Monday, September 26, 2011

Sweetness in Seattle

Well, I’ve been pretty busy this last week or so. I did manage to get to see a good number of attractions in Seattle during my time there.

On my way there, I got a good view of Mt. Rainier from the airplane. Though I’ve been up higher mountains, this is a much more “mountainy” mountain, with its jagged ridges and glaciers covering the volcanic cone. I would love to do a climb there sometime, but would probably need to go with a guided group to keep my precious self safe {gollum, gollum…}.

One evening we went to dinner at a waterside restaurant with our trainers from University of Washington. The mountains across the sound on the Olympic Peninsula sure looked awesome with a beautiful sunset framing them. I really enjoyed that view, and will hopefully be able to recall it in the depths of winter in the south. It would have been great to go hiking there, but alas, it was not in the cards.

I got to lay hands on some starfish in a touching pool at the Seattle Aquarium. I wish I could have petted some of the (both sea and river) otters. The definitely seem to have more fun than most creatures, when they’re not asleep. I got a healthy dose of kids running rampant there, with lots of little people buzzing about and expressing their excitement at seeing such strange life forms.

A visit to Seattle without visiting its most famous structure would have been a shame, not to mention the fact I was staying just a couple minutes walk from it. The view from atop the Space Needle was fine, and Mt. Rainier could be discerned through all the miles of haze. Seattle, being a city on the water, reminded me of Wellington, NZ, but I suppose Wellington would remind me of Seattle if I had been there first.

An excellent museum complex at the base of the Space Needle houses the Experience Music Project (EMP) and Science Fiction Museum. The big exhibit in the music area right now was a look back at the great band Nirvana, with this being the 20th anniversary of their Nevermind album. They had a gallery of historic guitars, one of the coolest being Hendrix’s one he played at Woodstock. I spent a while playing instruments and singing in the booths provided to let people get acquainted with guitars, drums, keyboards, and singing. The exhibits about Avatar and Battlestar Galactica were interesting, too. The full-size fighters and mechanical suits were cool, but so were the Na’avi-sized boots. I definitely got my money’s worth in my hours spent here.

My last night in Seattle, I attended a screening of the new documentary “Pearl Jam 20”. It continued that interesting musical trip down memory lane started at the EMP, and was doubly interesting with the opportunity to see it where a lot of the “action” took place. The Seattle Sound, of which Pearl Jam was a large player, was hitting its stride in my youth, so it was interesting to finally visit this storied (musical) land. One person sitting near me talked about how their film from early in the band’s career together was hers. The Cinerama where I saw it still had the big curved screen, but only one of the three projectors was used for this film.

I’m now in Denver doing the latter half of the emergency response training. The group of prospective winter crewmembers seems to be very nice. It is a bit strange to be on more experienced end of the spectrum, but I suppose that is what I get for continuing to go down yonder. Following the medical training, there will be orientation briefings the last two days here this week. A lot of it will be review, but I suppose there will be some interesting new tidbits. There are a lot of unknowns with this season-seemingly more than usual-so maybe some of the blanks will be filled in.
“He who travels much comes to know more than he who lives long.”
~Eastern Saying

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back to the Apocryphal Past (& on to Training)

I enjoyed a nice foray with my family this weekend. We were several of many that attended the KC Renaissance Festival. It was supposed to be the Scottish Highlands day, but I really didn’t see all that many folks sporting the manly man-skirts. They did have the usual jousting, with real one-horsepower steeds of great size. I think real, full-on jousting (with accommodations to modern safety standards) could be a really popular “alternative sport”. {X-Games, listen up!}

Watching folks in their various modes of dress/undress was entertaining, as usual. Some costumes showed a great deal of imagination, while others left considerably less to the imagination. A highlight at the end of the day was taking an introductory swordsmanship lesson from the folks that are members of the Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City. We learned some basic footwork, blocks, and strikes. It felt good, like doing Tae Kwon Do again, and I wish they had an instructor-level member coming to Pole this year. It is interesting how western/occidental martial arts are starting to become a little more common, to balance out the proliferation of the oriental varieties.

I depart this weekend for Seattle to get a week’s training on a new-to-me science project. I will return to Denver then for the second half of the winterover emergency response training weeks and Antarctic Program orientation. This means I will not be doing fire school this year, which is a significant letdown. But, I am very glad to be getting some training in Seattle, since I would like to be prepared for taking over the reins of this new project for a year. This will be the first time I visit for Washington State, so it should be interesting. Updates will be, naturally, forthcoming.
"My characters are more like men than these real men are, see. They're rough and rude, they got hands and they got bellies. They hate and they lust; break the skin of civilization and you find the ape, roaring and red-handed."
~Robert E. Howard

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Some wheels turn faster than others

It still amazes me how convoluted the process of beginning employment in Antarctica is. Long gone are the days of Shackleton’s laconic {and possibly apocryphal} call to likely demise, but possible glory. For several weeks now I have been working on my physical qualification (PQ), and think I am drawing near to the end of that series of poking, prodding, imaging, sampling, and patience testing. However, there seems to always be some other document to fill out, notarize, and submit. Last week I was out in Colorado for the lovely ritual of the winterover: the psychological evaluation. I drove out early and spent a few days up in the Rockies, including a successful hike to the summit of Mt. Massive (14,421 feet). I also had the nice, if brief, opportunity to catch up with some family members I had not seen since returning to the States while I was in the Denver metro area.

On the drive home I finally managed to visit one of those little names marked on my Kansas road map that I had wanted to visit for so long. Monument Rocks/Chalk Pyramids in Gove County was where I stopped off on a welcome detour from the usual 9-hour meditation on I-70. Along the way there I espied a couple prairie chickens and a lone pronghorn antelope; the first one I have ever seen in Kansas. The rocks were totally deserted, and much larger than I expected. I liked how it was just out in somebody’s pasture, with little else around. There were no gates or tickets or parking restrictions or any of the usual complications with developed tourist destinations. Given all the convolutions of the bureaucracy I’m navigating again to just go do the same job, the simplicity was a welcome change of pace.

My 1994 Civic gave a commendable performance throughout the trip. El Civ averaged about 40 mpg, with one tank of mixed mountain and flatlands driving getting a high of 45 mpg. That is not too shabby for a vehicle I’ve had over half my life.

“It's like putting on crampons and trying to walk through a room full of puppies.”
~Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash