March 2002

Friday, March 1

Missed Ella this afternoon.  I logged in for a few minutes at about 3:00 but she wasn't there.  She must have fallen asleep early.  But we had spoken on the phone earlier in the morning, so all is well.

A co-worker has been trying to download movies from various peer to peer file sharing networks.  Although I'm willing to concede that this of questionable ethics and dubious legality, I'm wouldn't be above doing it myself.  But seeing as how some of these movies approach 500 MB and our fastest download speeds don't break 2 KB/sec, it will take upwards of 2 days of uninterrupted downloading to get a copy of anything worth seeing. And even if they managed to pull it off I can't help but wonder if the quality would be worth the effort.  I suspect that what we'd have would be a copy that someone made by taking their Sony Handicam into the theater and recording the movie as it played on the screen.  

And speaking of movies...The store will be closed most of the weekend and Monday, so I checked out a few more video cassettes.  Hopefully the library will have convenient hours and I can finally get to the library and see what they have to offer.  1984 stirred a spark.

On the home front:  finally found an engine builder for my Land Cruiser.  He's a pro that I had great difficulty in tracking down.  And although I will probably exceed my budget I'll probably end up with better quality work.  Now if I can only learn how the tax situation stands I can start mapping a timeframe for getting this little project underway.

Saturday, March 2

Set my alarm clock for 3:00 and had just enough time to spare to get dressed and make it to the jump off point for the excursion that Jimmie and I had signed up for earlier in the week.

It's unusual that there to be a morale trip during the winter due to the lack of workers in the recreation department.  But Mike Poole, who runs his own Antarctic website, volunteered to lead a few trips out to the Pegasus runway to see the wreckage of a US Navy plane that crash landed there over 30 years ago on October 8, 1970.  

The Pegasus, for which the runway was named, was a C-121 Constellation (affectionately known as the "Super Connie") cargo plane carrying over 60 passengers and supplies to Mactown to start the summer season.  It had passed the point of safe return when white out conditions set-in on the ground at McMurdo.  Since it did not have enough fuel to return to New Zealand, the pilot (or perhaps more accurately aviator as the Navy doesn't have "pilots") could only orbit and hope that the weather improved.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate and the pilot had to land the plane before he ran out of fuel.  From what I learned the touchdown was successful, but the plane was far off the runway and collided with a snow bank causing it to break apart.  Miraculously, no one was serious injured. 

The Navy cannibalized what parts they could but left the fuselage in place for the ice to claim.  Today, most of what remains is covered in ice, with only the top of the fuselage and the remaining rudder above the surface.  And although I wanted to climb into it,  the Pegasus was packed with ice making that an impossibility. 

Not only was it the first time that I had been out of town in over a month, but it was a nice day to be outside. It wasn't overly sunny, there was very little wind, and the air temperature was fairly warm (upper teens?).  I didn't mind that we didn't get back until nearly 7:00, making us rush to get to dinner.  Since there won't be many more days, if any, like it I probably could have stayed out longer.

Sunday, March 3

It's getting progressively darker every day now.  

I walked over to the galley for some ice cream  just after midnight and found it dim enough to cause the street lights to come on.  One can still read if they strain but with the sun is staying down for 15-20 minutes longer each passing day,  I expect it to stay set for 6 hours or more by next week and will probably be dark enough during the mid point to be totally black.

Other than that, didn't do a whole heck of a lot except start another game of Baldur's Gate 2.  I finished my other game earlier in the week.  And before I move on to some of the other games I brought with me, I'd like to get all of the replayability that I can from this one. 

Monday, March 4

Spent the first few hours of the morning watching a sappy romance.  Well, not so sappy...Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy.  Not a bad flick.  It's about two people who meet and only have 24 hours together before they have to part ways.  Even though they promise to meet each other, you're left to wonder if they ever do.  Anyway, I was so engrossed with it that I spent the rest of the day wondering what happened to them.  It's only a movie Dave....pinch yourself.  But either it was incredibly well written and acted or I'm letting myself become too involved with anything that serves as a distraction.

Ella and I did the web cam thing for about 4 hours Sunday morning her time.  And when she had to do chores and such, she pointed the camera outside so that I could watch traffic pass.  Sweet idea, that.  Again, I found myself drawn into the screen and couldn't turn away.  I don't think that I left my chair for the entire time she was logged on.

