April at the South Pole

Thursday, 1 April 2004
I woke up just after breakfast (it seems to be becoming a habit lately), got cleaned up, and went down to the back of Science, briefly. LES-9 rose, bringing with it the morning mail. When I'd chewed through it, I popped up stairs for a bit, noticing how dark it looks through the holes at the top of the dome It's warm, -44°F (-42.2°C), but windy (as high as 25 knots). I went to lunch late.

It's Mexican Day - Refritos, Rice, Pork and Green Chili Stew (I passed on the Black Bean and Yam Burritos). I started off at the beaker table with Kris, Jules, Nick, and Eyvind, but after we were done eating, those of us who were left shifted over to the next table to join the group working on the Thursday New York Times Crossword Puzzle. Back down in Science, it was a quiet afternoon, just me, the Met guys, Henry and Sarah. I kept working at security tasks, and noticed during my afternoon checks that one of the crates out at MAPO was down again. I called Jeff and had him go out to reset it, then went to dinner.

A fine dinner it was: Lamb Chops! (although to hear people talking, besides the Aussies and Kiwis, there are few people on station who are fond of it. A real shame. As a kid growing up in Ohio, I don't recall eating lamb hardly ever, making it a real treat). I started off the evening back at my desk, but then Kris made an all call for band practice. I got to the band room in Skylab as folks were still tuning up. We ran through our numbers from the top, repeating a couple here and there as necessary. We even did a second run through before calling it quits. Sarah and I stayed behind to untangle the mess of patch cords, then I went back to my desk.

Looks like everything is running smoothly, even the machine that was down earlier today. On my way out, as I crossed the dome, I noticed that the flag atop the dome was particularly noisy - it was hanging from one grommet and flapping in the 25 knot winds. I called Pete to let him know (before it blew away), and made an early night of it.

Friday, 2 April 2004
I woke up after breakfast and went to the hot water dispenser in the old galley to whip up a noodle bowl. I ate at my desk in the back of Science while I changed tapes and worked through the morning. I went to lunch late, almost too late. People were buzzing about a medevac from McMurdo; not too many details yet, but it seems certain that it's going to happen. I stayed late to help the group with the New York Times crossword puzzle. It was particularly difficult today because some of the answers had to be written upside-down (symmetric letters only, like the ones in one answer, "NIXONISM", written "WSINOXIN"). Once we figured out that little trick, a group of about five of us polished it off quickly.

It's still somewhat nasty out. It's quite warm out, -39°F (-39.4°C), but windy. The peak was about 39 knots. As I walked across the dome, I could hear it creaking loudly above me, but it wasn't the wind - it was Pete (and probably Sean), retrieving the American Flag, hanging on by one corner. I tried to take a few pictures through the large holes at the top, but Pete wasn't exactly posing for me. When they were done, I went inside and worked a little bit on a side project, an ancient computer kit built from a series of articles from "Popular Electronics", circa 1977 (I brought down most of the parts with me, and ordered the remaining parts before Station Close.

Working on electronic projects makes it easy to lose track of time. I made it to dinner a bit late, but I'm glad I didn't miss it - Prime Rib tonight, with Roast Parsely Potatoes. I ate quickly and ran down to the store while it was still open. The place was packed. I haven't seen it so crowded since it was closed for a long weekend in the summer. I asked at the counter, and the rumors were true - the Bushmills was all gone. I know that things run out during the winter, but it seems that the top shelf stuff is disappearing way too early in the season. I bought a few things and went back up to the galley where Adam and the guys were waiting for Don to finish in the kitchen so we could get in there and make some fortune cookies.

I dug up the ingredients for the guys, made the first batch of batter and tried to cook them on the grill. I think I didn't have enough liquid; the cookies wouldn't get flat enough, soon enough before they started to set, so I switched to the oven. I showed them how to make the cookies and how to fold the fortunes inside. The hot cookies were a bit stiff to fold without cracking, but they tasted pretty good. I started them on a second batch, then went down to the dome for Radio Darts.

I arrived in the middle of the second game. There were fewer teams than normal; nobody from McMurdo was at Scott Base because of Condition 2. It was two South Pole teams of 4 vs two Scott Base teams of 3. I jumped in for the third game which lasted only 7 rounds, won by "Pole 1". We were going through games so fast that we squeezed in five games in two hours. From darts, I went upstairs to the Wine Bar, which was dark, then over to the Library for "The Sopranos". The episode that was on had about 60 seconds left, but I stayed for the last one. By this time, the only place left to go was the bar.

