worse than this.”

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Presto chango!

Well, here is a little subjective update on the deconstruction project at Pole this summer. As of a couple days ago, this was the state of progress on the removal of the old science building (Skylab) and the Dome (which has yet to begin):

And, as of this morning there is no Skylab apparent from the windows of the galley in the Elevated Station. I don't know if the whole building is gone, though, since that drift is several stories high around the old facilities:

We're installing new antennae and a data acquisition computer to augment one of the space science projects here, so that has been challenging at times. The still-lingering-in-nameless-purgatory band had a really good practice last night, but I unfortunately had to duck out early to go to an informational meeting for winterovers. Right now it looks like I don't have to do any further psychological evaluations or medical checkouts (I may get another dental cleaning, though, next month), and I'll probably not be bothered with jumping through all the hoops and whatnot that have been established as new policy for R&R in New Zealand. As much as I would like to go, I just don't think I can do it. Sometimes it is a real drag being me. It will just be that much more plunder in my pocket for post-contract travels, should they be a valid option. Don't you all go breaking the global economy even more while I'm down here! Seriously!

Tonight there is supposed to be an airdrop of bulky cargo by a C-17, which is always fun to watch. This morning I will have the always-interesting experience of leading a tour of the station for some paying tourists. Tomorrow I get a haircut in the morning from the barber/hair stylist that is visiting from McMurdo.

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”
~George Washington

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Changing Skyline

In the past week the “deconstruction”, not sure why the word “demolition” is verboten, of Sky Lab began. The crew doing that job is working nights, so each day it is interesting to see how much progress has been made whilst asleep.

H1N1 vaccine arrived on-station this week, and I guess I need to decide whether or not to get it. I probably will just to be safe. Illnesses like that are problems more for us here while we keep getting people arriving from the outside world. Once we have been closed for winter for a while that sort of illness is far less common, and kind of burns itself out after a certain interval.

I had fun retrieving a small wind turbine from the field and disassembling it for retrograde shipment to the States. The only bad part was getting a good numbers of splinters in my hands from the fibers that reinforced the composite blades. They were more of an annoyance than anything.

Inevitably this coming week will blow by as quickly as past one did. Somebody seems to have hit the existential fast forward button on the remote control of our lives here. Next weekend is a normal one day off situation for most folks. The coming week, a majority of the station will have Friday and Saturday off for the holiday, but go back to work on Sunday. I’ll be carrying on with my normal routine, despite the ebb and flow of others’ schedules.

One small request, if any of you know or actually are movie director James Cameron, could you arrange to have a copy of the new movie “Avatar” sent down here? If it would not be an imposition, a 3D projection system would be much appreciated, too. That would be awesome of you, for sure!

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Greased Lightning

Wow, this week is absolutely flying into the past. There has been the usual litany of work, as well as a much smaller amount of recreation. The even-as-I-type-still-to-be-definitively-named band's practices are going well. Tuesday night we started work on some new songs that I'm not singing/rhythm-guitaring, but will be playing the bass guitar for, which was a fun change of pace. Emergency response teams got a little excitement yesterday with a fire alarm to respond to some heat trace that roasted around the door to the emergency power plant in the elevated station. It wasn't a serious threat, and was under control by the time we arrived. There wasn't even enough smoke to set off a smoke detector, but wow did that get my attention when the announcement came over the all-call.

We've had our first 2 planeloads of tourists recently, which is always a bit surreal. I couldn't imagine what life would be like if I could drop $40,000 on a vacation and not feel like I'd short-changed myself financially in practically all other practical sectors of my existence. I'm signed up to be a tour guide again, so we'll see how that goes.

"Deconstruction" of Sky Lab has commenced, from the top down. I'll try to get some pics of that as it goes. The VLF beacon is back online, though not at full power, and we'll have another grantee down here in just a couple weeks to do more work on the infrastructure. The current grantee departs today, weather permitting, and it's almost going to be like losing one of our techs in the lab, since he's been here for a full month of the season already. The siding crews are working on cladding the final bits of the elevated station, the cryogenics facility, and the Dark Sector Lab. IceCube is drilling and has occupied the B1 Lounge, as is their wont. Some antenna riggers arrived a couple days ago, and will be removing some disused towers from out grid east of the station. Some new/changing projects of mine include the CosRay detector platform is supposed to be moved pretty soon, and the cables for the Dartmouth antennas have been trenched, laid, and filled in. In general, the station is a hive of activity, as it is every summer. If I had more unstructured time I'd probably be spending a good portion of it wishing for the calmer tempo of winter. Unless something changes, it looks like I'll be working straight through without R&R this time, so my stretch of consecutive work days is going to be rather lengthy by the time this 13 months is over.

"That all courage was a form of constancy. That it was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily."
~"All the Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy
"You must concentrate upon and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as though a fire were raging in your hair."
~Taisen Deshimaru

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grist to be ground

Lots of work and little play seem to be the norm here right now. It's still hard at times to believe/digest we've brought down/replicated Corporate America down here. That sort of contact with the outside world always strikes me as surreal, at the very least. Away from work the perhaps-now-named band is going well. We added several new songs over the last week, and only have 2-3 more new ones to work on between now and New Year's Eve. Here are some pics:

Transmission cable junction for the VLF beacon-we swapped connectors covered up right near the "T" of the wooden support:

Main entrance from outside of Dome:

Empty innards of the Dome-demolition begins shortly:

Exterior of Sky Lab, which I never got to go into, also to be demolished soon:

"Mental bearing (calmness), not skill, is the sign of a matured samurai. A Samurai therefore should neither be pompous nor arrogant."
~Tsukahara Bokuden

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Full Tasking

I had a decent (working) holiday weekend. I did eventually get some dinner for Thanksgiving, but that was after I spent 2 hours in the gym by myself working out. The dancing and party after the meal was pretty tame, by Pole standards.

I've had a busy week thus far, with yesterday morning finding me and a grantee out in the field replacing power transmission line connectors and swapping out a transformer for the VLF beacon's 7-km antenna. There are a lot of things going on at once, and nobody seems to be able to be definite with their schedules. The one constant you always have to deal with down here, at least in this position, is that everybody else's schedules trump yours. I guess it's just easier that way, for them. Regardless, there's no changing that phenomenon, so you just have to roll with the punches.

The fire brigade will be having a couple weeks of stepped-up training tempo, so I have been and will be spending a lot more time on top of everything else preparing and executing those training sessions. If doing this again a second year doesn't prove I'm an altruist then I don't know what would. Monday afternoon we had a drill out at the IceCube drill camp, which went well, though there wasn't much for the fire brigade to do.

Last night I co-hosted a trivia event, which was pretty fun. The questions I used were ones I'd written back in the summer of 07-08. My categories were "Islands" and "Box Office Disasters".

Anyhow, duty calls.

"We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds."
~Aristotle Onassis