I was somewhat exhausted after that and went to bed early...just after 6.  I slept through the usual chatting session and when it came time to go to dinner, I slept through that too.  I figured that it was something that I wouldn't eat, anyway, so why bother.  And I was right.  Jimmie told me later that it was a waste.  

When I mentioned that I would just get some ice cream later, he informed me that the ice cream machine was broken.  Apparently there was a belt that was rubbing and caused smoke.  It alarmed the galley staff so much that they informed the fire department who came and shut it down.  So, not only was I out dinner, I slept through the day's excitement as well.

Had to raid my candy stash in order to keep the hunger pangs away.  Running low, it is.

Tuesday, March 5

Another movie this morning...The Remains of the Day.  Another naturalist movie, I think.  Duty and repressed emotions serving to keep two people from falling in love.  Blah.  Good acting though.  And it had greenery.  Two thumbs up for that alone.

Everyone got a piece of me this morning.  My mom, Ella, and my sister all logged on at different times to chat for a few minutes.

Dinner consisted of a roll and chocolate cookies.  There was a main course and side servings for everyone else, but it looked like the same stuff that they've been serving for the past two weeks.  Jimmie and Don are griping as well.  And I wonder how many others are beginning to turn their noses up as well.  I think that I will tolerate the lack of variation in the menu for another week or so.  If there still isn't anything edible then, I think that I'll start a comment writing campaign.

I don't want to knock the galley staff, of course.  I just wonder what their intentions are.  Is it a budget matter?  Are they just feeling us out for our likes or dislikes?  I don't want to second guess them just yet.

There's also the matter of making them upset.  It's a difficult and thankless job.  But yet it's important for morale and our well being, too.  Tactfulness is trait that I never had, so I might have to tread carefully.

Jimmie found a pic on the network drive from our trip to the Pegasus and let me know when I came into work.  I'm not sure who the photographer was, so I can't give credit.  But here are the three stooges...Jimmie the mechanic, Mike the cook, and me assuming Hero poses on the wing of the Constellation.

Wednesday, March 6

Slept in.  Ella went to bed early again, so I went back to sleep once I found that she wasn't logged on.

I don't know exactly why it is, but I manage to sleep more during the day than I ever did at night.  Maybe it's psychological.  I think that I need more sleep in order to make it through the night.  Who knows.  As long as my lack of activity doesn't cause me to gain too much weight I'm not going to be overly worried about how many hours I sleep.

Got an email from Sherry today.  She's doing well after some time in Hawaii.

Thursday, March 7

Ordered some parts for my Land Cruiser project at home.  Can't wait to get it finished and finally get to drive it.  I fancy the idea of even taking the top off and driving it that way year round.  After a winter here it couldn't be so bad.  And regardless, it never gets *that* cold along Long Island Sound.

Spoke with Ella on the phone to make up for not chatting over the internet.

Dinner? The chocolate cake was good.

Friday, March 8

"Great God! This is an awful place."  So, said Scott 100 years ago.

After this morning I have a better idea of where he was coming from.  The temperature dropped to -6 F last night and the winds picked up something horrible (the "weather channel" reported the wind chills about -41F).  More than once I heard incredibly loud banging sounds around the plant, which I assumed was loose siding flapping against the side of the building.

The walk to the galley after work was probably the coldest I've been since I arrived, including the various morale trips early in the season that were out on the unprotecting ice.  Even though the walk is only 300 yards, once I climbed the short hill from the plant, I was at the wind's mercy.  And it had none.

It cut through my Nomex coveralls. I had insulated underwear on beneath, but they were totally useless.  Since I was walking directly into the wind, I cinched  my parka hood as tight as I could and pulled the brim of my ball cap down as far as it would go, but it made little difference.  And before I walked finished the  minute and 1/2 walk, my forehead was starting to hurt from the cold and all of the moisture from my breath had given me an ice mustache.

And this is just the start of it.  It will get much worse.  The brief summer had given me a false sense of security.  After all, it rose to nearly 60 degrees on New Years' Day. And as recently as last weekend it was still in the teens and calm.  I had forgotten all about the cold from when I first arrived.  I'm told that it will eventually drop to about -45 F or so and stay there.  Warming up only when a herbie comes through bringing hurricane force  winds and snowfall that's measured in meters.

Lows overnight are expected to reach -15F with wind chills of -61F.  I'm thinking that I'll hoard something to eat from the galley and not venture out for my usual midnight snack.