The bar was somewhat crowded. There was a poker game going on in the corner, and the bar itself was full. I talked with Cargo Nick about worker's rights for beakers vs contract workers (most of the people here work for Raytheon Polar Services Company, but the beakers work directly for a variety of different Educational Institutions, depending on what project employs them. The music went quiet, so I moved over to the DJ chair and put on a mix of 70s and 80s rock. I think the ones that got the best reaction all night were "Cover of the Rolling Stone" (Dr. Hook), "Frankenstein" (The Edward Winter Group), and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen). Later in the evening, Bret came in, pushing his CD player on people to listen to his Blue Oyster Cult disc. Since I was working the music for the room, I was a captive audience. Keros took over for Kevin as bartender as people trickled away. I watched a few minutes of Sean and Jason playing poker, then went home. I tried to surf the 'net from my room, but I fell asleep on the keyboard.

Saturday, 3 April 2004
I woke up around breakfast time because I needed to hit the facilities, and stayed up rather than go back to sleep. I checked the detector from my room. Things looked OK. I dropped Jeff a note, and played some Starcraft. While I was on, Erin IMed me to let me know that my car died at home with a bad head gasket. When I bought it, I fully expected to rebuild the engine while I still owned it - that time came sooner than I had hoped (it's 6 years old with a lot of miles - no point in fixing just the gasket - more is going to break soon).

After I caught up on e-mail, I went up to the band room to move gear down for our performance. I helped Richard with the mike stands and music holders. By the time we got to the new station, I was wishing I had on more than glove liners - carrying large hunks of metal through unheated tunnels makes them quite cold. We went inside at the lower level and passed Allan and some of the Kiwis setting up the BBQ table just inside the large doors to the wooden staircase. They were just getting the fire started in the grill.

Up in the galley, we spent about half an hour setting up amplifiers and microphones and cables in the end farthest from the bar. When we had things in place, we ran through our set list for the people prepping the galley. We messed up a few things, but generally did OK. We all left to get ready for the evening. I went home via the inside staircase and passed Allen and his crew at the bottom of it, just bringing in the first of the meat. They sliced up a steak and passed bits around. It was excellent - not too dry, and certainly distinguishable from what sits on the steam line 'til the end of dinner.

We all packed back into the galley for dinner. Allan and the boys did an excellent job. The steaks were still tasty, as was all the other meat they grilled. The members of the band slowly pulled ourselves away from our seats and grabbed our instruments. Things started off well. We didn't make too many mistakes, certainly nothing the audience was going to really notice. We'd planned for an intermission, but Dana didn't want to lose the crowd, so we pressed on and did all of our songs, back to back, and did a repeat or two at the end. We'd been hoping folks would get up and dance, but they stayed in their seats until the last few songs. "Love Shack" (B-52s) is what got them all up and jumping. It was my first public performance as a bass player, and I have to say that it went pretty well. We'll have several weeks until our next performance to work on these tunes and to add a few more.

Sunday, 4 April 2004
I woke up after noon, and reheated some BBQ leftovers for brunch. Back down at my desk, I checked the detector; it wasn't any worse, but things just don't look quite right. I stopped by the bar to see what the Sunday Movie was - Clayton brought by "Once Upon a Time in the West". There were the remnants of nachos on the card table (I had forgotten that Byron was going to have food at the movie). I watched the show and nibbled on the chips. When the movie was over, Rob and I played some Cribbage. They were all close games, but I managed to get him two out of three. I didn't stick around to watch "Black Mask" with the rest of the crowd; I went back to work.

After changing tapes and catching up on the logs, I put some more time in on detector debugging. Kris was nice enough to make dinner on a Sunday, two kinds of fresh Calzones, Pepperoni, and Feta and Spinach. I ate and went back down to my desk to work. Around 21:30, I took a break. The Library was empty, so I went next door to the bar. Kevin was assembling a jigsaw puzzle in the old upper galley outside the bar, inside, Sean was spinning music, Mike was playing "XIII" on the PlayStation, and Rob, Larry, Jim and Anj were playing cribbage at the card table. Larry left, and Rob invited me to take his place. We played two games; Rob and Anj won one, and Jim and I won one. Rob left right after the second game. The rest of us didn't feel like a 3-way game, so we chatted for a while until things started winding down. I went back to my desk for one more detector check before hitting the sack.

Monday, 5 April 2004
The beeps from my laptop woke my up. With the monitoring windows I have open, it was pretty clear, pretty quickly that we didn't have network connectivity between the dome and MAPO. I called downstairs to Henry to ask what was going on, and he confirmed that a blade in one of the routers went catatonic in the middle of the night. I knew that meant that I'd have to go reset some things out in the Dark Sector.

It was a long walk, and my glasses kept frosting over. I couldn't see the sastrugi, and I had to use the handline. The visibility conditions weren't great, but the real problem was my glasses. I might have been able to see if it were as bright as summer, but in the twilight, there was almost no contrast.

