Thursday, August 1
Another month has begun since I left CT.
Bumped into Mike Poole recently and he told me of a night time panorama that he'd taken, so with his permission I've posted one of them here . Unarguably the best that I've seen this season.
He has the right equipment, but most importantly the knowledge and the perseverance to get out and take them.
Fairly normal day for both me and the town.
The evening brought a trivia game at Scott Base. My team was in a 4 way tie going into the last round but lost ground after a series of misleading (trick questions with obvious answers).
Also finally got around to looking at the final results for the bowling league. We lost a lot of ground because the last week was our "bye" and finished 12th of 19 teams, down from 7th or 8th. The Kiwis from Scott Base beat us 3 pins, and there were only like 100 pins or so separating several teams higher up the rankings.
Friday, August 2
Spotted some auroras this morning, but nothing bright enough to photograph with only a 3 second exposure, the max that my camera will allow. At this point, though, I think that I'm more concerned about other solar activities. Particularly those that occur in what is known as "daylight" hours in other parts of the world. At midday, we are experiencing something that resembles dusk or dawn for several hours each day. The sun has yet to peek above the horizon. We can expect to see the duration and intensity of the light to increase until the 19th when the sun rises for the first time. The "day" is supposed to last about 90 minutes.
Saturday, August 3
Pretty tired today. Even though I slept pretty soundly last night, I was dragging most of the day. Managed to get through a conversation in Polish, though. Called my mother-in-law to see how things are going. Dunno if it was my limited Polish or her fears of an astronomically expensive phone bill, but she wanted to hang up after just a few minutes. Given her frugality, I'm leaning toward the latter.
Too tired to go out tonight and celebrate the last two day weekend with the rest of town.
Sunday, August 4
The day started out on the wrong foot. For starters, the cold "stuck" to me on the way to the plant. After being oblivious to it all winter it finally annoyed me. I was beginning to worry that the place and finally gotten to me. Only after I was on watch for a while did I realize that it *was* cold, even by our standards.
The thermometer showed the air temperature to fluctuate to -45F at times. To make it worse, "fog" descended upon us bringing an increase in the humidity. While -30 in dry, calm conditions is somewhat bearable, a damp -40 isn't. Don even commented on it being cold later. So it wasn't just me.
It was also another lonely and boring shift at the power plant. Two guys from the fire department dropped by for a few minutes to inspect the fire extinguishers. Don also dropped by early to check his email. Other than that is a phone call to Ella served as the only social interaction for the entire shift.
Sometimes it's good to be alone, though...something I learned to appreciate while working nights. There's lots of quality time to think about things. And for some reason, it's also possible to get more absorbed by whatever menial task that you find yourself caught up in. For example, I would have never thought that I could spend hours playing a game as simple as "Minesweeper" for hours on end to the extent that I'd almost forget about making my hourly rounds.
Having the day to myself also gave me a few minutes to appreciate the few hours of quasi light that we are currently experiencing. For the first time, Mt. Discovery was unobscurred and viewable for about an hour or so at midday. The Royal Society Mountains were also glistening in the first rays of near summer. There are actually other colors in the world other than various shades of black.
The shot of "light" must have been all that I needed to get out of the rut that I was in earlier in the day.
At the end of the day when I was contemplating life, the universe, and everything over a burger and beer, it occurred to me that I haven't given much thought to the positives aspects of being here.
Most of the time, I maintain an even strain. Things are neither overly good or overly bad. They just are. Marking time until the 15th of October is all that matters. Occasionally, though, trivial things get to me and my journal may reflect it. But I can't recall the last time that I had a positive entry to write (receiving the XBox, maybe?).
Anyway, my random thoughts meandered to the point where I asked myself what good memories and experiences would I take from my time on the ice.