On a lighter note, exchanged emails with a few co-workers from my former dotcom.  Great to hear that they are all doing well.  Unlike some of the horror stories I've read about people getting laid off from technology companies and not finding a job, I think about everyone has landed on their feet.  Except for me, if you think in terms of the typical white collar career ladder.  But since I'm planning on leaving that rat race anyway, who cares?

Saturday, March 9

As promised, spent the night inside and watched a British film that I borrowed.  Dabbled on the internet and ate into my candy stash some more.  I didn't feel like bundling up to get my usual midnight dish of ice cream.

Nights like this I wish that I were working.  At least I wouldn't have trouble keeping myself occupied.

Sunday, March 10

Managed to grab some cereal at around midnight.  Since there wouldn't be normal breakfast in the morning (Sunday's being brunch days), I thought that I'd better eat more than usual to tide me over until dinner.  

Another flick.  This time it was The Spanish Prisoner, a well reviewed Steve Martin movie about con artists.  Again, about someone caught up in something beyond their depth.  These types of movies find there way into my VCR for some reason.  

Ella is making vacation plans for later in the week and will be flying her mother over for a month.  She'll finally have someone to chat with and help her finally finish unpacking.  Currently, my wife is thinking about Orlando.  I think that she wants to go there just to make me jealous.  

Monday, March 11

Spoke more with Ella about her trip.  Her mom will be coming later in the week and then they will fly to Florida for a few days and then return.  My mother-in-law will probably spend about a month in the States.  And even though I am a bit envious of her trip, I'm happy that she have something to do for the next month or so.

I saw my first star of the year while making my rounds.  I walked outside to check for debris on the radiators at about 2:00 and saw it low on the horizon.  But it's probably not technically accurate to call it a star, as it may well have been the planet Venus.  It was bright, had a bluish tint, and as I said earlier, was low on the horizon.  It was also the only astronomical body visible in the sky.  From what I understand, planets are among the first to appear in the evening.  Anyway, I'm too lazy to research it.  I'm just happy about seeing something other than the sun for the first time in a long while.

Tuesday, March 12

Starting having daydreams about home today.

I think that the thing that I want most when I get back (aside from squeezing my wife) is to drive my Land Cruiser. Maybe remove the top and doors and just ride it until the tires fall off.  It's not an overly fanciful, just something that's relaxing.  And most importantly, it's doable.

I can remember when I was submerged for several months on the submarine how much I simply wanted to get back home and wash my car.  Of all the things that I could have when I returned to port, I only wanted to be outside in the sun spending hours doing such a mundane thing.  And I wasn't the only one.  I can recall several shipmates wanting to mow their lawns.  They would go into vivid details about their lawn mowers and weed trimmers.  I suspect that it's the same sort of thing going on now.  As long as it's a different environment it doesn't really matter what it is that you're doing.

The Appalachian Trail would be a nice thing to do as well.  I'd dreamed about it off and on over the years and even have most of the gear that I would need.  I've walked several hundred miles of it over the years, but never anything more than 5-6 days at a time.  A thru-hike would be a 6 month undertaking.  Dunno if I have the time, money, or wherewithal to even attempt it.  But it's good to let my thoughts drift away thinking about it, though.

I went to the bowling lanes for the first time today.  We have two very well used Brunswick lanes that were installed almost 40 years ago.  The pins have to be reset by hand and the lanes are bowed in sections.  But it's functional.  Anyway, winter leagues have started and the power and water department have a team with people rotating on and off as their schedule allows.  I went as a spectator initially, but when one of the guys didn't show up I took his spot.  I won't report my score as it was so embarrassingly low.  But one of the new Kiwi lineman, Bruce, bowled a respectable game. I need to get some pictures of it uploaded to the site as the novelty is something to see.  I would have done so sooner had I not been so conservative about seeing the base during the summer.  Gotta save something for a snowy day...

Wednesday, March 13

Really hard pressed to think of anything to write.  Nothing really of interest stands out.

Played some Baldur's Gate, drunk my last 7-Up, and caught a few movies in the evening on the station TV channel.

Thursday, March 14

Busy day, my by standards.

Headed to the plant midway through the night to raid the fridge there.  The wind was blowing something fierce and the walk back has painful, but I managed to stuff my coat pockets with microwavable tacos and the like.  So it was worth it.

Put in Permanent Midnight after that.  Interesting flick, I guess.

Had problems getting to sleep because I knew that I needed to get up at 2:00 to chat with Ella.  I've overslept several days this week and missed her. 

