April 2002

Monday, April 1

Chatted with Ella and her mother early in the morning and wished them a Happy Easter.  Unlike in the States, Easter in Poland isn't commercialized and still has some religious significance.  So, it was an important holiday for my mother-in-law.

The Linux download went fairly well, which surprised me.  It took about 10 hours to download the first 650 MB.   I also got about 20% of the second part.  I didn't think that we had that much bandwidth. There are days when it certainly doesn't seem like it, anyway.  But whether or not the data is corrupted remains to be seen.  There is so much solar activity at times that I've lost quite a few downloads as a result.  

After work I was pleasantly surprised at how warm 5 degrees can feel.  Once again, the wind was gone and the air still. I never thought that I'd see single digits as a heat wave. I took my time going to the galley as I wanted to enjoy seeing the sun starting to peek up over the mountains.  

I had to wake up early to attend fire safety training.  Since there are only 10 full time fire fighters during the winter, it's paramount that we study fire prevention and learn how to fight fires.  I've had exposure to fire fighting in the Navy, but it never hurts to get re-trained as you can always learn something new.  For instance, I now know that burning incense in your room is not allowed.  Hmm.  

Getting hard pressed to think of anything to write.  Am I getting jaded again?

Tuesday, April 2

Of course I'm jaded.  Why would I bother thinking out loud if that weren't the case?  It's not just the keeping up the journal bit but the fact that there's nothing for me to do but mope around during my waking hours.

Six months ago today, EST, I left home for what I thought would be another adventure.  And at first it was.  But that enthusiasm has waned a great deal, brought on largely by the fact that I've spent the last two months secluded from the rest of the lot.  A subset of isolated souls within another, if you will.  Now it's just acceptance, realization that I've got another 6 months to go.  I'll have to keep telling myself that there's only 2 more months of this exile and then I'll graduate to the semi-real "world" of the living.  4 months after that and it's the real thing.

Power plant lost an engine today.  The 24V DC control current for the Woodward governor was interrupted after a wire had become chaffed from the constant vibration and shorted to the engine block.  This fault didn't cause any alarms and the engine just died, so I heard from Jimmie.  There were 3 engines on at the time, so the other two picked up the slack and held the bus voltage and frequency constant, so none of the town feeder breakers opened.  Don had planned on going to a two engine operation during the off peak hours in order to conserve fuel and maintenance costs.  I wonder if he will reconsider.

Wednesday, April 3

According to the CIA's factbook, Antarctica covers 14 million square miles.  That's not considering the coastal freeze in winter, at which time it will double.  But it is 14 million square miles of actual land mass, or about 1 and 1/2 times the size of the United States.

That's a pretty staggering thought.  Here is this huge land mass and I haven't ventured no more than 20 miles in any direction, much like people in ancient times who never ventured more than a day's walk from the place that they were born.  But that's the nature of the beast.  My job is in town and not out in the field.  I *could* take a walk or even "borrow" a snowmobile if I wished.  Sure I'd get fired, but it's not like someone would send me home before WinFly this August.  But the risk of getting trapped out in the elements is too great.  There's also the invisible threat of crevasses.  People have taken shortcuts off the flagged routes and fallen into them and died.  And the means of extricating their bodies is best not talked about.  So, I'll just stay in our little enclave and take in the Royal Society Range from 60 miles away.

Another statistic: By my best guess, there's about 1000 people on the continent this winter.

The largest single contingent is us Americans.  230 here in Mactown, 45-50 at the Pole, and another 20 or so on the peninsula at Palmer.  There are another 20 Russians at Vostok and  8 Kiwi's at Scott.  I'll be liberal and say that the other 675 or so working  at the various other stations on the peninsula or the coast representing Poland, Korea, China, Australia, Argentina, the UK, India, Japan and the various other countries that maintain a year round Antarctic presence  A little math tells me that if land were to be divvied up among the denizens of this frozen wasteland, we'd each be entitled to  14,000 square miles each, or an area that could incorporate 4 Connecticuts.  That is a lot of elbow room.