Out at MAPO, I reset the machines that needed it, and answered a few electronics questions for Justus. I started to reset the dAOMs as Allan and Justus pulled out supplies for lunch (it's too much effort to walk back and forth to the station just for a meal). We made Bean and Cheese Burritos, and ate them while watching a movie upstairs. The satellites were up during lunch, so I also IMed home about the broken car. After lunch, I went back to work on the dAOMs.

My first attempt to reset the modules was entirely unsuccessful. I looked up at the top of one of the racks and the problem was obvious - these modules (that have their own power supply, separate from everything else in the detector) were unpowered. I took down the power supply, checked it all out, replaced a couple of fuses, and it came up. I reset all the values in all these modules, and restarted the detector. It was back to normal. On my way out, I asked Allen to cut an aluminum plate for me for a project, then I suited up and walked back to the new station.

The walk back wasn't as bad as the walk out; at least the 20 knot winds were at my back. I still couldn't see well, and I did trip over a couple of invisible sastrugi. Finally, around 17:15, I got back to the station, went up to the galley and waited for dinner to start - Lamb Roast with Potatoes, Buttered Carrots and fresh Salad. I sat at a table by myself; Nick, Eyvind, and Sarah joined me later. After dinner, on my way back to my office, I stopped off at the Met office to check with Don about the weather, and ended up sticking around talking with Don and Sarah. Back at my desk, I spent a few hours shuffling around some files on our servers in preparation for the impending network penetration test, then knocked off work for a while and took a real break up at the bar.

There was a small crowd of regulars hanging out. When Rich made a toast in Spanish, I realized that I'd forgotten that today was "Cinco de Montho". Kevin took over the music when Sean left, and put on a few Irish Drinking Songs. He was surprised at how many of us on station knew them. I didn't stay long. Well before midnight, I was back at my desk, preparing for the network penetration test.

Tuesday, 6 April 2004
I worked through wee hours tightening up security. I went to bed when the satellite set, and was awokened at 06:30 by the fire alarm (the sensor in the room next door malfunctioned). I went back to sleep and didn't get up until lunch was nearly over. Richard grilled me a fresh, hot sandwich, and I sat with Jason and Nick. After eating, I stopped by the new greenhouse, next to the store in A3. I talked with Randi about how the electrical work was going. On my way back down to the dome, I stuck my head out the back door, and could see a couple of stars shining through the twilight.

Down in Science, I stopped by the NOC and asked Henry to run another scan so I could compare it with the "before" picture to ensure I caught all the obvious stuff. I swapped tapes and called Jeff to let him know I'd found something funny with his machines out at SPASE. Nick made the rounds, offering to fire up his cappucino machine. Henry and I were happy to accept. It was a nice way to wind up the afternoon.

I ran up to dinner, grabbed a plate of Pasta and Meatballs, and went back down to my desk for a few minutes before going across the dome to the Library for the Tuesday Night Sci-Fi Movie, "Plan 9 From Outer Space". We were going to make it a double feature with "Ed Wood", but the sci-fi crowd dispersed, mostly to go home I think, after the first feature. I stuck my head in next door at the bar - they were watching "Phoenix the Warrior". I didn't stick around to see the end.

While I was working at my desk, Don came by on one of his observation runs and said the moon was looking good. I checked the current stats over in Met (with it being clear, it's been getting colder all day), then took my camera with me out the dome entrance. I tried to photograph the moon, but there were a few wispy clouds in the way. Even though the the sun set sun set three weeks ago, there's still plenty of light peeking over the horizon where the sun is, plus the full moon really lights up the snow. I looked around a bit, then got back inside. It's -61°F (-51.7°C) and I didn't come out in my parka, just my fleece jacket. Down by the dome entrance it's not too bad to be out for a few minutes - it sets down low enough that it blocks what little wind there is. I dropped my camera off at my desk and went up to bed.

Wednesday, 7 April 2004
I woke up as lunch was starting, and went straight to lunch via the dome entrance. It's a little nippy, but at least the winds are low (-53.7°F (-47.6°C) at 6 knots, for a wind chill of -65.5°F (-54.2°C)). I keep thinking I should take my parka, but so far, so good. The stars are out, but there were a few clouds right over the Southern Cross, just barely hiding it.

It's Mexican Day, Tacos and Burritos (tasty as it is, it's a stark reminder that even with the greenhouse, we are quickly going through our freshies). Nick sat down with me as I started on the New York Times crossword puzzle. Nick and I were working at it, then Jason joined us, and between the three of us, we cranked it out quickly. I went back to work via the beercan, but stuck my head out the snow-level door for a picture of the moon over the ceremonial pole. I had no sooner gotten back inside the beercan when the fire alarm went off for our monthly drill.