A pleasant surprise awaited me when I finally logged in to chat with her, though.  She had just returned from the airport with my mother-in-law, who was fascinated with the web cam.  I think that she's hooked now and may well get a computer of her own just so that she can see and talk to Ella in real time.  Both Ella and my mother-in-law, Maria were worn out so I didn't get to speak with them for too long.  But I'm glad that she's arrived.  I haven't seen my wife so happy since I've been here.

Since I was up, I thought that I'd give Madden 2002 another go in my XBox.  I hadn't played it for about a month, when I beat the opposing team 128-3.  Had similar results this time, 101-14.  At least I'm not on the receiving end of that score.  I'll probably rachet the difficulty level after I complete a season, but until then it makes for a good practice.

It had been a while since I had over to Scott Base.  I think that I've worked every Thursday since the station closed and thought that I'd catch the shuttle after dinner.  Since the weather was kind of bad still, hardly anyone else bothered to go.  There may have been 6 other Yanks there the entire night.  Were it not for the fact that half of the Kiwi's were on an R&R  trip to Cape Crozier, they would have outnumbered us. But it was nice to be there in such small numbers because you could actually carry on an uninterrupted conversation with them while they tended bar.

I also overheard an interesting anecdote.   The bartender was telling me that they get no less 2-3 calls per day from either radio stations or pranksters in NZ.  Apparently they like to call up from time to time and chat with people in Antarctica for whatever reason.  And here I was annoyed that I had received one call the entire season...

Had a glass of mead while I was there (no Guiness.  They only received a small amount and what little they have is rationed among themselves, not Yanks).  I had never had it before and expected something sweeter and more syrupy (it is made from honey, after all) and was a bit disappointed to find it something closer to a very bitter dinner wine. Oh well.  At least I got out of town for a few hours.

Friday, March 15

7 months to go.

Called Ella in the early morning, but she was packing for her trip so I wasn't able to talk for long.  She's taking her cell phone, though, so I can track her down later.

Played a few more games of football with the scores similar to before.  My margin of victory was well over 100 points.  My strategy is pretty simple, really.  Blitz on defense and rush the punter to try and block it forcing the punting team to leave a player or two to block, this gives my punt returner more room to maneuver.  Sometimes I get burned by blitzing, but giving the offense a different look each time and blitzers coming from different positions works well most of the time.

Offense is another matter.  Each opposing defense has different strengths.  A play that works well on one team don't work on another.  I suspect that the program "watches" what plays you run in previous games and the opposing team "studies" the footage.  It's an element of realism that's pretty slick, but after one or two drives worth of experimenting, I pretty much have them pegged and routinely have 1,000 yard plus games with balanced plays.  

Jeez.  I'm giving too much thought to a computerized football game.  How mundane has my life become?

The NASA satellite tracking station will be covering the launch of two GRACE satellites sometime tonight or tomorrow.  These satellites will have polar orbits and they need to ensure that everything is going well after the launch.  In order to ensure that adequate power is available and to counter any casualties, we'll have to place a 4th engine online.  It'll fall on me to do it, and there were reminders galore on the white board when I walked into the power plant.  But in a way, rather indirectly I might add, I'm supporting a rocket launch. 

Saturday, March 16

With Ella in Florida I was able to sleep in some.  Dinner wasn't that bad...leftover chili.  The menu for the rest of the week looks bleak with the exception being Friday when the serve pizza.  Everything else seems to be seafood or some mixture of meat, sauce, and pasta.  Breakfast has been providing a disproportionately large percentage of caloric intake lately and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The rocket launch was slated for 10:23 local time but was called off.  I managed to find a webcast of the launch coverage and had a head's up when the NASA team called to tell me that they wouldn't need the added safety margin afforded by the extra engine.  The launch is scheduled for the same time tomorrow if I understand correctly.  

Which reminds me...I have yet to get up to the tracking station and actually get a tour.  I think that I mentioned that I'd get around to doing this a few months ago.  Wonder what else I've mentioned but haven't yet done?

I don't go back and read my journal.  And I don't go back later and edit it unless I forgot to mention something or need to add a link to a picture.  So it's easy for me to forget what I write about from day to day, unless it was a major event.  But this is a good thing from a historian's perspective.  In this day and age of digital record keeping a lot of documentation keeps getting edited until only the final copy remains.  In the process, research is getting lost. A lot of insight can be gleaned from following someone's mistakes and the paper trail leading up to the final version of said text.  Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic about my chances of being cited 200 years from now in someone's Antarctic history paper, but you never know.

