Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Long gone, but not lost

Well, the days keep cranking by with lots of events and many mile of travel. Tomorrow we set off from Aswan on a day and night-long excursion on a felucca (local sailboat) down this little river called the Nile. The trip has made it to Wadi Rum for a night sleeping under the stars, Aqaba, Sinai, Cairo (crazy), and here to Aswan and Abu Simbel. The pace of the trip is a little fast for being totally pleasant, but we're definitely getting to check off a lot of boxes of places visited and things done. Here are a few photo taken since I posted last.

Sandstorm-tinted sky over Madaba, Jordan. We saw snow in Amman a couple days later. Weird.

More sandstorm action at the Roman ruins of Jerash.

Me getting some solo time with the treasury at Petra, Jordan. It took getting up at 4:30 in the morning to accomplish, but the early bird got the worm.

Getting on to sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan.

The monastery of St. Katherine's at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Egypt. They have a fire extinguisher right beside the bush said to be on the spot of the burning bush of Biblical fame. Who said monks don't have a sense of humor?

Two of the pyramids of Giza (the Great one in the foreground) on a very hazy day in Cairo. We actually couldn't see the city for it, which wasn't so bad at all.

The hypostyle at the temple of Philae near Aswan, Egypt.

The relocated temples of Abu Simbel, Egypt. The interiors were actually more striking than the exteriors, which was surprising, though photos aren't allowed inside.

“History is Philosophy teaching by examples.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Canyon of the Haloed Moon

So, I've just time for a brief note before heading to Wadi Rum today and Aqaba and Sinai tomorrow. Since arriving in Amman, we've visited the mosaics at Madaba, the Roman city ruins of Jerash, Mt. Nebo, the Dead Sea, the crusader castle at Kerak, and this little place called Petra (you might've heard of it). Weather has been surprisingly cold. It actually snowed the last night/morning we were in Amman, and it has been pretty chilly and windy most of the time here. There was also a sand and dust storm with really heavy winds for a few days. Regardless, it has still been fun, and the coming days' events look to be similarly pleasant. Hopefully we'll warm up a littl bit in Egypt, at least during the day, but the nights will likely still be down in the single-Celsius digits. Posting pictures may have to wait until Cairo.
"...follow me. I know the way. Ha!"
~Marcus Brody

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

bags packed...let's go

OK, so in an hour or so we'll head to the Manila international airport terminal. A few hours after that, and it's off to Amman, via Bangkok and Kuwait. Sadly, despite about 6 hour scheduled in Kuwait, it probably won't be possible to go see anything outside the airport. It feels good to be getting to this Middle Eastern chapter of the trip. It really seems like that's going to be where the really cool sights get seen. Anyhow, cheers to the upcoming 6 hours of jet lag.

Happy trails.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flip-Side Philippines cont.

The village of Batad.

The beach at Sabang, Palawan.

The boats to get to/from the Underground River, as well as the maw of the river itself at Sabang.

Some of the local fauna in Sabang, including carabao (water buffalo) and bayawak (monitor lizard).

The next leg of the trip carries us across 6 time zones to Amman, Jordan, which will feel wonderful I'm sure. Until then we're just TCOB getting rested and prepared for the drastic change of scenery, culture, food, environment, etc. It really feels like we'll be inundated with cultural and historical sights and sounds once we get there. It should also be significantly cooler and less humid, which will be nice after the shock to the system the Philippines has been.
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did."
~T.E. Lawrence

Flip-Side Philippines

Having been on the go for a while here on Palawan in the Philippines, I finally have a chance to put some digital pen to paper and post some photos. Palawan has been much warmer than Banaue, but has thankfully not seemed to be so wet, though it rained hard here in Puerto Princesa last night. A few days hanging out here, followed by a couple more days getting back to and doing more of the recharge-the-batteries thing in Manila, and the Philippines will be history, as far as this trip is concerned. The following are some representative photos of the high points of the trip thus far.

Jungle plants floating in the Pasig River flowing through the urban blight that is Manila.

The mile-long barracks on Topside at Corregidor, and blasted lateral tunnels in the Malinta complex also on the Rock.

Sunset from Corregidor.

The rice terraces of Banaue.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Refrigerated freight...again

Wow, the Philippines is a land of extremes. We went from the extreme tranquility of Corregidor to the manic, rain-soaked insanity of Manila, to a frigid night on a bus to Banaue with the A/C so cold we're planning on wearing stocking caps and winter clothing for the night ride back to Manila tomorrow night. Banaue has been the acme of humid, and we got pretty soaked walking up to Batad to view the rice terraces there yesterday. It's beautiful and green and totally different than Antarctica, but we're dreading the couple nights back in Manila before our flight to Puerto Princessa on Palawan. Oh well, that's travel.

I'll try to get some photos posted at some point.

"California sunlight - sweet Calcutta rain - Honolulu starbright - the song remains the same.”~Led Zeppelin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A bit of a contrast after much contrail

Yeah, a marathon day-long displacement with flights from Chch to Sydney to Brisbane to Manila, Philippines really took it out of us yesterday. We got in late and ended up in a pretty sparse guesthouse. Manila is most of what Pole is not: hot, wet, loud, crowded, etc. The people seem pretty friendly when you talk to them, which is nice. We saw the Manila Hotel's oppulent lobby today, and I couldn't help but be reminded of "The Shining". The old Intramuros district and the raucous walk back trying out the old navi-skills without my nose in a map went well. Looks like the trip to Mt. Pinatubo isn't happening tomorrow, but whatever. We'll find something to do.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's shakin' in Cheech?

Yesterday evening our C17 arrived in Christchurch with little fanfare. Suddenly one finds themself stepping off the plane into a moist world at sunset, with things called "trees" towering in the distance. It feels good to be back, though I haven't ventured out since getting to the hotel. Just as I was falling asleep last night we had what felt like a pretty decent earthquake, which tossed me around a bit. That was a first for me. The packing situation is my priority right now, so tomorrow I will return to the Antarctic Center to repack and ship the last of my stuff home. The next couple days will probably just be spent relaxing and taking care of business in the final break before the big trip gets underway.
"We learn geology the morning after the earthquake."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Yeah, we made it to McMurdo and I'm definitely feeling like I've been hit by a truck with FATIGUE written on the mudflaps. That the interior of the plane was sweltering the last 15 minutes of the flight probably didn't help much. I just don't seem to be operating at the same speed setting as everybody around me. Apologies to those friends I've already probably mildly freaked out or insulted as a result of what must be seriously aggressive fatigue finally being able to rear its ugly head. We have to wait until 8pm to weigh in ourselves and bags-"bag drag"-for tomorrow's flight to Cheech. I hope I can stay awake long enough.
"Can't sleep...clown will eat me!"~Bart Simpson

Chapter 1

Well, my plane is supposed to arrive in a little over an hour, and I might be not at Pole for the first time since last 28 October shortly thereafter. That seems like quite a long time ago. A lot can happen, and has, since I left home. There has been a lot of work, a lot of good times, as well a lot of not-so-good times during this contract. That is just how life goes, regardless of where one is. When I left last time I ended up with wrenching sobs and tears, not knowing whether I would ever be back. This time, like many things that have changed, I find I'm sailing much more of a middle passage through the Emotional Archipelago. I don't know if/when I'll return, but I'm not ruling it out. I have no clue where I will end up. So, with today begins the abrupt unplugging of a year of life on Earth, and the beginning of a new chapter, though there really is just one chapter, which is one's life.

So, as the fedora moves north, its first major destination (country-wise) is the site of what was probably the largest excavation of earth in the calendar year 1991. Chew on that, and I'll update you from the road when I get there. First comes McMurdo Station, followed by New Zealand, and I'm not sure how much time I will have to do any reporting/touring in either place. Frankly, some serious sleeping is in order, as well as some eating of different foods and getting reacquainted with things like trees, animals, rivers, etc. Leaving, as I say, is probably about as interesting as staying here at Pole for a winter.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
~Matsuo Basho

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dramatics @ Pole

Oh, the Antarctic blast goes on. Allegedly today (Thursday in this time zone) we will be able to fly, but it still seems the same windy outside as the previous however many days this blow has lasted.

Give that man an Oscar!

So, today marks one week prior to my departure for the first stop on the long road home. Following my prescription, I took the first dose of anti-malarial medication for that destination. Hopefully that won't jinx my efforts to leave the Ice and get to this destination on my already-scheduled flights.

Thanks to R.A.B. for the photo.

“A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Still here, still windy

The forecast looks like we winter leftovers probably won't be leaving Pole until Friday. The clouds cleared up overnight, but the wind is still blowing pretty strong and carrying quite a lot of visibility-decreasing snow along with it. Oh well, planes will fly when they fly. I just hope I'm on my flight to {destination redacted} a week from this Thursday.

Sunday night I had what (I hope) to be the last of my movie nights. It's a great flick, and seemed only to obvious and germane a choice to pass up.

A roped flag line was actually set up from the station to Summer Camp. I guess it was the conservative move, given the fact we have so many new-to-Pole/Antarctica folks at Pole now, but seems a bit odd from the perspective of somebody who has spent a couple winters walking around in the dark/wind/storms. Better safe than sorry.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
~Leo Tolstoy

Monday, November 8, 2010


Well, yesterday we got to do some project troubleshooting for one instrument. Otherwise, it has been quiet on that front for problems during turnover. In the evening my plans to do laundry and pack for my (alleged) flight out Wednesday were interrupted by issues with the power plant. So, today I'm trying to do the last bits of archiving personal data, packing, and finishing turning over. That being said, it's still blowing outside, so I'm not betting either way I'll be leaving on time. At least I'm done with my service as firefighter, since I was unceremoniously told my gear was needed by the new team. That's fine. I held up my end of the bargain, and then some, for that station responsibility for long enough.

It's always strange getting ready to leave, either coming or going. You pretty much unplug everything in your life and have to be ready to plug it back in wherever you end up. I think leaving is about as interesting as the process of spending a winter here; perspectives change pretty drastically after this long on the Ice. The trip home is definitely about both the journey and the destination.

“To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go. The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the stories of sea danger.”
~Capt. Joshua Slocum, “Sailing Alone Around the World”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Science turnover continues at a pretty aggressive pace. My voice is definitely not used to doing all this talking all day long. We are making good progress, and I am set to depart next Wednesday. I’ll most likely have to spend at least one night in McMurdo before I catch a “17” to Christchurch. There are only a few of the winter crew left here, with gradual departures happening as days pass. We are forecast to have a pretty gnarly storm this weekend, but hopefully it will be done here (and not relocate to McMurdo) by Wednesday. I’m supposed to get my performance evaluation/bonus recommendation this afternoon, which will be interesting. It’s too bad that lump sum bonus gets slapped with higher taxes than regular salary, but it’s also annoying that coming all the way to Antarctica doesn’t mean you get out of kissing cheddar goodbye to taxes in the first place.

One of the things we did yesterday was to do the pre-summer leveling of one of the magnetometers. I put in a request for the vault entrance to get extended upward, to counteract drifting, last summer, so hopefully they will get to it this year. It makes it a lot longer process with that much more snow to displace before being able to access the vault to adjust the instrument. This is definitely one of those “rites of passage” that introduce new techs to work out in the field.

"Without Knowledge, Skill cannot be focused. Without Skill, Strength cannot be brought to bear and without Strength, Knowledge may not be applied."
~Alexander the Great's Chief Physician

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beginning of the End

A Hercules flight with my science replacement and a bunch of other folks got to Pole last night, and carried about half the winter crew back out with it. So, now I'm actually able to start turning the reins of my science job over to the new guy, which is a bit of a relief. I am currently scheduled for one more week at Pole, and hopefully the weather here and at McMurdo will be decent come that time. Today's flight is currently on delay due to some mechanical issue with the airplane.

With all the new folks arriving from the diseased pit of nastiness that is McMurdo Station, I'm trying to wash my hands and do everything I can to avoid getting sick on the way out. I really don't want my first days of freedom to be detracted from by any illness, let alone once I wing off to my first big destination on the voyage home.