For starters I'll have to say that I'll miss a lot of people. Although I seldom talk about others (I'd rather not get anyone else, specifically a co-worker, caught up in my drama without their permission), we're really one large family. A bit dysfunctional, yes, but the closest to family that you'll have 10,000 miles from home. I've met and worked with some incredible people, the sort who don't accept prefabricated life as given try to break out of the 9-5 mold. Perhaps considered a bit Bohemian by society, they find a home in the USAP.
For better or worse, the world affairs are beyond our concern. I don't recall the last time anyone had a political discussion. Possible war in Iraq? Perhaps 30 second distraction at dinner. None of it seems to matter. And even though I religiously read the major news sites several times each day, I feel fairly insulated from whatever happens unless it's something that I have experience with (the coal miner rescue, for instance). As an escape from an insane world, we have a literal getaway.
Along the same lines, I kind of enjoy the minimalist lifestyle. A laptop and good conversation are more than enough to keep me occupied. And work coveralls, two pair of jeans, and a few t-shirts have been my entire wardrobe for the past year. Doing without the stuff I have at home, I now know that I can survive without it. Besides, with extra possessions come extra headaches and expenses. I'm already making plans to pare down the number of possessions that I have when I return home.
You get money for nothing and checks for free. Well, not exactly along those lines, but something like it.
My job affords me a lot of time off. Although I work a lot of hours, they come in 12 hour cycles. I meet my weekly time over the course of 3-4 days as opposed to everyone else's 5-6.
Finally, the social climate (if I could call it that) borders on anarchy. Meaning, the social, legal, and "political" environment is pretty much unregulated. The only commandment, if there is one, is not to be an asshole. We humans are incredibly social creatures. The desire to fit in and be accepted modifies or restricts our behavior in many strange, and often subconscious ways.
Each society has norms. Step outside them and your lionized and made an outcast. Ours is no different. Peer pressure and intangible social constructs keep us in harmony. But in the event that someone steps too far out of bounds, then the laissez faire attitude disappears, management asserts itself, and you'll be shown the first plane in August. But by and large, we're treated like adults. And it works as long as everyone is remembers to act like one.
Anyway, enough of that for one evening. I'll try to revisit this last point some time in the future after I give it more consideration.
At least I made an honest attempt to find *some* good in all this.
Monday, August 5
My good mood survived through the night and carried over into the morning.
I even made the attempt to be at the remodeling project by 8:00. No one was there and I returned to bed until 10:00, but at least I tired.
Showed up after morning break and commenced bending and installing more conduit (almost 100 ft today...a personal best). Also, Dave the electronics tech offered me a ride to Pegasus on the 19th. The word was passed that only vehicles with official business can be out there. It seems that on calm days, vehicle exhaust can accumulate and might obscure the runway, so they are minimizing the number of trucks out there for a while. Anyway, it looks like I might get to see the first plane land provided that the weather and mechanical conditions allow.
Tuesday, August 6
Thai night at the galley. Not too bad, but not genuine Thai food either. But the spices were just right though, so I must give them positive marks for the effort.
Watched "Before Sunrise", an independently produced romantic comedy, and felt pretty lonely afterwards.
Been on the ice nearly 10 months without seeing my wife.
Wednesday, August 7
I learned today that we had a stroke of luck at the plant on Sunday.
An engine decided to give up the ghost on Alejandro's watch. Several hours after he relieved me #6 began making a series of banging noises shortly after he took another one offline and began two engine operations. Apparently the stresses of assuming 200-300 KW was too much and something gave inside the engine. Since the other engine was still running, it was a quick matter of synchronizing the buses and shutting the breaker. So, a blackout was averted.
The biggest piece of luck, though, was that this engine was coming down for it's 20,000 hour PM the next day. Thus, there was no serious interruption in our maintenance schedule. It was to be rebuilt anyway. Funny how the engine decided to die mere hours away for being replaced. It's almost as if Carterpillar knew down to the minute how long their engines would last.