Sunday, March 17

Last day of the rotation.   Daylight Saving Time ended and the clocks went back an hour.  I believe that DST starts on the 31st back in the States.  Almost pulled a 13 hour watch last night and had problems toward the end. But Alejandro was kind enough to split the last hour with me,  so I only had to work for 12 and 1/2 hours.  Still a long time to spend in one place.  And were it not for my laptop and the internet it would probably drive me crazy.

70 degrees at my mom's home in VA and 80 degrees in Orlando.  Minus teens here.  Almost a 100 degree differential.  The engine room was so cold last night that my mop would have froze to the floor had I cleaned it.  Thankfully, Alejandro had the foresight to turn off the engine room heat exhaust fan before I came in to relieve him.  This caused the hot air to remain in the engine room and thus warming up the ambient temperature and the floors to make it much more comfortable to work in.

The satellite launch went off without a hitch and I was able to catch streaming video of it from NASA TV.  It wasn't as good as the quality last night but watchable nonetheless.  Streaming media would be an excellent way for me to keep abreast of news, movies. and other mulitmedia events were it not so bandwidth intensive.  There's just not enough of it to go around down here.  Solar activity also does a number on our satellite link.  During periods of intense solar activity our communication almost comes to a halt. Telephone calls suffer more static and the packet loss from internet transmissions brings internet access to halt.  But it beats not having anything at all.

Monday, March 18

Really cold walking to the galley this morning.  Had another ice mustache after only 2-3 minutes outside.  Wind chills were pushing -50F as the winds were between 15-20 knots.

The sun and darkness are pretty much on equal footing, with there being the same amount to sunshine and night.  The night gains about 16 minutes a day now and it probably won't be but another month and 1/2 before the sun's gone entirely.

Amusements:  found an open source copy of Nintendo's 1986 Legend of Zelda that I downloaded last night and played today.  It's incredibly faithful to the original version and should provide a few days worth of entertainment.

I didn't wake up in time to catch Ella with her cell phone on and got her voicemail instead.  I'll have to get up at 2:00 tomorrow my time to speak with her.  

Tuesday, March 19

Antarctica is starting to create a lot of conflicts for me.  One the one hand, I get so bored.  The period from getting out of bed to going back to sleep the next morning can draw on like a long desert road.  But on the other, there is so much to be said for ignorant bliss.  I feel immune to the effects of the latest Palestinian bus bombing, mass murdering mothers, and the economic blahs that people are experiencing in the States.  They all seem so far removed.  Although I wasn't one to lose much sleep over such matters even before I came down, they did affect me in some ill defined way.  I know that I'll have to be concerned by these things when I get back.  But there are some days, despite the boredom, that I would like to remain here and just forget about it all.

I visited the library for the first time this evening.  They now have regular evening hours and I spent about 20 minutes wondering from shelf to shelf searching through unsorted books.  Well, perhaps it's not fair to say that there were all unsorted as the volunteers have done a good enough job so that you can find something if you know the author or for non-fiction, the subject.  Anyway, I picked up The Brethren by John Grisham and since I'd never read anything lengthy by John Updike, Toward the End of Time.

Excited to have something out of the ordinary, I just laid on my bed and read the Grisham book all night.

Wednesday, March 20

Read The Brethren straight through 'til morning, taking a break around midnight for something to snack on.  It made for good escapism but I had a hard time remembering even the characters names by the time I went to bed.  I'd much rather see the adaptation of his works into films, I think.

I started on Toward the End of Time after breakfast.  Although I'll give John Updike credit for his lyrical talent and his ability to construct sentences, I'm afraid the metaphysical nature of his works (or this one at least) has lost me.  It's really a diary about a man who lives different realities at different points in time.  Interesting premise but Updike doesn't leave it at that.  He expands on the greater significance of things and the meaning of this and that.  The marks of great literature, I suppose.  But definitely not light reading.

Ella was spending her final day in Orlando today and will be flying home tomorrow.  Although it was nice to be able to sleep through our usual afternoon chat sessions, it'll be nice to have her back.

Thursday, March 21

Clear and calm conditions in the early hours.  The evening sky was bright and I had some excellent views of the sun set behind the Trans-Antarctics some 60 miles away.  Since it's infrequent to have perfectly clear skies, I thought that I would go outside in the middle of the night and try to look for the Southern Cross.