The scenario was a remote rescue - the "fire" was out at ARO. I was closer to Medical in the new station than Bio-Med (on the dome-side of the fuel arch), so I went up and ran Medical Comms. When they manually pulled the alarm in the new station (because the new and old systems aren't really compatible), the annunciator going off in my ear made it virtually impossible to run the radios. They called a stand-down before the entire drill was complete because they were worried about the smoke from the smoke generator getting into the clean air sensors (a risk when doing this out at ARO). We had our debrief at the gym at 16:00, then I finally made it back to my desk.

It was hard to focus on work. For once, Science isn't as quiet as a library. Sarah is conducting a PowerPoint class next door, and it's a bit noisy. She finished about the time I went up for dinner. I took the outside route - the moon looks nice, and there are a few stars out. I passed Lisae in the top part of the beercan, right outside the double doors to the new station; She was all bundled up in her green and black South Pole parks, hat, gaiter, etc., and saw me in my jeans and fleece and asked me why I wasn't freezing to death (it's a bit colder than it was earlier, -64°F (-53.3°C), -99°F (-72.8°C) windchill). It's colder now than the day I got here, but that was months ago, and we've all adapted to the temperature and altitude to one degree or another.

I had a quick dinner of Beef Stroganoff over Rice, then went back down to my desk for a bit. I walked the outside route with Don from Met. As the light fades, it's getting harder to navigate the snow stairs to the dome entrance. I scopped up a few things from my office, then went over to the Wine Bar for an evening of Pictionary. We had a good turnout - Justus, Dehlia, Henry, Kirk, Jodi, Andrea, Sean (the Drafter, not the Sean the Comms Tech), and myself. We played until 21:00, then folks scattered. I migrated over to the bar for a few minutes to watch the Wednesday Night Poker game, then went back to my office to work on my Elf project and watch a movie. I even spent a some time on a spreadsheet for my accountant and e-mailed that home before going to bed.

Thursday, 8 April 2004
I got up before lunch and checked things from my room. Down in Science, I helped Jules with a web cookie problem, then went to lunch. There was a group effort on the New York Times crossword puzzle. Most of the collaborators left before it was done; Jason and I stuck it out to the end. From the galley, I walked out to MAPO. It was a pleasant walk, lit by a nearly full gibbous moon. The detector was running fine, so I spent some time working on a project at the workbench. Justus had a few questions for me about his Linux-based heater control computer (something funny going on with a Python script). Before I was ready to leave, the fire alarm went off; probably something smoking in the galley. I was getting ready to leave anyway when they called the disregard.

The walk back to the new station was quick. I was heading for the coat room when I heard the dinner bell. The Steaks were superb. After dinner, I stopped by my desk for a bit on my way up to Skylab for band practice. The core of the band turned out, Richard, Kevin, Dana, Sarah, and myself; we played a number of tunes on CD to see which ones we might want to play. We are thinking about "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and something by the Talking Heads.

Some of us went down to the bar after band practice. There was a cribbage game going, and a few folks watching one of Glen's movies, "Ichi the Killer", a very strange and violent Japanese movie. When that ended, Sean put in "A Day at the Zoo" (some kids movie about an actual visit to a Zoo), then "Any Which Way But Loose" (a real period piece of a Clint Eastwood comedy). When Rob left, I jumped in on the cribbage action. Jarrod and I pulled a couple of 14-point hands to win. I went back my desk after the movie was over, and worked on my Elf project before I called it a night.

Friday, 9 April 2004
I got up after breakfast and was getting ready to go out when Dana made an all call that there was a faint aurora to grid North. I grabbed my tripod and digital camera and went out the dome entrance. I stayed close to the door and took a couple of shots of the auroral streaks over the zenith, and the southern cross. Even blocked from the wind, it didn't take long to get cold. I went back to Science to thaw out and dump the camera. I showed Henry and Sarah the pictures and went to lunch.

I grabbed my usual fleece jacket and took the outside route to look at the aurorae on the way. Kris saw me up in the galley and asked if I'd walked back from MAPO dressed this light. I told him it was just from the dome. Lunch was Monte Cristo sandwiches, Fries, Chili and a treat from Richard, Navaho Fry Bread. I sat at the first table to start with, but when they all left, I moved to the middle of the room for some dessert and the New York Times crossword puzzle. Nick and Jason joined me on the puzzle and finished it off. Jason, Glen and I stayed behind to help the galley staff move all the tables and chairs out of the way of the rug cleaner. I went back to my desk for a bit to catch up on log books before going back up to dinner early so I could get back down early for watching "Stop Making Sense" with the band.