With people showing back up in droves, I find it interesting to reflect upon how long and autonomous a winter is in this job of mine. One really must have the inherent programming to do things right on their own, and to keep doing them right day in and day out. Without societal pressures of having others supervising your work on-site, the wrong personality can end up letting too many responsibilities slide. I wish I could figure out some bellwether exam, maybe something like the Voight-Kampff test in Blade Runner, to predict whether somebody would be able to keep doing the right things (i.e. have honor) throughout an isolated mission/season/voyage like wintering here at Pole. It certainly would come in handy.

“ takes many thousands of years of advanced technological development for a society to reduce honor to an abstract moral truism devoid of real meaning.”

~Luke Skywalker, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Internal Resources

Random shot about Pole: Winter crew photos back to the original IGY crew (foreground), stretching back to this past winter's 2010 crew. I think it is pretty cool to have that historical record on display, not to mention being a part of it.

Well, we’ve still no flights and the weather doesn’t (for now) look to be cooperating to get 20-something folks on their merry ways today. We have pretty lousy visibility at Pole today, but it should clear just about the time the weather at McMurdo goes bad again. Some folks are getting pretty antsy, but those are mostly folks that are not being made to do much work, if at all, and have not worked in a while. Personally, I could use some down time, but it is most definitely not in the cards, as I’m still the only person here running my science projects, and still have all my turnover to do. At least I have a really great trip planned for the voyage home.

I had to move out of my room of 9 months in A1 this past week. I got relocated to a smaller room in A4, which does not have much of a view out the window. Oh well, whatever.

Old room view: fine if you ignore the smoking shack and outhouse in the foreground. Since the sun came up I had enjoyed watching the flags flapping and snow blowing in the wind, which is about as close as watching trees sway and grass ripple back in the green world.

New room view: The wall (of B1).

All these delays and such are really just reminders of how the continent rules the roost, and that despite all our “improvements” in operations, we really are not in charge down here or anywhere when the weather decides to do something adverse. A sobering reminder of this was the fact that there were no survivors of the helicopter crash that happened this week during operations supporting the Dumont d'Urville French research station. My heart and many others here and around the world, go out to the families, friends, and co-workers of the loved and lost.

“Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light
Don't give in without a fight.”

~Pink Floyd

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orbit 1 complete. Orbit 2 commencing.

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve worked for one solid year with no days off from work. If I haven’t earned a little rest after this contract concludes, I don’t know what it must take for a fellah like me to get a break. 365 days at work (with no R & R), and still functioning well; I’ll pat myself on the back for that accomplishment.

We have been doing lots of emergency response turnover and training with the new crew folks that have actually arrived for summer. Only one person from the winter crew went out on a Basler, so the 2010 winter folks are still a notionally intact unit on station. Perhaps in the next few days we will get a couple more planeloads of folks that have been stuck cooling their heels in McMurdo for the last week or longer. I don’t feel too badly for them, though, since I spent 2 weeks working there while on the way down last year, waiting for the flight to come and start work on 28 October 2009... Yeah, that feels like ancient history.

Some folks are getting antsy, and the pre-redeployment jitters have set in. I still do not feel like my departure, though it be roughly 1.5 weeks away, is coming anytime soon. There is still just too much work to do before I leave. At least I got to vacuum my berthing room in a spare 30 minutes this morning. I generally do not feel like departure is near until I’m out on the actual flight line and forced to put on my Big Red parka for the first time since I last flew on a Herc.

"I think the real reason so many youngsters are clamoring for freedom of some vague sort, is because of unrest and dissatisfaction with present conditions; I don't believe this machine age gives full satisfaction in a spiritual way, if the term may be allowed.”
~Robert E. Howard

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The weather cries “havoc”...

...and unleashes the dogs of delays.

The third Basler got here last night, and stayed because of cold temperatures at Pole and bad weather at McMurdo. The weather is not improving, and the forecast is not predicting a change for a while, so flight delays are the watchword here on the Ice. We’re up to about 95 people at Pole right now, and a huge invasion will happen once the Hercs start flying.

Winterovers got to start mailing their packages out yesterday, though they are not going anywhere, like the winterovers. I got all my (5) boxes shipped off, and will probably send one more small box from Christchurch to get down to my “fighting weight” for the super-mega-awesome trip home.

The station does not feel too crowded, though there are definitely a lot more people around. Unfortunately, several new folks felt the need to provide commentary during my showing of “Return of the Jedi” last night, which was really annoying. They also took the best seats in the B1 TV room, so won no friends from those few of us who have been constant Sunday night movie watchers for 9 months now. It is interesting to see how a new group of people move into your “home” and start to make it theirs. It is probably one of the more effective ways of providing the impetus for folks still thinking in terms of the stasis of winter to finally flip the switch and realize it is time to go. Being at consecutive day of work #362...yeah, a break is in order. But, that all has to happen in its own time, and there is zero reason to chafe against the weather and things that are totally out of one’s hands.

I hope everybody had a great time back home over the weekend, and wish I could have joined (3-dimensionally) in the festivities.
“We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions - love, antipathy, charity, or malice - and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.”
~Milan Kundera

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The invasion has begun (meekly)

We got the first flight of passengers as of two afternoons ago. The increase of station population by 15 has not really made things much different. The second Basler was supposed to arrive yesterday, but the flight was postponed due to “forecast” weather (it was beautiful). Today, though, it’s blowing and the visibility is pretty low. The flight has been delayed already this morning, and I’m dubious if it will happen. But, one never knows.

With these new filthy people (no offense intended) arriving, I opted to get the free flu shot. It’s not uncommon for winterovers to get ill once new people with new germs arrive, and I’m not talking “gettin’ ill” in the old school Run DMC way, either. By this point people that have been here from 9 to 13 months are getting pretty fatigued, and you start to see some folks moving pretty slowly or stiffly around station.

I have been in project manual and report writing mode for the last couple days, and feel liberated when I get a chance to leave my computer and go do something a bit less tedious. I am definitely ready for my “to do” list to be much closer to complete, so have to keep at it like I am. When you run this many different instruments for this many projects, the administrative overhead becomes pretty cumbersome. To work on a single project, even a larger one, would be a relief (I think).
“Thick as autumnal leaves, or driving sand,
The moving squadrons blacken all the strand.”