Aurora Australis, the southern hemisphere's equivalent to the northern lights, usually aren't visible until the later half of winter.  But when I made my round outside to look for the Cross, there they were.  Slightly green and dim, but there nonetheless.   At first I was unsure as I had never seen Aurora before.  Even though I could see their shimmering, wispy crawl I couldn't be certain that there were, indeed, Australis.  The night time water plant operator, Al,  happened to be working tonight and I was able to get him outside to confirm.

In an excited rush I called the fire house to let the dispatcher know that they were visible if he could get away from the phone to look.  I also tried to call Jimmie and several other people who I thought would have an interest in seeing it.  Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me or I would have tried to get a picture...or as best I could given that the longest that my camera's shutter can remain open is 3 seconds.  Dunno if that would be a long enough exposure to get a decent pic.  

I couldn't leave the plant for more than a few minutes at a time, but made several trips behind the building to look at them away from streetlights.  It was truly an interesting spectacle.   But it only lasted for about a half hour.  I happened to get lucky enough to make my rounds at the right time.  Otherwise I would have missed it.

Oh, yeah.  I got to see the Southern Cross as well.  Aside from the Aurora, it was the only thing recognizable in the sky.

Ella logged into chat before she headed off to work.  They returned safely, although she was a bit tired.  It's good to have her back.  We'll have to NetMeet this weekend since we'll both be off and I won't have the distractions of work to take me away from the computer every few minutes.

Friday, March 22

I brought my camera in last night just in case the aurora appeared, but no luck.  I made trips outside every 15 minutes in order to catch them but never saw anything.

Rode out to Pegasus runway with Jimmie this morning.  One of his new responsibilities is to ride to the airstrip to ensure that the generator is still running and perform maintenance as necessary.  Since it's about a 90 minute round trip, he's more than happy to have the company.  And I was more than happy to stay up late to get a trip out of town.

The trip out was a bit bumpy, but not as bad as it was with the Piston Bully that I rode out in several weeks ago.  I suppose that the off-road suspension and the oversized tires that the truck was equipped had a role to play in that.

It was a bit hazy, and separating the sky from the horizon was impossible.  It was simply too "foggy."  The weather had warmed up some bringing the low clouds with it.  I suspect that we'll even see some snow soon.  But I could still catch a view of the mountains from time to time and had a chance to appreciate getting away from McMurdo.  I briefly appreciated even being here.

I didn't crawl into bed until 10, well past my normal bed time.  But I had perhaps the most sound sleep that I've had the entire time that I've been here.  I slept straight through until 5:00 without an interruption.  Although I missed the chance to chat with Ella, I'm glad to gotten some rest.

Dinner was pizza, the first time that it's been served in a while.  Even though I made it to the galley (didn't climb out of bed until after 6) to grab some, all of the pepperoni was gone.  Only cheese and vegetable were left.  But it was still pizza, which is a good thing.

I tried dialing up to check my mail but the line was busy, the first time I've known that to happen.  Fortunately, the Coffee House was open and I took my laptop over there and plugged into the network, were I stayed until about 10:00 drinking wine and answering an email from an old friend.

A good day, all in all. 

Saturday, March 23

Spent the morning in my room, venturing out about sunup to get some breakfast.  The weather wasn't too bad, maybe single digits above zero, but I don't really know.  I'm not as sensitive to the cold as I used to be and seem to be more acclimated to it.  There are times when I don't even bother pulling the hood of my parka over my head for the brief jaunts around the base.  

I tried to borrow an RJ45 crimper from the networking people before going to bed.  I'm wanting to run an ethernet cable from the hub to the operator's desk in the power plant so that we won't have to keep unplugging the decrepit workstation in order to use our laptops.  But they'd have none of it, and even called my boss informing him that it wasn't allowed.  I guess they were sore that we were encroaching on their turf and were marking their territory.  I was just doing them a favor.  I'll never get interoffice politics. 

There was a costume party at Scott Base in the evening, but I didn't go for that reason.  Instead, I went to get a fresh Guiness or two as I'd heard that they were once again selling them in the bar.  I was on the second shuttle over and stayed for an hour or so.  Just long enough to see that there wasn't going to be a big turnout and sip a pint.  Drinking Guiness poured from a can is so much more refreshing than from the bottle.  I think that they put a small nitrogen charge in the can to assist in keeping it fresh, and it works.  I'd much rather have one fresh Guiness every two weeks than a whole six pack of bottled ones in between.