Jimmie and a helper from the heavy shop got around to removing the heads today. When they removed the last cylinder head, the damage from Sunday's mishap was obvious. The entire piston looked like a wad of crumpled aluminum foil (the round "button" is a normal part of the piston, not an embedded valve...although that probably wouldn't have been but a few minutes away). Apparently the head lost a valve seat when the extra load was assumed. Even though Alejandro was quick to get another engine online and this one secured, the damage was already done. Once your hear sledgehammer sounds from an engine this size it's simply too late to save it. For comparison purposes, a "normal" piston at 20,000 hours looks like this (to give you an idea for scale, the cylinder bore is about 7 inches across).
Other mechanical failures in the news...
The monthly Black Island traverse suffered a breakdown 3/4s of the way there.
The traverse team was 8 miles away from there when one of the trucks lost a track (think pick-up truck with a set of 4 tracks instead of tires). Judging from the voices on the CB, things were a bit hairy for a while. Not only were they in a bit of a bind, but weather condition 2 set was set in town, meaning that it had to be much worse on the ice. Management decided that it would be best if they continued on in their other vehicle and spend the night at Black Island (which has eating and sleeping facilities). A team from McMurdo will travel out there tomorrow (breakdown GPS coordinates known) and attempt to repair it. If they are unable to, they will sledge it the 25 miles or so across the Ross Sea and back to town.
These vehicles were just brought down on the ship before station close, for what it's worth.
Also found out about the cargo schedule for WinFly. Mail and freshies will be brought down on the 5th flight, on or about the 25th. There is over 12,000 pounds of each slated to come down. If you do the math, that is almost 60 pounds of mail for each winter over. Incredible. So much so that I'm questioning what constitutes "mail."
Thursday, August 8
Followed the traverse conversations on CB, and everything went well. The truck is running and all hands returned safely to station. Although once, shortly after repairs were made, one of the drivers was extremely cold. The chattering in his voice wasn't masked by the static of the radio. Even though it was only minus 30 in town, it was probably 20 degrees colder on the ice. There was probably some significant wind chill as well, despite it being calm in town.
We are starting to experience some management-employee tension that we saw shortly before station close. Then, it seemed as if there was an effort to purge the town of anyone with whom they didn't want to have winter. This time, it's as if they are trying to break the town of the bad work habits that we acquired over the winter so as not to negatively influence the new arrivals. For instance, the 15 minute break policy is now strictly enforced. I think that we realize that we have being stretching those breaks beyond 20 minutes, and that it was a gradual process that happened over the winter. I also think that we intrinsically feel that they're right. But it doesn't temper the resentment.
There's also some squabbles exploding between some managers and their workers. It seems to me that people have tolerated each other for the past few months because they had to. And now that some people are short, they're finally letting their thoughts be known.
Writing about our little Utopia earlier has come back to haunt me. I may have to rethink some things.
Friday, August 9
Mcrumors. It seems as if there's more every day. Although there seems to be a lot of evidence to support some of them. I'll not entertain them here, though. However, it's getting difficult to keep my life and story separate from those of others.
Moving day is coming up. I'll probably begin moving stuff tomorrow and then finish up on Sunday. Then I'm given the option of helping out my new electrician buddies on Sunday, their normal day off. It seems that someone's planning mistake has become the working crew's emergency.
In other news, recently got word that the scientific community is agnostic on the whole anthrax affair. It seems that they are unable to culture any of the supposed spores, according to this article. Accordingly, the huts have been reopened to New Zealand personnel. Like it matters this time of year...
Saturday, August 10
It had to happen sooner or later. While walking to a get together at the heavy shop my nose fell victim to frost nip/mild frostbite.
The record low, according to the official weather report was -47F with a wind chill of -109F, thus making it one of the coldest days of the year. I'd made several trips outside hauling my belongings to a truck that I'd borrowed for my room move, so I knew it was cold. Damn cold.
Yet, when I walked up to the heavy shop later in the evening I was still a bit cavalier in my dress or, more accurately, under dress as I didn't bother to completely zip my parka hood. It takes about 2 minutes to walk from my dorm room to the heavy shop, which is usually not a long time to be outside. However, I was walking directly into the wind and had a face full of Katabatic every step of the way.