Thursday, April 4

Finished off The Bonfire of the Vanities this morning and started to read Doctor Zhivago.  I only made it 5 pages into it before I put the book down and said "no mas."  I have a long standing phobia of Russian literature.  It goes back to high school when I was supposed to have read "Crime and Punishment" for my AP Literature class.  Even then I only marginally perused it and relied upon Cliffs Notes to fill me in on what was actually happening.  All 3 of the Russian works I've tried to read, the two previously mentioned plus "War and Peace", are too depressing to get through.  They delve too deeply into the human condition and reflect the hopeless condition that is Russian psyche.  It's much worse than the naturalist stuff that I've read because they use suffering as a vehicle to convey nihilistic images.  You can't get ahead in life because there isn't a life to begin with.  At least the writers of naturalist themed literature allowed their granted their characters some happiness.  Ugh.  It's the last thing I need to read for the next 6 months.  Anyway, I took it back to the library before the taint contaminated my soul.

I'm a romantic.  Stories, and lives, should have happy endings.  I spent a few minutes before falling asleep thinking of where I've been and where I wanted to go with my life.  I've struggled at times to do things my way, but they weren't burdens that I wasn't able to eventually get off my back.  They didn't weigh down my heart to the point that living seemed futile.

Nope, I don't care what the critics say.  The works of Tolstoy and company can collect dust as far as I'm concerned.  There's already too much sadness and despair in the world.

Friday, April 5

Network connection went at midnight just as I was beginning to think that I would finish downloading the second half of Red Hat 7.2.  At least I had half of the shift to check my email and chat with my mom, otherwise it would have been much more miserable. According to the IT folks, they think that the problem is related to my network card.  They've requested that I have them take a look at it before I reconnect it to the network.  Although I'm not a qualified LAN manager, I fail to see how it would bring down the entire hub.  But I'll do as they say to stay in their good graces as I need to borrow an old computer to install Linux on.

The burger bar re-opened after a 2 month remodeling project.  To inaugurate the new digs they give the whole town free burgers.  I stopped off on the way to work to grab one and eat it at the plant.  Didn't see why it was shut down for two months for.  I noticed some new linoleum on the floor and that was about it. The impression I'm stuck with is that what ever changes were made didn't warrant doing without the only non-smoking bar in town and two months sans greasy cheeseburgers.  Judging from people's reactions, I suspect that they were thinking the same thing.  

Saturday, April 6

It was darned painful walking to the galley after work this morning.  The thermometer dropped below -20 F overnight and the wind was picking up.  The hairs on my beard felt weird, almost numb.  It as is if each hair had frozen stiff and was about to snap into.  I was happy to reach the warmth of the galley, which is a few minutes walk from the plant.

Since today marks the first full weekend of the month, the people of town had today off.  The normal work schedule for everyone in town is from 7:30 to 5:00 Monday through Saturday. But the winter policy was altered so that they get one full weekend off a month, which is the first one.  But despite the hours, the work demands aren't that tough.  There are some construction and remodeling projects around town, but the pace of work is as I described it when I first arrived.

But too much time off can be a bad thing, as I've found out.  It's good to be stay active for as long as you can, else you find yourself in a rut leading a mundane existence.  

Sunday, April 7

Spent the morning after work finishing up the Linux download.  So as it stands now, I have data that *should* be the operating system.  I say should because I can only be certain that the file sizes are what they are supposed to be.  That's not to say that there's a lot of corrupted data encompassed by those bytes.

Dinner was nothing special but, as always, the desert was top notch.  It wasn't a good week for meals.  The only exception being the burger on Friday.

Someone was screening a copy of "Harry Potter" at the Coffee House so I went to take that in.  It was an obvious bootleg, but a better quality than some I'd seen.  If people keep getting their hands on recent releases, we might not be too far behind on our movie watchin'.

Instead of going back to my room after the movie, as I usually do on my nights off, I wandered around town and found myself  in an office with a network connection.  It's a quite place and on the outskirts of town that would allow me to have a fairly decent internet connection.  It's also private and, most importantly, isn't the same 4 walls that I see day in and day out.  So, I claimed it as my "office" and set up my laptop for a night's "work".  I might keep coming back unless anyone has objections.

Since my stock of computer games has ran low, I thought that I'd investigate the possibility of some of the online role playing games.  I found one that had a downloadable client and a free trial period.  It's a huge download and will probably take me a few days to get it all, but time seems to be one of the things that I have too much of.

Monday, April 8

Monumental goof on my part.  The time went back an hour in the States, not forward like us.  The time changes are opposite between the northern and southern hemispheres. I was reverting back to the 6 hour time shift to catch Ella before she nodded off for the night.  But  now the East Coast is 8 hours ahead (or more accurately, 16 hours behind).  Looks like the afternoon chat sessions with Ella are a thing of the past.  She will have been in bed for 3 hours before I even start to contemplate getting up.

Lots of whining on my part again.  As I read back a few entries the reoccurring themes are monotony and tedium. We have lots of things to do if we so desire.  The NSF has installed a gym, weight room, ceramics lab, and even provided us with a green house.  We also have two bars, a coffee house, access to limited Armed Forces Network TV and radio, a video collection, a library, and computer lab.  Recreation tries to show movies and organized morale boosting events.  In short, there's a lot of activities to get yourself into, provided that you make the time and effort to get out.

But that's the problem.  Most of these activities center around the day shift's schedule.  The only options available to me on a regular basis is the gym.  The bars are open my nights off, but they shut down at either 10 or 11.  There's always AFN, but I'm not a big fan of prime time television.  

I do my fair share of movies.  As a matter of fact, I'm clearing out the backlog of old movies that I had always wanted to see but hadn't gotten around to doing so.  I've visited the library from time to time, but get frustrated by the lack of organization.  All that's really left are computers, something that I've pursued as a hobby for several years.

Although they are a poor substitute for socializing, they are about the only option that is consistently available to me.  And although I like tinkering with computers a great deal, even that gets old.  So, until I get back to day shift in about 2 months, bear with me.

Tuesday, April 9

Finished downloading Anarchy Online, the online game that I mentioned earlier.  It installed without any errors, which surprised me as I had felt certain that the file would have been corrupted due to data being lost in the "ether" between here and the States.  More surprising still is that when I tried to log on to play, it wasn't blocked at the firewall.  There was some noticeable lag, at times approaching 2 seconds, but the game itself seemed ok.  I was at a loss as to what to do initially as I didn't have any instructions, but it seemed simple enough after a while.  Since there is a one week free trial I have plenty of time to decide whether or not to pay up and stick with it.

Anyway, I played for about two hours before I realized how cold my new "office" was and went back to my room.  The game plays well there too, but with a round trip ping time that sometimes approaches 3 seconds.  Normally this higher than normal ping time is bad as it induces what is known as lag, mismatched data between you and the server. The longer it takes for the transmissions to reach the server and return, the more noticeable the lag will be.   This means that if I attack something, it could take 3 seconds before my command gets carried out.   But still, I can play and interact with people from around the world so it's tolerable.

I had to meet with the IT guru at 7 to discuss my laptop's LAN card. Since the interruption to the plant's network connection happens only when I'm on watch, he thinks that it is the culprit.  And it's a larger problem that I had initially though.  My laptop, if it is the cause, is tripping off a 1 Gigabit switch.  Considering that the hub I plug into can only carry 1/100th of that capacity, there is a serious problem somewhere.  He could have been vile and told me to never put it on the LAN again, but said that he understood that we spent a long time down here with nothing to do.  So, he suggested that I roll back a new NIC driver that I downloaded and see if that helps.  I also mentioned that I'd like to try out online role playing games to kill the time and he said that was fine, although he had no control over the firewall settings.  That was determined by the NSF.  If they don't like it, they will block the port and not allow me to connect.  Fair enough, I think.  At least I'm given the opportunity to see how it works out.

I was jarred out of bed by a loud blast at 4:00.  I was aware that there was going to be some ice dynamited away down at the ice pier today, but I didn't think that it would amount to that much.  This was definitely the largest explosion of the year, even bigger than the rock being removed outside the power plant several months ago.  Even though I was 300 yards away, the building shook and the roar was loud enough to wake the dead.  I spoke with a Californian later who though that there was an earthquake.  I really wish that they would rate the magnitude of these blasts beforehand so that those who wanted too could peer out of their rooms and see what's going on.  That would have probably have been worth getting up early to see.  It was one of those exciting events that is out of the ordinary.

BTW, half way day. About six months and one week and I should be on a northbound plane outta here. Yippee!