Also weighed myself today.  I've put on 10 pounds since October.  Not too bad if I concede that gaining weight is a good thing, which I don't.  I put a lot of work into losing the 30 pounds before I got here.  Now it's all coming back.  I need to get back to the gym to try and stem the tide until I get back home and can resume my running.  I've went a few times but quit after aggravating the back muscle that I tore before station close.  Maybe it's better now.  I suppose that I'll have to find out on my next off days.

Sunday, March 24

Finished the Updike book between spells of writing emails this morning.  I also managed to spend an hour or so on the webcam with Ella. She's yet to find our microphone, but promises to buy a new one tomorrow.

Slept through until dinner time because I had problems getting to sleep.  I was too preoccupied with a new fantasy about driving around the country in my Land Cruiser when I get back to the States.  I know that it's unrealistic to find the time and money to do it, especially since I've already promised Ella a few weeks touring Oz and NZ.  It would be an excellent way to become reacquainted with the States and of easing my way back into society, but will have to remain a dream for now.  Someday I'll do it, though.

Someone brought a bootleg copy of Lord of the Rings down with them and it was screened at the Coffee House.  Since I, (and apparently everyone else on station) wanted to see it I swung by got a good seat.  Good movie, but only so-so quality.  But hey, what can you expect from pirates?   I wouldn't normally sanction such practices, but spending the past 6 months here has caused me to yield a bit.  It was "something" from the world and that's all that mattered.  I'll be buying my own copy when I return home, though, so this was only a teaser.

My mom logged on just before midnight, so I was able to chat with her for a few minutes.  With the time change last week, the east coast is now only 17 hours behind, so she's up an hour earlier than what I'm accustomed.  It also means that Ella goes to bed and hour earlier and thus forces me to wake up earlier to chat with her...something that I haven't been very good at pulling off lately.  Daylight Saving Time goes into effect there next weekend, so all will be back to normal soon.

Monday, March 25

The night has outpaced the sun in the race for the sky.  It's the longest now by nearly 20 minutes, and gains about the same each day.  

I didn't have an opportunity to enjoy the stars, though.  A storm has come in and dropped some snow on us.  Not a lot of it, but enough to make the skies overcast and made me sweep off the radiators every few hours.  Once I even went out without my mittens.  It didn't take long for the metal handled broom that I was using to become so cold as to be painful to hold.  Lesson learned.

The night time water plant mechanic, Al, has been dropping by quit a bit lately.  Sharp guy and makes for a good conversationalist.  Since the internet connection went away early into my shift, I was glad that he was on duty tonight.  There's only so many games of Minesweeper that a person can play before they go insane...

Because of the aforementioned network problem, I didn't get a chance to chat with Ella.  I'll pack a game or something to take with me in case it doesn't get fixed today while I'm asleep.

Tuesday, March 26

Almost overslept  today.  I didn't wake up until after 5 and only that was only because I casually glanced at my watch.  I've found that if my wrist is not in the correct position, it becomes incredibly easy to misread the uber bright marks on my diver's watch in the dark (footnote:  despite being a certified chronometer still loses 5-6 second/day, which I understand is normal).  So, unless my arm is perfectly perpendicular to my face, 5:00 looks like 4, or even 3.  Looks like I'll have to start setting my alarm clock again, something that I haven't had to do since I started working nights.

Running late actually worked out to my advantage as I caught another beautiful sunset on my way to the plant.  What's the word?  Serendipity? The wind was blowing snow across the sea and it choose to set behind the Discovery hut on Hut Point.  It's a good thing that I'm carrying my camera now in search of aurora as it affords me the opportunity to capture such panoramas.

Stumbled across an NY Times article about the recent "rediscovery" of Shackleton and his successful failure in 1914-16 to be the first to cross the continent.  It went on to say that Nova has a two hour show on PBS tonight and that both the Discovery Channel and A&E had shows about him airing in the next few months.  Too bad I won't be able to see them as I'm curious to see how they're presented.  It's always interesting to see how someone else views something that you're a part of...sort of like seeing yourself or your cub scout troop in the newspaper or something.

Since it had quit snowing during the day it was a rather uneventful shift.  Also, the internet connection was back so I didn't have to spend 12 hours twiddling my thumbs.  Ella logged in just before midnight.  She's got a few "do it herself" projects for the condo.  I'll probably come home to pink walls or something...