About a minute into my trip my nose started to tingle, as if there were butterflies fluttering. By the time I walked into the heavy shop it was numb.
A minute or two after I walked through the door and started warming up it began to hurt, like being stung by a few bees. That sensation lasted for a few minutes and then the pain dissipated to the point where it was felt like it was merely sunburned. Fortunately, by the time I went to bed at midnight (in my new room) everything felt normal.
I got off lucky. Had I been outside for a while longer it might not have turned out that way. As it was, I didn't bother seeing the doc. With frost nip, only the outermost layers of body tissue is harmed making it similar in many ways to sunburn. Had my nose hurt for longer I might have been concerned enough to drop by for a visit.
Surprisingly, frostbite isn't a serious issue here primarily because the people who work outside dress appropriately. But since I work indoors and was caught off guard by the sudden cold snap, I wasn't as prepared.
I've gained a new measure of respect for this icebox I call home.
Sunday, August 11
Nose feeling better today, except for when I ventured outside to lunch. Then, it tingled for a bit but nothing serious.
Didn't do a whole lot today except finish moving and cleaning out my old room for inspection. Just like the military, I'm expected to turn over a spotless room that will be looked at in the next few days by someone in housing. If something's unsatisfactory, I can be held liable for $350. But the room is cleaner now than when I moved into it, so I'm wondering how much effort goes into the inspections.
My new roommate, Mike the heavy shop mechanic, moved in early in the morning and was all set up by the time I got back later in the afternoon. I'd talked to him a lot over the course of the year, and he seems like a decent fellow. But I think that regardless of who I was paired with, I'd resent having to share my space. It's nothing personal, but it's tough having a room to one's self and being forced to relocate to a much smaller room and then to share that space.
Dined at the five star burger bar and spoke with the doc, who happened to be dining out as well. Nothing much that he could do now that it was feeling better and told me that frost nip, and even moderate amounts of frostbite, tends to clear up on its own. One thing to be concerned about, though, is that the affected area is now much more susceptible to being frostbitten again.
Still cold. So much so that it was a matter of taking a few breaths and getting "psyched" in order for me to dash between buildings.
Monday, August 12
First day back in the power plant rotation. All moved into my new room and counting down the days until next Monday.
Final preparations are being made around the station. The people haulers are being brought to life and tuned up, all the buildings that need to opened up have been, and the info channels on the cable network are showing the plane schedules just like they did last summer.
Now it's a matter of seeing if the weather will cooperate.
Tuesday, August 13
Must give kudos to my wife for mastering some new skills today.
She received a CD that ordered and managed to not only encode an MP3, but install necessary software and upload it to my web site so that I could a copy. She'd never done any of these things before. Since it is a CD that I purchased, I don't have any qualms with changing the format of a few songs so that I can get to listen to them. And as I respect the musician's right to make money from their efforts, I'm not going to share it with others.
Closer to home, it seems that two of our residents had a bit of an altercation. One of them is going home earlier than they'd hoped, and minus their bonus. Dunno either party personally, and have only heard the details second or third hand. But with the end of the season comes a release of tensions that have been building all season, so it doesn't surprise me.
The dorm that I moved into feels as though the furnace has finally started working. The first 3 nights were almost cold enough to warrant sleeping in ECW. I even joked with my neighbors that setting up Scott tents outside would be a warmer alternative.
Of course, it may be warmer inside because the temperature outside rose to -20 F.
A much needed heat wave .
Wednesday, August 14
Last day on my power plant rotation.
Dusted off the XBox and took it to the lounge after work and spent until midnight playing with a bunch of short timers (i.e. leaving next week) playing a few games.
Looking forward to getting mail in a few weeks so that I'll have a new game, and thus something different, to do.
Thursday, August 15
Some days, I look at the way the program is managed and don't like what I see.
Today is one of those days.