~Homer, The Iliad

Saturday, October 16, 2010

They came, they left

South Pole Station finally had two Baslers pass through in transit to McMurdo Station yesterday. We actually had both of them on the deck at the same time for refueling, which was a bit unusual. Nobody on the flights stayed here. We should probably receive our first summer crew via Basler flights on Monday, if the weather cooperates.

Seeing new faces was not really all that much of a shocker this time. I think a lot of the bright-shiny of a first winter wears off rather rapidly upon returning for successive contracts. If you want to see what working every day for (almost) a year does to a body, including burning over 1,000 data DVDs for a single project, scope out my lovely raccoon eyes. Fatigue: it does a body ill.

"All fled—all done, so lift me on the pyre—
The Feast is over, and the lamps expire."

~Robert E. Howard

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PrĂȘt a porter?

What you see is the roughly 20 pounds of gear that I have typically worn throughout the summer and winter while here at Pole. I also wear another light thermal top, too. If it’s particularly chilly, I’ll add another expedition-weight fleece top. The overalls sure take a beating, even just from walking around station.

Somewhere up north there are Basler aircraft trying to head this direction. The weather has been pretty lousy lately, with lowered visibility here at Pole. I’m not sure what the weather up at Rothera Station has been like, which is the first stop for the planes as they head to Pole on their way to McMurdo. The planes have to come here first, because they do not have enough range for a direct flight from Rothera to McMurdo.

We’ve been watching the Star Wars saga some in the last week. I don’t know exactly how much different my childhood would have been without Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but it certainly would have not been the same. It is amazing how many places a good imagination can turn the hay loft of a barn into on a summer afternoon, with the bugs buzzing outside and the breeze stirring the vibrant green of the trees’ leaves.

The last plant I saw living outside was a tree next to one of the hangar buildings at the Christchurch Airport. My flight to McMurdo was one year ago, tomorrow (14 October). Since then, the only living things I’ve seen outside have been of the bipedal human sort. I do not recall the last animal I saw, but one of our (now deceased) cats was probably the last one I was in any contact with before coming here. Though it will be fun to see these different aspects of the world again, it is amazing how quickly one readjusts to seeing them daily. I guess it’s the same quickness of adjustment one goes through adapting again to this environment, after having been here sufficiently numerous times to get used to it. Anyhow, it will be interesting to experience it all again, but it will happen in its due time. Now is not the time of the season to become impatient.
“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it but the way the atoms are put together. The cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff; we are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
~Carl Sagan

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Still here, still busy

Sorry for the dearth of posts as of late. The pace of work remains high during this final push towards station opening, which is right around the corner. This morning I shoveled the Viper Control Room's roof for what will hopefully be the last time, as well as checked out SCBA rigs deployed out in some of the Dark Sector buildings. I'm off to run yet another weekly fire brigade meeting in a few minutes. There isn't terribly much new to write of, just that I finally counted up and found I'm currently working on at least 17 different manuals, reports, and other documents that have to be completed in a very short time. Some of these have been under revision since before mid-winter, so no, I haven't been procrastinating.
"Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price."
~Sun Tzu

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bloody Flux

No, we’ve not had an outbreak of dysentery here at Pole. ‘Tis the season for the constantly changing schedule of flights and plans for when the station will open and all that lovely jazz. The rumor mill is always grinding away on and about the Ice, but it reaches a fevered pitch during the transitional periods of stations opening and closing around winter. Some folks really get their hearts set on THE date they are SUPPOSED TO leave after a winter. As Phil Hartman playing Ed McMahon would say: “WRRRROONNNG!!!” That’s a great way to get all riled up and achieve nothing. It’s better to make like the astronauts in “The Right Stuff” and maintain and even strain. Or, you can make like Orphan Annie and remember the sun will come out {still be out, to be accurate}...tomorrow, even if the flights don’t arrive on time. Daddy Warbucks will eventually come to the rescue, so fear naught. Sorry, I’m not sure why I’m dragging out the pop culture references today.

Station opening work continues apace here, and the sun continues its slow climb up into the lovely blue sky. It is always interesting to see the gradual changes in how the sastrugi look, as their lighting angle shifts throughout the day, as well as from day to day. With the sun back up and being able to see to the horizon, this landscape always reminds me of the ocean, which is what this place is, if you froze the (desalinated) ocean and hiked it up a couple miles into the sky.

I’ve had some exciting and happy news from home in the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, being here precludes my direct involvement in the festivities, but that is simply something that one has to accept down here. It is just a good reminder that life goes on in anybody’s absence, which is the way it is, has always been, and ever will be.
“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
~Dr. Seuss

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not there yet

Though the sun is up, it really is not imparting any great amount of warmth to us yet. The last several days have been quite cold again, reaching -97°F yesterday with an absolutely gorgeously clear (not a cloud in sight, save the power plant and furnace exhaust plumes) sky allowing heat to dump back into the atmosphere. It got overcast and windy again, and the temperature today is 30-or-so degrees warmer.

I got to go on a wild goose chase on the cargo berms and in the science milvans (think cargo shipping containers) this week trying to track down capital inventory. There is so much junk just essentially abandoned out on these raised platforms of compacted snow. I saw a crate for a project I used to support that was shut down in 2008. Why that’s still here, I have no clue. I’m sure there is plenty of stuff that could/should disappear, but once things make it down here, they tend to stick around: like the buried Old Pole station and the utilidor arches from the Dome days that were not removed this summer. We leave quite a legacy for future generations, or the ocean when this all falls in there in however many millennia.

I am feeling a bit under the weather, with quite a lot of sinus congestion and aches and pains. With David Lynch’s “Dune” the Sunday night movie today, I wonder how much a Fremen stillsuit would help counteract the deleterious effects this place has on one’s body. You’d have all the recycled water you wanted to drink, and it would probably be fairly humid inside, so your mucus membranes would be happier than their usual, unprotected and desiccated selves. But, despite the fatigue and relatively rough condition my body is in (nothing different than last time I wintered), I am still enjoying having the oh-so-convenient weight room/gym at my ready disposal after work. Coupling that with all the walking my jobs have entailed this year, and I’m in pretty decent shape. In fact, I currently tip the scales at about 8 pounds more than I have ever weighed, and it is most definitely NOT due to being fat. I will definitely miss that “bene” of living here at Pole.

“The basic rule is this: Never support weakness; always support strength.”
~The Bene Gesserit Coda, "Heretics of Dune"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Polar Pixels

There is yet no sign of the sun today for us folks at Pole. The sky is overcast and the wind is blowing a nice, stiff breeze. The temperatures are warmer than as of late, though, which is nice. Here are a few more pictures from a couple days ago:

Wind-carved sastrugi surface:

The growing glow of sunrise, which is not glowing so much today:

The heavily-drifted ARO, like the old song lyric "Sign says...":

Deluxe accommodations inside ARO, including plumbing minus the water. The flowery stool and funnel just run into a big barrel downstairs, and can only handle #1. If you must #2 you do it in a plastic bag or hoof it back to the station where the plumbing has that modern convenience running water in it. What a great use of taxpayer dollars:

"Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense."
~Carl Sagan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Remarkable Parallels

We watched the excellent Moon last Sunday, which was directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son!). It has the elements necessary to become an annual movie-must here at Pole over the winter. The protagonist is a contract worker in a remote location, with minimal telecommunications link to the outside world. He spends lots of time on a treadmill and has hobbies, some tedious, to keep him occupied. He lets his personal appearance go towards the Grizzly Adams end of the spectrum. His nose bleeds when he blows it. Those, my friends, are all common aspects of spending a year or winter at Pole. Folks that get toasty over the summer, and never stay for winter, don’t really have any ground to stand on about feeling isolated, since there are so many people around and in and out over the season. Winter is a different ballgame, and Moon really reminds me of this place every time I see it. Now, if we only had robots voiced by Kevin Spacey...
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
~Carl Sagan

Friday, September 10, 2010

Come on a {brief photo} safari with me

I had a little photography work to do for a project out in the Dark Sector, so took the opportunity of the beautiful morning to snap a few photos for myself while out and about.

Here is a view back to the station from atop the Viper Control Room. Visible is the beginning of the building-high trench I've kept shoveled clear to keep one of my projects running over the course of the winter.

Turning to my right by about 90° is a view of the crescent moon fixin' to eat Venus. That building in the foreground houses electrical transfer equipment (and probably some networking gear) for the buildings in the Dark sector. The building's deck was way off the ground until winter and wind came along and deposited some drifts that are well over head-high on me.

After walking the kilometer back to the Elevated Station from Viper, one encounters the drift and general elevation of the whole ground level that has happened since station closing in February. I'm pretty sure this drift is significantly larger than after last winter. This skiway-side entrance to the station is generally referred to as Destination Alpha or DA.

I'm standing underneath the Elevated Station, and the upwind drift is on my right. This area has drifted in smoothly since 2008, when it was a bunch of pits between the big I-beams that provide the footing for the buildings pillars.

Turning about 90° to my left is the view downwind under the gym wing of the station. On the left are a bunch of the reserve fuel tanks that got hauled back in from the End of the World (i.e. the far downwind edge of the station's perimeter).

Anyhow, I'll try to get more pictures posted around the increasing amount of work going on here. We're on the verge of a major push to do all the station opening activities, so there will be ample opportunities while out and about doing ever more snow shoveling to snap the odd photo of what this place looks like when not all groomed out and convenient for the summer visitors/crew.
“Dreams, dreams, without dreams a man is a bird without wings. And now I’m very close to the greatest dream of mankind. In every century men were looking at the dark blue sky and dreaming.”
~Sergei Pavlovich Korolev

Monday, September 6, 2010

Keeping on the keeping on, etc.

We keep getting more and more photons flying around here at Pole, but no sun yet, not for a couple more weeks. I believe today we actually entered what is considered to be civil twilight. The temperatures have been pretty cold (-90s F), but we are supposed to have some alternating days of storms this week that will yo-yo the temperature accordingly. It’s blowing right now, and the temperature is about 20°F warmer than yesterday.

Last weekend some folks put on a play by Jean-Paul Sartre titled “No Exit”. I didn’t get a chance to attend, but I heard it was pretty enjoyable. In typical Pole fashion, as I gather, it became a bibulous event.

Watching “Aliens” was pleasant on Sunday night, though we got out pretty late since it was the special edition with a bunch of extra footage. I particularly liked the added scenes with the suitcase cannons, with their rapidly-plunging ammunition counts. That’s such a great flick! It really made me want to see “Avatar” on the big screen, preferably in 3D. Watching the legally downloaded version of that here on an inadequate computer was more like watching the Avatar slide show. Mr. Cameron definitely knows how to build worlds in cinema.

I have been working on a lot of extra tasks that need to get done before the station opens. Yesterday, despite the cold temperatures, I walked the length of a flag line to my antennas about 0.5 miles beyond ARO, on the edge of the Clean Air Sector. I raised the flag poles and replaced poles and flags that had been blown away over the winter. It was kind of nice for a change, and I got to hear lots of snow making “whoompf!” sounds as I disturbed its crystal structure and it collapsed. It’s a little disconcerting the first couple times you hear it, particularly in the dark, but was no big deal yesterday.
“Perseverance, dear my lord, Keeps honor bright.”
~William Shakespeare

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Closeout & Fantasy Worlds

I've actually transitioned some projects from winter to summer modes already, and am even transferring ownership (which has been a long time coming) of one project over to another set of folks to run henceforth. We have a huge printout (kind of ridiculous) of all the station opening tasking that has to get done, but I have yet had a chance to give it a hard look and see what I can sign up for. I'll likely employ myself outside shoveling, since even though I've done plenty this winter I would rather do that than scrub dirty baseboards in the bathrooms.

My body is taking a bit less of a daily beating walking around outside, what with this increasingly illuminated world in which we find ourselves. The skies have had varying overcast, which just makes the clear times seem that much brighter. It's really a gorgeous time of year, even if we were scraping down to -99°F for a few days in the past week.