Wednesday, April 10

Worked, ate, slept, and ate again.  

Pretty uneventful evening.

Thursday, April 11

Slept in so late that I missed dinner.  Of course it didn't help that I was up until after 9:30 giving Anarchy Online a go.

It was American night at the Kiwi bar, so I went over and drank a few Guinesses.  

There's an interesting way of paying the tab over there.  When you order a beer, you let them keep the change and it gets deposited into a tambourine.  When the coffer gets full enough, you can quit paying for each beer and start paying for it from pile.  No one seems to care that they may contribute more than any one else.  I suppose that it all balances out in the end.  Anyway, there's usually money left over that the Kiwi's use to buy their beer for the rest of the week.  I'm positive that they like hosting us every Thursday for this reason alone. 

Friday, April 12

I hate to admit it, but I probably could have done without the XBox.  Aside from the infrequent game of Halo or Madden 2002, it sits unused.  Ella will not be happy with this concession given its expense, but it was a good idea at the time.  And it will still have some worth when I get home.  Perhaps when I can actually see more games I'll find something that I'm interested in.

Anarchy Online is the pick of the moment.  I spent most of the night moving my 'toon around cyberspace.   Were I in the States this would definitely not be be something that I'd become involved with.  But as it stands now a productive activity is a relative term.

The temperature must have warmed to above zero as it was snowing off and on.  It can only snow when it's in 10-15 F range, based upon my amateurish observations.  I have seen ice crystals falling when it's colder.   They aren't snow flakes but something different.  It seems to be precipitation that freezes out of thin air and falls to the ground.  By and large, this is what is found on the continent.  It's not really snow, just a collection of small ice particles that have collected over the milenia.

Saturday, April 13

Time to daydream about traveling again.  

I saw a movie set in Ireland and thought that would be an excellent place to spend some time one of these days.  Not Dublin or County Cork, mind you.  But the west and perhaps some of the small islands off the coast.  I've always wanted to see the wide open spaces with the chill air nipping at my nose.  Wait a minute.  After spending a year here it won't seem so cold.  Maybe I've ruined my romantic vision of the place.

The preceding paragraph brought to you in Stream of Consciousness mode.

It's getting tougher to stay focused with my writing.  I fail to identify anything worth noting anymore as time goes on.  There's never anything new or exciting happening.  So it's hard to develop any content.  It could be a matter of suffering from the "blahs" that I've heard about.  

Research has shown that people who have wintered here succumb to any number of temporary psychological conditions or, as we call it, being "toasted." (there's probably a proper clinical term for it, but that will have to suffice).  Mainly they tend to withdraw into their own little worlds and remove themselves from the community.  It's also been noted that it becomes harder to concentrate and people suffer from memory loss, among other things.  One of the telltale traits that identifies a winter over is the "McMurdo stare".  It's when someone has the ability to stare off in the distance for a substantial length of time and lose themselves in a mish mash of thoughts.  I don't think that I've reached that stage yet, but looking over the previous journal entries I can see some changes (or perhaps, degeneration) in the level of coherency.    

Sunday, April 14

A little research at work yielded some insight into my concentration problem.  "Winter-over Syndrome" is a documented condition that was first studied in the 1960's, according to this web page.  Study participants have reported difficulty in concentrating, trouble sleeping, and most interestingly, boredom.  An article in The Sun mentions that it's brought on by the lack of sunlight.  The thyroid gland ceases to secrete the hormones T3 and T4 which regulate your metabolism, among other things. 

I had anticipated some of these things based upon my patrols on the sub.  Although the longest that I was ever submerged was just 70 days, I'd experienced something similar.  But how the passage of ten years makes you forget things.  It's wasn't possible for me to remember the monotony because my mind had ejected those memories and replaced them with the romantic visions of duty, honor, and country combined with the good 'ol esprit de corps that existed among the crew.  So I'm relearning it now.

The research that I cited above also describes three phases that we winter overs go though.  Initially we are excited about the prospect of being all by ourselves.  Then we reach the doldrums stage, which is where I am now.  Others will reach this point too, I suspect.  It's just that I'm here sooner because I've been working nights and not seen the sun in some time.  Lastly, we'll be territorial when the next crew arrives.  We might feel resentment at the fact that these people are now here in our space.