Calmed down over a few beers at the Tatty Flag and watched the antics of fellow regulars celebrating the last Thursday at Scott Base before the arrival of the next crew.
Friday, August 16
Recovered from last night by sleeping in. Later went to the plant to help Jimmie with an oil change.
Since he's leaving before his replacement arrives, someone needs to instruct the new guy on how things are done. That responsibility fell to me.
Too tired to do anything afterwards so I came back to my dorm and played with the XBox some more.
Around town: the roster for who's leaving on Monday has recently been posted on the bulletin board and has become the center of attention. When I first noticed everyone a crowd of people were huddled around to look it over. I also noticed some of the same people returning later to look it over once more almost as if they are making sure that it's true.
According to the flight schedule, a C-141 arrived in Chch yesterday with the C-17 expected tomorrow.
Saturday, August 17
Another uneventful day at the plant. No alarms, no unexpected power surges, and nothing to do, except spending a little more time than usual wiping up grease and grime in anticipation for VIPs swinging through later in the week.
There was a dinner party after work to mark the end of the season. Some of the better steak of the season was served as well as lobster tails.
Dave the ET informed me that he would be unable to give me a lift to the runway on Monday. There seems to be a crackdown in effect as to the number of people who will authorized to be there. So, I may have to forego the trip out, as much as I'd hate to.
The internet and phones were down later in the evening. So, I couldn't update the site.
Sunday, August 18
It's a strange enough concept to be in one world one day, and in another the next. The people in Chch are getting ready to come down tomorrow. I wonder if some of them are as apprehensive to be here as I am having them here?
I'm not for sure how I'll respond to seeing 80 new faces. I'm sure that the galley will be more crowded and that my "space" will become a little more confined.
Since the internet was down almost my entire shift, I had plenty of time to ponder this and other things.
Pretty boring shift.
There was a farewell party for some of the people leaving on tomorrow's plane (dubbed "Con Air" by some of the people who were dismissed and forced to leave).
Had about a half dozen beers in honor of the arrival of the sunrise. Also tried to stay up late in preparation for my return to nightshift on Thursday. Only managed to bring in the new week before I had to yield to the sandman.
Monday, August 19
Pretty touch and go morning as far as my stomach was concerned. I'm not a heavy drinker and even just 1/2 dozen beers spread out over an evening is enough to make me fairly queasy the morning after. Anyway, a few cautious sips of water had me feeling better enough to sleep until 10:00.
It occurred to me that I needed to get out of bed if I wanted to catch a ride to the runway and watch the plane land. However, one look across the sea ice told me that it the flight would be scrubbed. It was overcast and windy, plus blowing snow reduced visibility to near zero at times. So, I didn't hold out hope that it was going to be the day that winter officially ended and made no efforts to hitch a ride.
After lunch I went back to my room and chatted with Ella for a few minutes. Sometime after two I heard what I thought were jet engines. Just to make sure that it wasn't the wind I quickly ran outside to confirm my suspicions. Although it was exciting to hear the sound of a plane after 6 months, I simply thought that it had given up on landing and was simply making a pass over the town on it's way back north. C-17s have a fairly long range and can make the trip down and back and still have fuel to loiter in these types of situations. So, it seemed plausible.
A half hour later or so I was playing pool in the lounge and heard someone opening a door across the hall. Since I was probably the only person who lived in the building who wasn't at work, I thought that it was a one of the guys scheduled to leave today returning to their room. So, I walked out the hall to see what was up.
I managed a "tough luck" or something similarly stupid when I noticed that the person I was addressing was in crisp, clean ECW and had a tan. His face didn't look familiar either.
After a stunned silence I introduced myself to yet another Dave, who arrived on the plane at midday, exactly on time without regard to wind or what seemed to me like zero visibility. What I'd heard, I found out later, was the plane taking off some 5 miles away and not passing overhead. They actually landed the damn thing.
Apparently there was enough visibility for the pilot to put the plane on the ice (photos by Jimmie Dean). I don't think I can recall a plane landing in this type of weather before. It was worse than the day I landed last October when the wind caused the C-141 to slide across the runway.
According to people on the scene, the visibility was bad enough to warrant the operations department head to race after the C-17 in his truck with lights flashing so that he could lead it back to the staging area. It was feared that the plane might lose it's way and venture off the runway into the snow.
To make a long story short the plane landed when I thought for sure that it would boomerang. The end result is that McMurdo has now taken on about 80 new faces while losing close to 25 old ones.
The situation at the galley at dinner was hectic, and for me, a bit uncomfortable. Although I sensed some excitement about there being something new and different, I also felt a bit ill at ease. For the second time in just over a week my personal "envelope" shrank.
I think that the reason that I feel so cold to the idea of new people is the zeal and vitality that they bring to the ice. They are excited and happy to return for another season. I'm jaded and just want to go home. They are eager to get to work and I'm too apathetic to get up in the morning, let alone anxious to go to work. It's a surreal experience. I wish that I knew better how to relate it.
Sometime in the early evening the night time operator on the other rotation succumbed to dehydration. While outside, she fainted for what she thought was just a minute. But the evidence later pointed to her being unconscious for some time. Thankfully, she came to on her own and made her way to medical.
Since she was unable to report to work, I was called in to assume the second half of the watch. The day shift operator had stayed on until midnight so that I could get some sleep and prepare. I tried to grab a few hours of sleep but couldn't manage more than a few minutes.
Went in to work just before midnight.
Today's pluses: lots of excitement, whether welcomed or not.
Today's negatives: bad weather concealed the first sunrise of the season.
Note: since I'm now working the night shift my entries will begin at midnight in order to be consistent with the calendar day.
Tuesday, August 20
The shift was long and I had a lot of problems staying awake. Since I had slept the previous night in lieu of staying up to facilitate the transition to nights, it was tough remaining bright eyed and bushy tailed in the wee hours of the morning.
Somehow managed to get through the shift and was finally get a few hours sleep.
When I woke up I called to see if I was needed tonight as well and also checked on the condition of the other operator, who is fine after a few bottles of intravenous fluid, which is a relief.
My old roommate from last year, John, made it on the plane yesterday and we met in the smoking bar, Southern Exposure, and caught up. Also talked to Jimmie and we said our goodbyes as he's leaving tomorrow.
Spent the rest of the night in the galley catching up on my journal entries.
Great god how much more do I have to write? I should have given up on this journal long ago by putting a stake through it and be done with it.
Wednesday, August 21
Another plane landed today, a 141. However, it suffered a weather related mechanical failures that caused the flaps to freeze in the deployed position. Since this creates more drag on an airplane, it requires more fuel to fly. It will also be unable to fly as fast as it normally would. This, and the desire to avoid any additional risk taking, meant that the people and cargo scheduled to depart today didn't make it off the ice...much to the dismay of an annoyed Jimmie Dean.
The new power plant operator arrived today to replace Alejandro, who was initially scheduled to leave on Sunday. But with the mechanical problems, who knows how far that date will be pushed back.
Bumped into Sherry in the afternoon and helped her settle into her room. She's glad to be back and feels right at home. As my apathetic self feels awkward when I'm around these new, enthusiastic people, I found my way back to my room and watched a movie until dinner time.
Played pool and watched TV until midnight at which time I went to a recently open dorm across town that had open network connections.
Thursday, August 22
Shortly after midnight a severe storm blew in.
The winds were powerful enough to rattle the two story building that I was in to the extent that it felt like a mild earthquake. It was a steady 40-50 knot wind with gusts peaking well above that. Later in the day I would learn that the highest gust was clocked at 100 mph.
Anyway, condition 1 was nearly set. Even though I was officially allowed to walk around town and back to my room, I opted to wait it out until the visibility improved. Of course it ended up being near time for breakfast before it I finally got tired of waiting and ventured outside.
Aside from not being able to see no more than 15 feet, the thing that struck me most was how mild the temperature was. Even though the winds were punishing me by pushing me in ten directions at once, it wasn't *that* cold. Early in the day it was rather cold. The sudden increase in temperature usually brings with it extreme winds and lots of snow.
After my ordeal outside, I got to enjoy fresh ham and served by equally fresh faces at breakfast. It seems that the galley staff has doubled in the past few days (note to my gambling alter ego: find out the odds of these poor souls making it until mainbody). Anyway, it was probably the best ham that I have ever eaten. Lean, juicy, and slightly sweet. It was missing that "been in frozen storage for 6 years" taste that I've become so accustomed to over the winter.
I grabbed a few hours of sleep and picked up some mail that arrived earlier in the week. My Roman coins made it as well as a box of Mars bars that Ella sent on January 15. I couldn't help but quip to the post office lady that it was sent well over a month before station close but yet it didn't back it down on one of the final planes. It wasn't her fault, I know, but those would have served me well 2-3 months ago. Now I'll just have to eat the whole box over the next month. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't be upset after all...
The wind and snow picked up in the afternoon and I made barely made it to work without being blown to the ground. But despite the gale, the air temperature was still surprisingly warm: a few degrees above zero. I was thoroughly delighted to be greeted by the comparatively warm air against my face. I don't recall it being this warm in ages and it seemed as foreign as the navel orange that I'd had earlier. My happiness was perhaps a bit offset by my smugness, however. I found it funny to watch the new arrivals bundled up in their entire set of ECW to just to walk to the galley. I even I saw some of the wearing their goggles. I suppose it's sort of like the same irrational satisfaction Floridian's get by seeing sun burnt Yankees.
Work was hectic throughout the early evening. We had all of the engines running in order to prevent the radiators from freezing up on us. Also had a lot of snow to shovel, even inside the building. With wind like this, snow will find a way through even the smallest of cracks and will accumulate in large drifts in the most peculiar places.
Finally, I made a few extra bucks today. I've started selling off some of the things that I don't want to take back home with me. Computer stuff, mostly. Anyway, the good dentist took my printer off my hands for me. I should be set for beer and burger bar money for the rest of the season.
Friday, August 23
The snow storm died down by 4:00 and I was finally able to catch my breath and get some rest just in time to get relieved at 6:00. It was a pretty tough shift as I was shoveling snow for much of the night.
Got some sleep during the day and went back to work in the evening.
No planes landed due to poor visibility.
Saturday, August 24
Alejandro's last day today. His replacement Tammy, who worked at the water plant last summer is in training to take over and will probably stand her first watch early next week.
No plane again today. From what I heard, the C-17 circled around but couldn't land due to visibility. However, shortly after it departed the skies cleared up. They'll try again tomorrow.
Pretty boring watch. To entertain myself I toyed with the idea of pursuing a graduate or professional degree sometime in the next few years. Since I'm a Gulf War era veteran, the state of Connecticut would grant me a tuition waiver to attend any public school in CT. Unfortunately, the local UConn campus doesn't offer anything that I'd be interested in and the next closest public college is about an hour's drive from where I live.
All that free $ waiting for me to use but no place to spend it.
Sunday, August 25
Plane didn't land again today. Scuttlebutt was that we had a problem with both the TACAN and the runway lights.
I've also heard that the per diem cost for a C-17 is about $40,000 regardless of whether it's flying or not. These technical and weather delays are really eating into someone's budget.
So, I had a burger with Jimmie in the evening. He hasn't had much to do in almost a week except sit around twiddling his thumbs. Alejandro is likewise waiting for the plane to come in to whisk him away to greener pastures.
New movies arrived!!! Caught "Black Hawk Down" in the Coffeehouse after dinner. Also noticed that "Spy Games" was playing on the local cable system, but didn't have time to watch it. Although both movies came out last Fall in the US, they are new to any of us who came down last October.
Looks like a week filled with quality time in front of the TV to catch up on my popular culture.