Wednesday, March 27

Aye!  Que lastima!  No hay internet hoy.

It went down at about 4:00 this morning while the folks in Denver were moving offices (question:  why is our internet connection going through RPSC headquarters instead of eliminating a few hops by just joining where our satellite downlink is?).  No biggie, it was expected and the IT people passed us an email.  It came back up sometime during the morning after I was relieved.  But it went away again shortly before I went back to work and didn't return all night.  

Al was off so it made for a very long and lonely 12 hours.

Thursday, March 28

Karen ran a half hour late in relieving me this morning.  No biggie as the internet connection with the States was re-established right at 6:00.  So I was more than happy to stay late in order to check my email and the news sites.

Bowled on Power and Water's bowling team, "The Lucky Strikes" in the evening.  Rolled a 150.  Not bad for me.  It was also the highest score on either team.  I took along my camera to finally get a picture, but as luck would have it the batteries were dead.  I need to recharge them and about 7 other sets of nickel metallic hydride batteries that I brought along (that many weren't necessary as I've went all season with recharging the entire lot only once...I could have survived with half that).  Anyway, there are 16 teams bowling for the continental championship, even the Kiwis have gotten on board (albeit dead last).  There's only a couple of hundred pins separating everyone, so anything's possible with 3 months left.  I think that the team that bowls a consistent 450 or better (per 4 people) each week could walk away with the title.

Checked out some more books this evening:  Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.  I started with Bonfire because it will probably be the easier of the two to read.  And since the internet connection was still intermittent, at best, I had little else to do.  

Days like this I wish that I were working.  At least I'd have something productive to preoccupy myself with.

Friday, March 29

Closing in on the half way point.  But even that still leaves too many days to even bother counting.  

I got a bootleg copy of the Lord of the Rings and showed it in the lounge for Jimmie to see.  Took up 3 hours.

It'd odd that I'm thinking of activities in terms of how much time it will keep me occupied.  Work takes up 12 hours of my day and sleep another 8 and 1/2 hours or so. The in between time is for eating, showering, and reading one of my books.  And when I don't have to work, well, I have to fill the 12 hour vacancy with something else.  Computer games, XBox, movies, more reading...whatever I can get into.  Since everyone else is usually asleep, there's not much in the way of social activities happening at 2:00 in the morning.  Fortunately Ella and my mom are waking up about this time so I have someone to talk too.

Almost half way through my night shift hitch.  About another 11 weeks and it'll be over.  Then I'll have more opportunities to interact with people.

Saturday, March 30

Peppered steak for dinner today.  Not quite as good as the variety that they serve in Chch, but tasty nonetheless.  I suppose that I need to give the galley staff some credit here as well:  the food has actually been good this week.  There were actually 3 or 4 meals that I could eat.  This is an improvement from when I would go 3 days with only eating some bread and dessert.

The other night shift operator had some problems with one of the engines.  The hydraulic-mechanical governor came close to failing and it wouldn't maintain a consistent RPM.  It was "hunting" all night trying to find 1200 RPM, but would under or over shoot each time it came near it.  This caused an oscillation in current not only for that generator, but the entire bus as well.  The other generators had to continually adjust their output to compensate for the instability.  Jimmie replaced it today with a new unit, and it seems to be working well.  This is the first serious mechanical problem that we've had in a long while.  

Sunday, March 31

What would be Easter is just another work day for me.  But given that I don't have too many work days during any given week, I'm not complaining.  And the odds are that I'll have a 50/50 chance of working any particular holiday, so it balances out in the end.

Thought that I'd spend some time learning Linux, so I started downloading it as soon as I got into work and set up my laptop.  I got booted from ftp severs quite a bit, but I suppose that the webmasters are trying to ensure that no one person hogs all of the bandwidth.  Fair enough.  And for the price it costs, I can't complain.

Amazing how un-Antarctic things are for me now.  After getting into a routine I tend to forget about such things.  It's only after I consciously notice the surroundings or feel the biting Katabatic am I shocked into the realization that I'm still here.  There are a couple of small  things that drive the point home, though.  Like hearing the echo in the phone when I call home.  There's a time delay sometimes that makes it hard to talk with anyone. Surprisingly, the lack of mail and freshies are among the things that remind me of where I am..  I've learned to do without both.  It's almost as if they never existed at all.



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