Perhaps the scariest thing that I read, though, was that it sometimes takes up to 4 years for some peoples'  pre-Antarctic circadian rhythms to get back to normal.  And the readjustment to society isn't always easier, either. 

This is some pretty hard core stuff.  I didn't realize that the job came with all of this "baggage" when I signed up.   It was just a paycheck in another place.  I should edit my "about" page to reflect my new view on things...

Monday, April 15

Uneventful shift followed by breakfast.  Had some good small talk with a few electricians as they were getting ready to go to work.  We contemplated important concepts such as "green" and what exactly it meant.  It's good to know that I'm not the only one having difficulty remembering what exists on the outside.

Had my first dream in a while.  Can't remember what it was.  I just remember having one, which is rare for me now as  I usually don't sleep deep enough to do so.  But I guess that it's worth mentioning. 

Steak for dinner.  There were maybe 6 bites of good meat after I got through trimming it.  But you get what you pay for and all that.  Is cynicism a commonly recorded trait in the participants of Antarctic psychological studies?

Oh yeah, tax deadline.  We owed the IRS for the third consecutive year. :(

Tuesday, April 16

Time to shift gears and think of other things.  I can't let myself dwell on hormone shortages and what not.  Otherwise I'll convince myself that it's ok to be depressed because I know there's an excuse.  It's no different than procrastinating, really.  You can find a reason for not doing anything if you look hard enough.  

Sometimes you just have to get up and force yourself to get on with things, regardless of how tempting it is to take the easy way out.  I think that I've reached that point.

Wednesday, April 17

I had the distinction of operating with only two engines this morning.  Don wanted to go to two engine operation to see how it went, the first time this year. So, shortly before 1AM the power demand was low enough to take one offline and see how the plant responded.  The temperatures of the two online engines rose, as expected, but they didn't rise high enough to be alarmed.  At 5:30 I placed it back online because the town was starting to wake-up and increase the load.

I sent Sherry a short email to see how she was doing and got had a response awaiting me when I awoke.  She's working as a temporary hospital lab technician in Kentucky and will be heading to Rhode Island for another assignment next month.  We'll try to arrange a way for her to stop by and visit my wife on the way north.  Anyway, she's excited about coming back down in August during WinFly. 

I also sent a few other emails out to friends and family just to have some correspondence.  Keeping in touch with people is another way to beat the blahs. 

I borrowed "The Great Gatsby" from the library as I'd never read it (as a matter of fact, there's a lot of "essential reading" books that I haven't gotten around to).  

Thursday, April 18

Had another Thursday night free, so I attended American night at Scott Base and drank a few Guinesses.  I also bought an incredibly warm Russian style hat made from possum fur from a bloke who sells them on the side. 

The Kiwis have no qualms with trying to exterminate the varmints, even to the extent of commercializing their fur as an economic incentive.    The Australian possum was mistakenly introduced into New Zealand's ecosystem over 150 years ago.  Since they have no predators their population has swelled to over 80,000,000 with no end in sight.  They are destroying the environment as well as the habitats of indigenous species.  Acknowledging that there is a serious environmental problem.  the World Wildlife Fund has offered its support for the possum fur trade in an attempt to spur consumers to help eradicate the pest.

 In addition to being cheap, possum fur also shares a distinction with polar bears in that the hair follicles are hollow.  This creates an additional air pocket in which to trap warm air from your body.  It's also quite plush and, I think, looks pretty manly when I pull the sides down over my beard.  All I need now is a team of sled dogs and I'd look right at home in the Yukon...or Antarctica.

I was taking a look through the Scott Base guest book to see if I could find Princess Anne's entry, but didn't have any luck.  I mentioned it to some Kiwis later and they informed me with a bit of tempered anger, I might add, that someone had ripped that page out of the ledger and stole it.  They didn't say it, perhaps out of politeness, but I took it that they suspected some summer over American summer person.  I'd further wager that it was a first year person with no aspirations of returning for another season. I say this because no self-respecting person with any ice time, now or in the future, would never take something that belongs to all denizens of this continent.  