This past weekend, our Sunday night movie was "The Princess Bride". I had not watched that in quite a while, but it was as good as ever. I think my brother and I must have watched that at least once per week one summer as little boys. My brother even named his hamsters Westley and Buttercup, in the protagonists honor. Moving on into Sci-Fi September this weekend, we'll be watching "Aliens". That was one of the few really scary movies my folks probably let me watch at too young an age. After seeing that, I was in horrible fear of reaching out for the light switch in our old barn (before renovations) and putting my hand in the little extenso-mouth the alien xenomorphs had in the movie. Seriously, you had to walk half-way into the barn to hit the light switch, sliding your hand along the wall along the way. I was sure something was there in the pitch blackness lurking in wait of an easy bit of prey. It will be fun to go to the movies again once out of here, especially this new mega-theater.
“Take what is offered. And that must sometimes be enough.”
~Richard K. Morgan, “Altered Carbon”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The appellation “Angry August” is quite apt. By this point in the winter, people definitely seem to fall to the extremes of really liking each others’ company (or pretending to do so) versus quite the opposite. There really is not much remarkable about the situation. Just run the thought experiment considering how you would feel if all your co-workers/bosses/employees lived and ate and slept in the same building as you. Not being able to get away from the same social scene can really wear on folks.

But, the contrasting point to that is with the brightness continuing to grow on the horizon, one’s thoughts can more realistically begin to linger upon what will come upon departure. Some folks can afford to turn their gaze thusly more often, while others (like your humble servant) still have a whole lot of work to do before station opening, and even more work to do for turnover once replacements arrive. The disparity of work expectations for the different “professions” down here is just more evident given the close proximity in which the various societal castes must exist. For some folks they just stop working when their replacements arrive, but for others they have a whole lot of teaching to do before their labors are concluded. It’s not really different than anywhere else in the world.

We got word recently about the NSF’s decision for the 3 finalist companies/bids for the continued Antarctic operations contract. This whole decision has been pending for quite some time, and I am sure the full-time staff in Denver are very much ready for some sort of decisive, ultimate finalist to be chosen so they can move past limbo and get on with concrete decisions about whether or not to make the leap to the new contractor or seek elsewhere for employment. It seems like a very inefficient process, but is not the least bit different from what I experienced with contract turnover when working at NASA GSFC. Though much will stay the same, there will hopefully be some improvements in various aspects of the company and management of the three American stations on the Ice.

I continue to gradually make plans for my trip home, and have not decided whether I will telegraph my itinerary in this forum ahead of time or will just write from the road and let those of you who consistently read be (hopefully pleasantly) surprised as I go. Right now the plan is to leave Christchurch on 18 November and get back home probably in the middle of January 2011. The year 2010 will be the first time I have been out of the States for an entire calendar year (and then some). The contrast to the homogeny of the preceding year will undoubtedly and refreshingly be quite striking.
“Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
~Robert E. Howard (Queen of the Black Coast)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Something sunny this way comes

Well, the glow on the horizon has done some growing since we saw it last, due to higher winds yet again at South Pole. This window of calm and clear will only last a little while, so after the next storm we will likely have an even larger omen of light returning to the world. Right now the moon is not quite full, but there is a lot of light outside.

These portents of things to come also herald in the ridiculously busy late-season surge in tasking for science and station activities. It definitely is not the greatest time to have more work dumped in your lap, but it always happens. Things have to keep happening for science like they have the previous nearly-300 days. Extra work preparing for the sun to come back up starts to happen. Extra work preparing to turn the reins over to your replacement happens. End-of-season reports come due. Extra tasking to make life easier for summer-only folks starts to happen. Extra tasking for station opening starts to happen. This all starts to happen when you're the most fatigued and worn down and ready for a break, but it is the last push (like finals at the end of a hard semester of college during which you've had classes every single day) that gets you to redeployment.

A couple nights ago we had our first power outage of the winter. It was very brief, but due to having so many instruments scattered all over the station, I ended up working another 2.5 hours (and walking another 2.5 miles outside in the storm) and got done with all the project notifications around 11:30 PM. We have been lucky to have had so few power interruptions this season, but they are never fun to deal with. Of course, that is for this science position I work. Other folks, who do not have similar requirements put upon them, went back to watching movies, playing cards, etc. I wonder what it must be like to have a "normal" job down here...

“It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.”
~Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Malleable landscape on the move

The winds have been blowing for a while again here at Pole, but not nearly as severely as before. Still, plenty of snow is getting drifted around station in different patterns than usual, since the wind has been out of the (grid) WNW direction. It actually has evened out some of the road to ARO, but is also causing the leeward drift of that building to grow very rapidly.

I played bingo last night, but...alas...won nothing. You got an extra card if you came in costume, so I wore my fedora and a gaudy sweater and carried my lariat, and called myself Indian Huxtable in honor of Indiana Jones and Bill Cosby's avuncular character from his eponymous show. I figured I brought The Hat down, so I might as well get as much mileage from it as I can.

Early "winfly" flights into McMurdo Station were supposed to start this week. The first was supposed to go on Friday, I believe, but a mechanical problem with the C-17 (thankfully on the ground) preempted takeoff. I think there are supposed to be about 6 or 7 early flights. No such flights are possible at the South Pole at this time of year, because we inhabit a significantly less clement spot on the continent. Early predictions for flight schedules to Pole are floating around, but are as good as fiction until they actually happen.
“The sons of civilization, drawn by the fascinations of a fresher and bolder life, thronged to the western wilds in multitudes which blighted the charm that had lured them.”
~Francis Parkman, “The Oregon Trail”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

By dawn's early, early, early light...

We've got a bit of a gray region in the sky now, which is neither moonlight nor starlight, and not even close to auroral light. The most early vestiges of sunlight, though it still be many degrees below the horizon, have started to claw their way southward. Funnily, seeing that for the first time made me think mostly of all the work we have to do between now and when I leave in November.

Work continues apace, and I seem to be having quite a few problems with my science projects again. For good weeks my weekly situation report is maybe 2/3 of a page long. When you get over a page then you know you're getting the short end of the reliability stick once again...and again...and again...

I had what will hopefully be my penultimate stint in the dish room yesterday, in addition to doing all my required science, which happened to coincide with "Community Cook Day" and to-order pizza for dinner. The volunteer cooks managed to dirty every single pizza and sheet pan in the kitchen, so I got a brief reminder of what I went through when cleaning ceiling-high stacks of sheet pans in McMurdo.
“In the jungle, there was no typical day, though most of the time one day was pretty much the same as the one before and the one after.”
~Michael Lee Lanning, “The Only War We Had”

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let rage reign!

August is more familiarly dubbed "Angry August" here at the South Pole over the winter. We'll just see whether or not that moniker holds true this year or not. Farewell, Cryin' July!

The wind has been up and down over the past week, and so has the temperature. We lost the moon, and today have also passed back into twilight, though the sun won't be up for a couple more months. It won't be until the end of this month that the all-sky cameras I run will be shut down for the season. Walking around station, at least the portions I transit most often that are not groomed, is an exercise in tripping and stumbling. The sastrugi keep being refreshed before we can walk a nice path into them.

I woke up from what was probably my best night's sleep in quite a while Saturday morning. I don't think I moved a bit once I turned out my lamp, and woke only 3 minutes before my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, instead of waking up at least once during the night. I felt pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which was such a departure from the norm. It was a welcome surprise, because by this time in the year the constant toll of unrelieved workdays really can leave the/my body feeling pretty beaten down. Despite getting progressively more physically fatigued, I find that the time I spend in the gym helps keep me going through the last few months of the winter. I definitely need that physical outlet to offload all the stress that builds up as time goes on. I may start doing the 300 Workout again as a change from the current lifting schedule I've been following most of the winter. Doing that workout is tough enough, but do it at this altitude with virtually no humidity, and it becomes a serious aerobic challenge as well. I topped out one time at a heart rate of 198 bpm in 2008, which was a little distressing to say the least, but was usually somewhere between 150 and 160 bpm. It'll be a fun challenge again, for sure.

“It is not possible to fight beyond your strength, even if you strive.”
~Homer, "The Iliad"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The trough of the wave

The last couple days have been lovely and calm, though the temperature has dropped back into the -80°s F. People have been digging out the massive amount of drifting that occurred during the last blast of storms, partially in a hurried attempt to get things serviceable before the next storm hits. That is forecast to hit on Wednesday, so we'll see what happens. I dug my building high trench down to the window for that GPS receiver for the third time in 8 days on Saturday. It took 4 straight hours of digging by hand, and I started it by walking up the drift and directly onto the roof of the building, then excavated down to the base of the building. The ol' body was/is certainly feeling that much heavy exertion this late in a long season. Since this chasm I keep being required to create is associated with the VIPER Control Room, I may have to start referring to my excavation as "The Snake Pit"...

We watched the mid-winter Antarctic film festival entries from a bunch of stations, including Pole, on Saturday night. Even if some films were a little weird, it was neat to see the other stations. I think the martial arts movie we made a while back, which was entered in the "open" category, is up on YouTube now.
"Asps...very dangerous. You go first."
~Sallah, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fantastic Environs

Our wind is still howling across the Antarctic Plateau here at South Pole Station. It has been getting up into the 30-knot range, and seems to be pretty sustained. There is currently a lot of blowing snow in the air, which diminishes visibility, but the moon being out helps out a bunch. Today the path to ARO actually seemed a bit more smooth than as of late, so I guess we've currently got a lot of snow filling in the low spots. I'm sure it will blow back out again in short order.

Another weird phenomenon here, especially when it is windy, is how much static charge the blowing snow/ice can deposit on the buildings/structures. I've got a couple sensors down right now because there has likely been a large enough static charge deposited on the sensor platform that it is affecting the grounding situation. Part of me wants to go out and touch the platform to see whether I'd get a big shock, but at least thus far I've had other things to keep me diverted from self-electrocution.

Every so often I get a craving for something different down here (imagine that...), and currently it is a huge yen to play the classic dungeon-crawl, hack-and-slash, "I-cast-magic-missile" computer game "Diablo II". It seems like unplugging from reality and heading off to smite those that deserve smiting would be quite a bit of fun. Sadly, I don't have access to the game, or my characters from when I played it way back when, but I at least got the guitar tab for its cool theme song off the 'net.

Other than that, I'm still plowing through all the junk, I mean project-specific spare equipment, in order to update inventories for all 13 manuals I'm working on bringing up to date. The science lab's mezzanine is looking pretty cluttered with things spread out all over the place, but hopefully it will condense back down pretty compactly when I finish. I could condense it a lot more with a +5 battle axe or chain lightning...
"He grunted with satisfaction. The feel of the hilt cheered him and gave him a glow of confidence. Whatever webs of conspiracy were drawn about him, whatever trickery and treachery ensnared him, this knife was real. The great muscles of his right arm swelled in anticipation of murderous blows."
~Robert E. Howard (The Hour of the Dragon)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What a blast!

Our winds set some records on Friday. The wind speed topped out at 42 kts/48 mph, which broke the previous peak wind speed record from 1978 of 32 kts/37 mph. The average wind speed on the same day tied the previous highest average record wind speed of 24.2kts/27.8mph, which had been set in 1962. Drifts have grown and changed, and I've fallen down the one by the station in a different way each time I've come back from ARO for the last 3 days. The wind is still higher than usual, but it's nowhere near the tear-the-doors-off-the-hinges speed it was. The physio-altitude has been near 12,000 feet above sea level (equivalent), which has not been too bad, except when you go do workouts in the gym like I just did and make yourself seriously light-headed.

I managed to sneak in an instrument calibration yesterday atop ARO, and it was pleasant to do it with the ambient temperature ~40°F warmer than when I did the same calibration last month. The moon also popped up yesterday, so there was actually some light to work by as well.

I just started reading a book sent to me about the history of space science/astronomy here at Pole. It is interesting dealing with the offspring of projects from back in the day that are still ongoing. Shoot, I've got a radio receiver here that predates me by 2 years, so I'm still getting to serve directly with some remnants of "the old breed".

“As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart sustaineth him; and the steadiness of his mind beareth him out.”