After the movie was over, we vacated the Library so some of the FEMC folks could watch "The Big Lebowski". I went downstairs for radio darts, and waited for the first game to finish so I could join in. For the last game, me, Sarah and Mike were on the same team, and Mike threw the winning double 17. From Comms, I went over to the bar to see who was there. It was empty enough I didn't have to wait for a seat. As midnight hit, we all toasted Anj for her birthday. The place cleared out a little while later, and I went back down to Science for a little while to check on things before I went to bed.

Saturday, 10 April 2004
I woke up right after breakfast, and spent the morning going over security preparations. Lunch was Burger Day. I tried to work on the New York Times crossword puzzle with Jason, but we just couldn't make much headway. I went down to my desk for the afternoon, and before I knew it, the day was gone. It was time for the all hands meeting up in the galley. I passed Pete on my way up the beercan, and took a seat in the back.

Pete went through the usual announcements (don't slam doors, conserve water and power...) and made the first draw for one of last year's flags from the ceremonial pole. Susie won South Africa. After the meeting, I hung around with Nick and Henry for a bit, then, rather than wait until 17:30 for pizza, went down to my desk to get some things done. I worked on my Elf and watched some "Doctor Who". I ran back up to the galley towards the end of dinner and grabbed a couple of slices and sat with Henry and Allan. When Henry left to do laundry, I went back down to the dome to see how the bar was going.

It was a little full, even for a Saturday night. There was a poker game in the corner, and Mike was in the TV room on the Playstation. I sat and talked with folks, and got out on the dance floor once or twice. I crashed long before the festivities were over.

Sunday, 11 April 2004
I woke up to an all call from Kris that the aurorae were good. I put on my Carhartt overalls and a warm hat so I could spend more time outside looking. I went up to the galley via the outside route to see how good the aurorae were, but there were only some faint traces. Up at brunch, Tom was cooking a self-styled "Redneck Breakfast" - Omelettes, Grits, and Biscuits and Gravy. I sat with Peter, Andrea, Kirk, Jodi, and Justus. Kirk and Justus were playing chess; the others invited me to join their game of Scrabble. I don't even remember the last time I played.

I kept drawing vowels the whole game. Until very near the end, I never had more than one or two consonants. For the first time ever, I had the chance to play all seven of my tiles (with the word "detoured"), but there wasn't enough room anywhere for a word that long to fit. I managed six with "treetop", missing a triple-word score box by one spot. Jodi tried to play a word with "Q" in it, but Andrea challenged a crossword that it formed, "Eden". Being a proper noun, it wasn't in the Scrabble Dictionary, and Jodi lost the challenge. I played my last letter to spell "do" to end the game. With Jodi stuck holding the "Q", my score was bumped up enough to squeeze out a one point victory.

On my way back to the dome, I stopped off at the store and checked out "The Simpsons: Season 3", "Dark Star", and a James Bond flick, "Diamonds Are Forever". I took the outside route again to look for aurorae. It's little bit windy, and from an odd direction (-70.9°F (-57.2°C) and over 10 knots from grid 097). Dennis must have fired up a generator in the old power plant - the smoke is coming out of a stack in the arch and blowing right at the beercan.

Down at my desk, I chatted with Erin for a little while, then had to head back up to the galley to help set the tables for Easter Dinner. There might have been some faint aurorae on the way back, but nothing worth taking a picture of. Up in the galley, Dehlia was searing the Beef Rouladen, and Allan was making a fresh green salad with a cucumber from the greenhouse. While they cooked, Susie, Angie, Keros and I moved tables from cafeteria rows to singles, giving the place more of a restaurant feel. When we'd finished setting the tables, I went back down to the dome to get cleaned up for dinner.

The walk down was a little colder and a bit windier, -76.4°F (-60.3°C), with over 11 knots of wind. It was enough to make my eyes water and nip my upwind ear between the beercan and the dome. On the way back, I took the tunnel.

I went up a little late. There was plenty of food left (except for the salad, but I expected that). In addition to the Rouladen, Dehlia made Fettucini Alfredo and Tofu with Veggies (I skipped the Pumpkin/Black Bean Soup). The place was packed. I was looking for a seat just as Kris was getting up to leave; I joined Sarah, Eyvind and a few others. Late as I was, my table cleared out soon after, so Dehlia invited me to sit with her and Doc at their table. The desserts looked so good, I had to leave some room for them, a thin sliver of a Pecan/Mocha torte, and a corner of the apple-spice cake. As things started clearing out, a bunch of us table-hopped, until we were more or less at one of the tables in the back. I wanted to stay and hang out, but we had band practice.

I made my way to the band room in Skylab just as things were getting started. Kevin, Sarah, Dana, Rich, and Kris were already there, plugging in and tuning up. We worked on "Love Shack", "La Bamba" and "Never There" by Cake. Practice went on until almost 22:00. From there, some of us went down to the bar to unwind. It was a small crowd, almost entirely regulars. Glen stopped in; we talked about AMANDA, Icecube, and the effect of the grant system on science. I hung out there for a bit, then went back to my desk to work on my Elf project and watch movies. I went up and crashed in the middle of "The Hunt for Red October".

Monday, 12 April 2004
I woke to another aurora all call, but there was nothing to see by the time I went up for lunch. They served leftover Beef Roulade, and Grilled Tuna Sandwiches. When the folks at my table got up to leave, I moved over to the only other occupied table and worked on the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle with Jason and Bride. Pete joined us, wanting to get in on the crossword action. We got pretty far for a Sunday puzzle, but we we didn't finish. I went down to the dome to get on with the afternoon.

Checking things at my desk, I noticed that one of the Supernova crates was powered off. I called Jeff to see if he would go out and restart it, but he had just gone to bed. As a last ditch effort, I called out to MAPO to see if Allan was out there and would hit the power switch, and I was in luck (apparently, Robert had asked him to do similar things last winter, so he knew exactly what I was asking for). I asked Allan a few questions about what he'd been doing this afternoon and now I have the suspicion that among other instigations, the metal lathe seems to produce large enough power spikes to affect some of our equipment. Once Allan restarted the crate, everything started coming up. I jumped on IM while I watched things restart.

Erin was on; I chatted with her. Then my friend David, from eighth-grade, fired off a message to me. He's going to a wedding in Germany tomorrow and saw me on and dropped a line. We talked for a bit before he had to go, then I went up to the galley for dinner. As I sat at a table eating some Roast Beef, the newspaper meeting started coalescing around me. We went around the table and gave a brief description of our experience and qualifications, then mentioned what we'd like to work on. It looks like I'll be the photo editor, as well as producing a monthly column with pictures of folks around station answering questions that I'll pose; sort of a "man in the street" feature. On my way back down to the Dome, I caught Tom and we had a talk about power to the Dark Sector, power factor correction, inductive load, etc. (as relates to our ongoing power problems in MAPO).

Back down at my desk, I saw TDRSS was up, started a few jobs, then went next door to the Fourth Annual 'Yuri's Night' party, an international celebration to commemorate Yuri Gagarin's achievement as the first human in space. There was a moderate crowd in the Wine Bar, no empty seats. Henry had hung photos of Cosmonaut medals, Rockets, and of Yuri himself. I set up my tripod for a group photo, took a few pictures of the festivities, then put everything away to hang out with the crowd. People started to leave around 22:00. When it was down to me, Henry, and Sarah, I went next door to the bar briefly, then down to my office to check e-mail, then call it a night.

Tuesday, 13 April 2004
Allan called me around 09:30 to tell me that when he runs the lathe, it does kill one of our crates (I'd asked him to check that every time he fires things up). Later, I made it up to the galley about 15 minutes after lunch ended. The food was off the steam line and in tubs, destined for the left-over fridge. I grabbed a Cheese Manicotti, a Beef Canneloni and sat at the beaker table in a nearly empty galley. Jules got up to go to AST/RO; Nick stayed behind and worked on the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. Triumphant at its completion, we headed out of the galley to get on with the day.

I ran into Tom in the hall outside the galley and talked to him about what I'd learned in the past 24 hours. He seemed to think there was something we could do about compensating for the spikes caused by heavy inductive loads out at MAPO. I spent the afternoon in the back of Science, then went up for dinner.

I grabbed some Meatloaf and Curried Chicken and sat at the last seat at the only full table. I lingered after eating until it was time for Kirk's Birthday Party. It started off small and kept growing as the night went on. Among the various presents, Justus made Kirk a nice beer mug out of a recycled bottle. I stayed as long as I could, then ran down to the dome to start the movie.

On my way to the library, I stopped off at my desk to print out some "Soylent Green" labels and slapped them on some boxes of Triscuits. Dave was watching the end of "Animal House"; I let him finish and waited for the audience to trickle in. By the time we started the movie (on Betamax!), most of the seats were full. After the movie, over at the bar, a couple of the guys were ranting about beakers and their frequent lack of advanced planning. I knew it wasnt about me, but I left anyway.

Back at my desk, I put the final few wires on my Elf kit and started debugging. There was something wrong with the clock, but I couldn't tell for sure with the tools I had at hand. While I was pondering problems with the computer, I checked my e-mail and downloaded the first of my panoramic pictures that Erin had scanned for me from the roll of film I sent home in February. I fiddled with the Elf some more, then went to bed.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004
I missed lunch today, and decided to go right to MAPO from my room. It was relatively warm, -50°F (-45.6°C), but windy, at 16 to 20 knots. I had on my contact lenses so I didn't frost up, but it was cloudy with no moon out, and it was hard to see the sastrugi. As I walked out to MAPO, I saw Cryo Mike drive by on the skidoo, but he didn't see me. When I finally walked out to the building, I checked the detector straight away. I moved our power monitor box from the warm room to the detector room and waited as Allan fired up the lathe several times. Not once did any of our equipment go down. When I dumped the power monitor, I saw several power events recorded that seemed large enough to cause problems (spikes from the motor on the lathe). It seems that the lathe is part of the puzzle, but not everything. There must be an unknown factor that has just enough influence to tip things over when everything is on at once.

After debugging power issues, I walked back to the new station for house mouse. I tried to walk downwind far enough of AST/RO to miss its drifts, but over 100' away, I was still struggling over knee-high sastrugi. I fell down once before I even got to the edge of the skiway. As I slogged home, I spotted some lights in the distance growing closer; it was Rob in the 935. I hailed him, and squeezed in the cab for a ride back to the station. I had to hold myself in interesting positions to give him the room he needed to operate the controls, but it all worked out. I might have been able to walk faster, but for once, it was nice getting a ride back in the dark.

I got to the new station just as Allan and the others were starting to clean. Today, our task was to sweep and mop the A2 hallway. Between Jules, Allen, Glen, and me, we knocked it out in about 20 minutes. I went down to the dome to get some stuff done before dinner. I didn't linger at dinner; I had some BBQ Chicken and got back down to the dome.

The Wine Bar was my first destination. The only person who was there was Justus, nose buried in a book. From there, I went next door to see what movie was playing - "Get Shorty". Moving right along, over in the bar, there were more people than anywhere else. Some folks were watching "Rocky III", a couple more were playing cribbage, and a few people were sitting at the bar, talking. I hung out for a while until people started to trickle out. I wound up the evening working on verifying the video output from my Elf before heading up to bed.

Thursday, 15 April 2004
I woke up in time for lunch, ran up for a quick bite in the galley, then went straight back down to my desk and worked straight through until dinner. From there, I went right to band practice where we worked on our new songs, "Love Shack", "Never There", and "Double Shot". I was so tired I was nodding off between numbers.

After practice, I went down to Science to scan some tax paperwork and e-mail the files home, and was completely frustrated trying to make a phone call over GOES-3. I had to finalize things over AIM, which was OK until I ran out of time on the satellite. I went to bed without knowing if everything was set.

Friday, 16 April 2004
I woke up after the satellite rose and checked my e-mail. All of my efforts of yesterday were a success. I went to lunch much relieved. Rich had saved some burgers on the grill so they'd be fresh and hot (for those of us who are perpetually late). I finished eating and moved over to the beaker table to work on the New York Times crossword puzzle with Angela and Jules. Jason and Bride were also working on the puzzle, but at a different table. Despite a couple of hard clues, we finished the puzzle off, then I went down to the back of Science.

The afternoon was uneventful. Dinner was a choice of Pizza or Chinese. I opted for the Turkey Chow Mein and an Eggroll (been getting plenty of pizza lately). Right after dinner, I headed back down to the dome to get a couple of things done before Radio Darts. Over in Comms, we sat around for half an hour waiting for the other teams to show up. Larry copied the summer's Film Festival tape which managed to distract us pretty well. Henry an I left for the bar after losing two games. The music was harder than I like (Rob was on the CD player), and the place was packed. I joined the group forming around the card table in the corner, mostly IT folks.

Kris and Kevin came in with the news that Kevin won the third game for us. Sean took over the music, put on some dance tunes, and we flooded the dance floor. A few songs later, I took my fleece out to the old Upper Galley to keep it from getting stepped on (again), and got sucked into a game of Battleship with Keros. I went back inside and talked with Henry for a bit, then went home with the place still packed.

Saturday, 17 April 2004
As I was getting up, Dana made an all call about good aurorae. I went down to my desk, grabbed my parka, and walked out the dome entrance. It was a great show - streaks overhead and at the horizon. I stood by the entrance and watched the strands sway back and forth and merge. I ran back in and grabbed my camera, but they were already starting to die down. I tried a few pictures, but I didn't have the right settings and nothing came out.

Back inside, I changed tapes, checked e-mail, then went over to the Library to see what movie was playing, some Western. Over at the bar, the feature of the day, "Seven Samurai" hadn't started yet; OV was watching some Mexican movie with dog fighting and other violent bits. He had just started, so it was going to be a while. I went up to the galley for some breakfast.

I sat with Jodi, Jules and Justus; we talked about family, siblings, and genetics. Tom came over with another suggestion about fixing our power problems at MAPO, then I finished my cereal and went back down to the dome to see if the movie was on yet. OV was still watching his movie, so we sat around, talking, for a least an hour. His movie ended right at 16:00, but there wasn't time for "Seven Samurai" before the Poker Tournament at 18:00. With nothing to watch, I went next door to my desk for a couple of hours.