Monday, August 26
The C-17 finally made it in today around noon. The roar of the take-off woke me up. Or at least I think that it did. It's so easy to confuse the sound of heavy equipment on the dirt road outside with jet engines. It's a better story, though, if I say that the jet woke me up.
Rumor has it, and it's only well placed speculation, that a pallet of mail was left on the plane and flown back to Chch. The cargo crew simply forgot it to remove it. Reserving judgment until I learn more.
Too annoyed to write more...so much for remaining neutral.
Tuesday, August 27
Tammy, the new operator, stood watch by herself today and did quite well. But since she worked in the water plant last summer, she pretty much already had a handle on things.
No plane, no mail.
Time to start counting down. Less that 50 days to go.
Wednesday, August 28
Surprise for dinner.
I stopped by the galley for my daily helping of gruel and was given a paper bag and shown the way to the walk-in refrigerator instead. Inside was boxes and boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables. It seems that all of the winter-overs were afforded the chance to help themselves to a bagful of whatever they wanted.
I left with a quart of huge ripe, sweet Australian strawberries, grapes, a navel orange, and the best apple that I've ever tasted in my life.
It looks like our population has grown by another hundred or so as a C-141 landed today. Sleeping during the day and working nights virtually ensures that I'm the last to know something. It's pretty obvious when a plane makes it in as there are lots of shiny new parkas walking around town. At least there's one thing I can be learn about.
One of the recent arrivals is the new power plant mechanic. He's a veteran power plant mechanic and hails from Alaska. So, he feels right at home. He's also a decent fellow with whom I look forward to speaking with over the next few months.
I'd been letting the Roman coins soak a for a week and finally got around to cleaning them off a bit. Most of them are junk, but I could semi-accurately attribute one of them. It was minted around 350 AD under the rule of Constantius II. Unfortunately, the reverse markings are so pitted and worn that it's difficult to determine in which part of the empire it was struck. There is a close approximation here, but my bronze copy is in much, much rougher shape.
In any event, "you've come a long way baby."
No follow up on the pallet of mail. Probably just another rumor and I bought into it.
Thursday, August 29
Headed over to the Tatty Flag in the evening and found it to be quite crowded. It hasn't been that hopping since last summer. Even the Kiwis were mostly new as they've doubled in size since last week.
New bartender working as well. The fiddy fiddys were like 80/20s, but a couple of us winter overs straightened him out.
Caught Daryl Hannah in "Clan of the Cave Bear" a little later. Had never seen it before so I checked it out from the store after dinner.
Friday, August 30
Condition 1 was set while I was sleeping today. The wind chill dropped below minus 100 F at midday and the powers that be sent everyone home early. Which is convenient given that it's the Labor Day weekend back home (something that we don't observe here).
Anyway, I walked up to the mail room to pick up a game that I'd ordered months ago and ignorantly walked around town despite the fact that I supposed to stay put. Visibility was limited at times but not quite white out conditions and it felt a little cold, but nothing that I hadn't been through before. So, how was I supposed to know? .
It was only after I arrived at the mail room and noticed no one around that I called the plant to see what was up. The good news was that Don had picked the package up for me. The bad news was that I'd have to walk across town to pick it up.
So, I jogged down to the plant wearing only jeans, tennis shoes, and my red parka. I wasn't going to bother stopping by my room to get into something better suited for the weather.
I suffered some numb toes but other than that the was no harm done.
Nothing stands in the way of me and a new XBox game.
Saturday, August 31
Early morning filled with playing with the XBox and chatting with Ella about getting her plane tickets to New Zealand. It seems that the price of her trip has risen more than $300 in just a couple of days. Should have bought them sooner.
Had double portions of egg this morning for breakfast. By Jove I do think they are fresh. Also noticed that I'm starting to eat a lot more than I did during the winter. New cooks, fresher food, and different recipes might have something to do with that, I think.
Another month on the ice behind me.
45 days to go.
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