~Akhenaton, King of Egypt, 14th century B.C.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ho hum

It's blowing again here at Pole, much to detriment of the walking conditions outside. The sastrugi move in mysterious ways, and seem to have their prioritized agenda item of creating tripping hazards for human beings well in hand.

Travel planning is going well. I'm ready to start booking stuff to get locked in for some much-needed decompression and cultural immersion. It's nice to have that light shining brightly at the end of the tunnel.

People seem to be doing a pretty good job, at least they are in public, avoiding the stereotyped "cryin' July" here at Pole. I guess the month is not yet half over, though. Maybe the crew will pull through angry August without too much strife, too.

Really, things are pretty much in the just-past-mid-winter groove.

“Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him enslaved by another's might.”
~Aeschylus, "The Libation Bearers"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's official

When all was said and done for our recent cold spell, the official lows for each day were as follows:
July 1st: -73.3C/-99.9F
July 2nd: -73.6C/-100.5F
July 3rd: -74.3C/-101.7F
July 4th: -75.0C/-103.0F

It is now back to more clement temperatures about 30-40° (F) warmer.

In two weekends I'll help with the 48-hour film festival that happens down on this continent this time of year. I'm not sure what I'll be doing in front or behind the camera, but it should be fun (as I can swing it around work).

The moon is down again, so it is back to the usual stumble around station. Jupiter was low on the horizon a while back, which always looks like somebody with a red lamp way out in the distance when I first see it. The sun is about 22° below the horizon, and rising.

I have been hitting my body maintenance products a lot lately. I'm talking about saline nasal spray, saline nasal gel, eye drops, hand lotion, lip balm, etc. It is just an attempt to do whatever I can to help reduce the negative effects the low humidity here has on the body. Plus, I brought it all down, so should use it up while I'm here.

Well, I just was delivered a fresh strawberry from the greenhouse, so I'm going to savor the smell a while before it disappears down my gullet.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
~"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Frigid 4th

We're having a nice cold snap here at the South Pole, with temperatures regularly dropping below -100°F over the last couple days. It will be interesting to see what our actual lowest low works out to be when all is said and done with this winter. The aurora australis has also been pretty active, and there have been many more displays recently that seem to cover a very large portion of the sky.

At work I have continued to prepare and revise science project manuals, which has also included trying to actually go through the spare parts lists for each of the projects and get them in better order. It's kind of like doing archaeology with some of this stuff, which doesn't look like it has been used in years and years. I just keep fighting the good fight, and hopefully it all works out well in the end.

“Except a person be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave.”
~Mark Twain

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts of tunnel end lights

This past weekend we had a lunar eclipse, which was interesting. I think the one I saw here in the summer last time was more striking, since we’re used to the moon disappearing (just not that quickly), but seeing the sun dimmed for the first time was quite interesting.

Late last week I had to fix one project by shoveling off the top of a rooftop-high snow drift that had obscured its GPS antenna, so the time signal went bad and the controller unit shut down. Who would ever have thought that a pile of snow 12 feet tall could cause any problems?

We just received our airfare credit amounts for redeployment. You can use it straight-up to be taken back to the airport from which you originally deployed, or you can opt for “leisure travel” and revise the itinerary or totally do something different. You just have to use the company’s travel agent in Christchurch, and can use the equivalent dollar amount towards your new flight itinerary. Unfortunately for us, but good for the U.S. taxpayer, the contractor gets a really discounted fare because they book so many tickets. It seems like this is a major milestone, at least mentally, for wintering down here. You are presented with the prospect that at some point you will leave and go off to exotic locales, even potentially that elusive one called Home. It also presents a challenge because this turning of one’s thoughts elsewhere can also increase dissatisfaction with the all-too-familiar surroundings, people, and activities while still on the Ice. That this coincides, roughly, with what is known colloquially as “Cryin’ July” is probably not a coincidence at all. You just have to keep your perspective and maintain a firm hold on your mind game.
"Nothing is more important than that you see love and the beauty that is right in front of you, or else you will have no defense against the ugliness that will hem you in and come at you in so many ways."
~Fraa Orolo "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blue moon?

We now have a waxing moon here at the bottom of the planet, and its light brings a welcome change from the last several weeks of stumbling around in the dark. I was noticing the color of the moon on the snow today, and it sure looks blue to me...sort of. The landscape under that reflected sunlight, if photographed with a camera that can take a long enough exposure, will look pretty much like it does under direct sunlight. The snow reflects over 90% (i.e. has a high albedo) of the incident light, which helps make moon-up times such a welcome respite from the klutziness of the darker times.

It is also interesting to see how the drifting has developed over the last couple weeks. One drift out in the Dark Sector seems to have gone from knee to chest-high since I saw it last. I've been walking over it in the dark and could tell it was bigger, but I did not guess it would have experience such a growth spurt. The drift by the "vertical tower"/"beer can" of the Elevated Station keeps creeping closer to the building, and is currently pretty steep, which at least makes for a fun slide down, if the climb up is a bit more strenuous.

Today was a bit quieter than of late, which was pleasant. I made use of the lull to do some work writing in updates for more of my science project manuals. It is a big project, but one I could in no way fail to do, given how much help they can be in the turnover to an inexperience replacement. My early start on these documents will hopefully pay dividends in conserved sanity, via reduced workload, toward the end of the season.

"We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology."
~Carl Sagan

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To the solstice...and beyond

One week after finishing the last major repairs for one project, it suffered another, and a good amount of time this weekend was spent effecting the repairs. The part we replaced was buried amongst all those wires you see at the right end of the component. The close-ups show what eventually happens to metal when you run high current through it (probably arcing some) long enough.

Saturday night and Sunday night we watched "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". In the few spare minutes I had today I made a little stencil and tricked out my work coat. Too bad it's not titanium reinforced carbon fiber, but it does the trick for the mean streets I have to walk.

Tonight we watch "The Shining", as per mid-winter tradition. I'll enjoy seeing a little glimpse of Glacier National Park as the VW Bug drives up past mountain lakes that are actually in Montana, not Colorado.
"It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me."
~Bruce Wayne, "Batman Begins"