Friday, April 19

After I stewed a bit over the missing guest log page, I took a walk down to Hut Point in the dark.  It was only -15 or so, and the sky was clear.  So it was a nice night to go outside to get some fresh air and away from the lights of McMurdo to really see the southern sky.

I spent about 45 minutes walking around and taking in the vastness of the black above and came back only because my nose was starting to go numb.  Even though it was comparatively "warm" , it was still cold enough to cause some frost bite it one stays outside long enough.  But it was a positive experience.  I'll have to go back when there's a full moon so that I can experience a "moonscape" of this Martian environment.

Although my nose got cold, my ears remained nice and warm. I wore the fur hat to "battle test" it in the cold.  I've always heard that there's no substitute for fur in these extreme environments and now can see why.  For one, it's warm. For another, it's light. Lastly, fur doesn't freeze.  Ice doesn't readily stick to fur as it does to fleece or synthetic garments.  This is why our parkas are trimmed with real coyote fur.  When the moisture from our respiration starts to freeze to the trim, all we have to do is flick it with a finger or pat it with a mittoned palm and the ice droplets fall away.   Whereas with fleece or Gore-Tex, I understand that the ice would form a sheet (like frost on a windshield) that would take much more effort to dispense with.

Of course, I'm not advocating that all animals should be turned into coats (with the exception being New Zealand's possums), just  that there is actually a reason why fur is used in extremely cold locales.  

My first night back on was uneventful.  Jimmie had even done a grocery run so that we had some microwavable food to eat.  He also picked up a couple of gallons of apple juice, which is becoming a staple during the long nights on duty.  Since I can't get up to the galley for something to eat or drink, I have to eat whatever we have on hand in the pantry.  And most nights I go hungry because I'd rather not fix 3 year old deep frozen imitation chicken McNuggets.  So it's good to have even something as simple as burritoes, which I've grown quite fond of in recent weeks.

Saturday, April 20

Ella's and my five year wedding anniversary is today, her time.  I ordered flowers and had them sent, which she received in the afternoon.  I placed the order earlier in the week, but couldn't mention it her because she would have been expecting them...although wives usually expect such things, anyway.

The Kiwi's held the annual "Polar Plunge" this evening, a festivity to mark the final sunset (on the 24th).  All antendees are required to plunge naked (or at least scantily clad) into the Ross Sea through a hole in the ice.  The jumper is secured to a rope and is immediately hauled from the water in case they are too shocked to grasp the ladder that's been pre-positioned.  To keep some semblance of modesty, the men were scheduled to jump from 5 to 7 followed by the ladies from 7 to 7:30.  And as I mentioned, you also allowed to wear some clothing (socks and shorts), but since the shorts could possibly freeze before you make it back to the warm-up hut, they might not be such a good idea.  You also have to share the hut with x number other people anyway, so there'd be no privacy.  As Al put it, you're just as well off doing the whole thing nekkid. But I was to be at work at 6:00, so I had to forego the festivities.  I'm told that there will be a mid-winter jump as well as one to mark the first sunrise, so I should be able to plunge at least once.

Alejandro mentioned that he would like some time on day shift come WinFly so that he could mail stuff home.  So, we agreed that I would go to day shift this time next month, and come WinFly I would go back to night shift for a few weeks and then he would return to night shift until we left.  This would give us both time to pack up and mail our personal items as well as make the time spent working nights equitable.  Since I'm getting toasted, the sooner I get on days the better.  

Internet connection went dead at 8:30...network problems between the plant and the switch.  Probably not my laptop causing it, though, as it was dead when I got to work and the IT folks reset it shortly after I signed in.  Since I wasn't on the network the first time it went belly up, it's starting to look like something else is the culprit.

Anyway, I spent most of the night going through my MP3 collection.  I think that I listened to nearly 70 songs before the shift was over.

Sunday, April 21

After work I read a little of the "Great Gatsby" and went straight to bed.  I slept pretty soundly until 5:30 or and laid awake until 7:00.  Since the burger bar was open tonight, I could skip the galley's dinner and wasn't concerned about missing their hours.

The bar was fairly cold, even by Antarctic standards.  The furnace wasn't working right and people were eating and drinking in their parkas.  I ordered tater tots and double bacon cheeseburger and tried to eat as quickly as I could before they got too cold.   But since I tend to be a slow eater I didn't succeed.  The only thing worse than eating greasy potatoes is eating cold greasy potatoes.  I didn't stay around to socialize because it was a bit uncomfortable.  Besides, most everyone else that came in to eat didn't hang around either. 

Monday, April 22

I noticed that my 34" pants are starting to fit a little tight around the waste.  Part of the problem is that I always wear long johns beneath.  Another, more accurate reason is that I'm putting on weight.

My diet isn't that unusual and I don't eat a lot of fatty foods.  But I drink 5-6 glasses of really sweet juice that probably has about 150 sugar calories or more.  Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle and it's easy to see why almost all of the weight I lost last summer is starting to return.

Got to work on that.  I spent 3 months losing 30 pounds last year and don't want to see my efforts go for naught.  Besides, I only have one pair of pants that now fit...

Tuesday, April 23

Headed over to the gymnasium just after midnight to shoot some baskets.  I hadn't been there since the Halloween party last October and thought that it would be a good place to go and begin working on this blubber that I'm starting to accumulate.  I spent a half hour or so shooting the basketball and fetching my misses.  You know that you're out of practice when your aim is so bad that your shot misses the backboard entirely.  I ended up doing more running after the ball than getting my rebounds off the glass.  But it served its purpose as my heart rate stayed elevated the entire time.

I would like to find an excuse for being such a bad shot and I think that I found it.  According to the thermostat in the gym it was below 40 degrees.  The colder air made the ball flatter and didn't allow it bounce off the backboard as it should.  That'll serve as justification in my book.  No need to over intellectualize it.

It was also league night at the bowling alley.  I was the 4th man and didn't do as well as last time.  But the team's average as a whole was better than it had been.  We're currently in 10th place out of 19 teams.  Ahead of us are the Kiwi's who were ranked dead last after the first week.  They must be getting in some practice or something.  I underestimated the average score needed to win, but not my much.  I predicted that the team that averages 450 pins a game would take the trophy.  It's probably going to be closer to 475 as people's games have improved.  There are also a lot of guys who take it seriously and comprise the team week in and week out, whereas the power and water crew intent shuffles people through as our schedules allow.

Windows Messenger not working for the past few days.  I suspect that the port is blocked again.  I had to call Ella before she went to work to let her know how I've been doing for the past few days.

Wednesday, April 24

The last sunset occurred at midday. I wish that I could convey something poetic about it, but as it occurred during the middle of my night I wasn't inclined to get up to bear witness.  Besides, as far as I'm concerned it set two months ago.  That was about the last time I remember seeing it above the horizon. 

The next sunrise will occur on August 19.  So, we'll have 4 months of relative darkness.  I say relative because the sun, or more accurately a red sky, is still visible below the horizon and will continue to be seen at around noon for another month or so.  I believe that the term is nautical twilight but am too lazy to Google it.

There was little fanfare about it around town.  There was a notice posted on the bulletin board by the galley announcing the time, but that was about it. I reckon that last weekend's polar plunge and associated parties served the purpose of being the "official" winter kick off party.  

Thursday, April 25

With the absence of anything tangible to do here, I've spent a lot of time window shopping for parts for my project Land Cruiser at home.  Getting it back on the road has been a year long project to date, but all of the pieces are coming together and I hope to have it finished come mid-winter.

Anyway, in the wee hours of the morning I checked another thing off the wish list.  I found a great deal on a winch to mount to the bush guard on front.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn't something that I needed right away if at all.  But I've have these reoccurring daydreams about creating this awesome 4x4 that will go anywhere and be equipped with enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous.  Will this vehicle be at home in the urban jungle of southern Connecticut?  Most definitely not.  It'll be much to impractical for that, I fear.  But I think subconsciously what it is important is what it the Land Cruiser symbolizes.  That would be mountains, trees, rivers, and the means to get there.  Oh, it'll make a good work vehicle as well, but that isn't as important as the freedom that it offers me either both now in the planning stage and later in the "get in and just go somewhere" phase after I return.  One has to have their little escapes, and I suppose that it holds even more so for me right now.

Friday, April 26

Had a good chat with my sister before she went to work in the morning, her time.  Also called to check on the status of my winch as I hadn't received a confirmation email from the shipper.  It seems that they aren't buying my story.  Since the bill to and ship to addresses are different, they got suspicious.  And since I don't have a work number that I'm able to give them so that they can verify, they are doubly concerned.

So, I had to  fax a letter to my bank so that they could be comfortable enough to process the order.  I can't say that I blame them.  Would you believe someone if they told you that they were calling from Antarctica?

Saturday, April 27

I was slated to go on an outing tonight after dinner.  Mike Poole had organized a trip out onto the ice where it was hoped that we would have a clear, moonlight sky to take pictures of McMurdo and Mt. Erebus.  By the time dinner time came and I rolled out of bed, though, a storm had blown in causing near white-out conditions canceling the trip.  

Heard another Mcrumor this evening over dinner.  Two guys got into an altercation at Scott Base on Thursday.  I'll withhold the details, of course, but it serves to illustrate that not everything is Utopian amongst us natives.

Finally got Windows Messenger to work again.  Silly me,  I  deleted all my cookies when I gave my hard drive a good cleaning. It wasn't able to connect to Microsoft to verify my identity.  So, it was a simple matter of signing back in and retyping my password. 


Sunday, April 28

Finished reading The Great Gatsby in the wee hours of the morning.  I could follow the story but have a problem understanding what Fitzgerald was trying to get at.  Fitting in? The shallowness of Twenties culture?  Simply a narrative? 

The storm blew out sometime during the night. But not before dumping so much snow that the operator at the plant had to run all the engines in order to generate enough heat to melt the snow from the radiators.  It also took the 3 AFRTS television channels with it.  No satellite TV or radio from the outside.  

The weather warmed up during the day and had it not been out of habit, I wouldn't have donned my parka when I went to the burger bar for my dinner.  The air was noticeably less chilled and I could have felt comfortable walking to the bar in shorts and a t-shirt.   I later found that  the high was 14F.  The difference between 20 below and 14 above felt to me like the difference between 30 and 80 would in the States.  

Monday, April 29

Overheard at breakfast that the reason for the television outage is that the high winds from the weekend's storm had probably blown over an antenna on Black Island, the location of our satellite dishes.  Since Mt. Erebus blocks the direct line of sight to our satellite, all of the satellite gear is located about 30 miles to our southeast on Black Island.  The satellite, phone, internet, and television signals are then beamed directly to us across the Ross Sea.

There is a full time crew of 3-4 people that live and work there during the summer to maintain the generators and communications gear.  Because it's so remote, Black Island is vacated during the winter and the equipment is left running unsupervised.  Every month (or in emergencies) a convoy of tracked vehicles and several personnel make an over-ice traverse to perform any upkeep and to repair gear that's broken. It's a base wide effort as it requires people in a lot of capacities that must support the traverse.

 Even though it's only a direct route of 30 miles, it takes 12 hours to travel each way.  I heard during the summer that Black Island not accessible from the north side and that any traverse must travel around the southern end of the island and approach from the southwest.  During the summer the longer distance is not an issue as all traveling is done by helicopter. 

Anyway, there's no immediate plans to go out and fix the antenna problem so there'll be no television for a while.  Not that it's a big deal to me.  I can probably count the number of hours that I've watched TV in the past 7 months on one hand.  

A couple of streetlights are on the island and one can see them even from this distance.   They are a good indication of what the weather will be, for if they aren't visible then it means that something is blowing up from the south.  

Tuesday, April 30

Snow rode on the warm winds.  Not enough of it to bury us, but enough to make a paranoid operator like me make hourly trips outside to keep the radiators from accumulating snow.  

There's probably enough to also clog up the engine compartments of trucks.  An email was circulated from the vehicle maintenance folks informing us to make sure that we open the hood and check for snow build up before starting a vehicle.  It seems that they had several trucks snap fan belts because the engine compartment was full of snow.  It's sounds a tad odd, I know, but once you see the way the wind forces snow into the most seemingly impenetrable recesses you'll become a believer.

And speaking of wind, another email said that the winds exceeded 110 mph on Black Island over the weekend.  There is also a traverse being planned for this coming Monday.  Not only will they try to re-erect the TV antenna (assuming that it hasn't been blown half way to New Zealand by now), they are also fearful that other things may have gotten damaged as well. 



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