When I heard the all call that the tournament was on, I decided to go up to the galley to get something to eat before going over to watch it. I took a noodle packet with me in case there wasn't anything appealing in the left-over fridge. I found Tuna Steaks, heated one up, and made the noodles anyway. After eating, I went back to my desk for a bit more before heading over to see how the tournament was going.

There were three tables of six players to start. I watched a few hands, then went back to my desk to see if anyone I knew was on IM. I chatted with Erin for a while, then went back to see how things had progressed. They were down to seven players. I watched for a bit, then went back to Science to wait for a phone call. I caught up with things at home, then made a final trek next door to watch the last of the tourmanent - it was down to the final four. Rob was the last one standing. I left right after he won, caught up with a bit of writing, then went to bed.

Sunday, 18 April 2004
First thing this morning, Dana made an all call that today's displays were the best aurorae so far this year. I grabbed my gear and went outside. It was an incredible display - ribbons on both sides of station, across the top, and curtains to the side. Things should really look great when it really gets dark. I took a number of digital pictures, varying the settings to figure out what works best. One annoying thing is that the camera would reset a couple of its settings when I'd switch it over to view what I'd just done.

Back inside, I thawed out me and the camera, then tweaked the pictures to touch up noisy pixels (CCDs don't react well to 20+ second exposures), and showed off my results to some of the other people in the building. With some successful shots under my belt, I headed over to the Library to see if it was open. A couple of guys were watching "McClintock"; I wasn't into a Western right now, so I went back down to my desk to work on my webpage. Just as GOES-3 was setting, the fire alarm went off. I ran to Bio-Med with Rob right behind me. I was inside and reaching for the radio when Pete called the disregard. I went back to work on my webpage, then upstairs for a bit of a nap.

I woke up during dinner and went straight to the galley. Henry and Sarah were cooking, some kind of Chicken Scampi, in three flavors, Mild, Medium, and Hot. The Hot was very tasty, made with some kind of roasted red pepper. I watched most of a 4-way Cribbage game with Scott, Angela, Jules, and Tom; then headed down to Skylab for band practice.

We worked on our new songs, playing through "Love Shack", "Never There", and "Double Shot" several times. Don showed up in the middle, and did some work on his pocket coronet. Justus tried to pitch a Dave Matthew's Band song, "Satellite", but it didn't go over very well. At the end of practice, most of the band took off, but a few of us hung around to listen to "Low Rider". Don and Kris seem all over it, but I'm still trying to get the bass part just right.

Back down in Science, I checked IM, but nobody from home was on. With my Elf completed, I started a new electronics project, reverse-engineering an old MC-1N INS8073 board I brought down with me. After writing up some of my findings in my project notebook, I went upstairs and turned in.

Monday, 19 April 2004
I took the outside route up to lunch today. It wasn't too windy, but there were no aurorae to look at, either. I was late enough that Rich had already started to put things away. The remaining choices included Turkey a-la King over Pastry Rounds, Mac and Cheese, and Grilled Sandwiches. Initially, I sat dowm with Sarah and Kris, but then moved over to work on the New York Times crossword puzzle with Nick and Jason. We worked on it for a while, but didn't finish.

On my way back to work, I stopped off at the new greenhouse (offically called the "Food Growth Chamber") and asked Randi how it was going. She said things were progressing, but slowly. It was supposed to be ready to install when it got off the plane, but it's more like a Christmas present with "some assembly required". If we are lucky, we'll have plants in it by mid-winter.

Later in the afternoon, as I was about to leave for the Trauma Team meeting, the detector burped as it went through its daily rollover. Normally, that's a non-event, but today, as I was watching it, things didn't transition to the next day smoothly. I spent a few minutes trying to see if there was a non-traumatic way of getting the data collection rolling, then gave up and restarted things. Once things looked stable, I went off to the gym.

Troy was going over going over fractures and splints. He was using Don as an example when I walked in. For our next meeting (in two weeks), Troy said we'd be working more on fractures and practicing splinting. From the gym, it was a quick hop up the beercan to dinner: Beef Manicotti, Scallop Scampi, Spinach, and Fresh Salad! I was still working on dessert when the newspaper meeting started. We went around the table to discuss our assignments. It looks like I'll be announcing a photo contest, and doing a monthly "Q&A" feature with pictures of the respondents.

Down at my desk, I worked on my web page for a bit, and got pinged on AIM by Erin and by my old grade-school friend David. He's still in Germany for a friend's wedding. I chatted with two continents and finished updating the code for my picture gallery so I could add some aurorae pics.

Done with web page maintenance for a while, I opened a box of goodies Erin sent me back when we still had mail (I have one a month to open, all winter long). This one had Candied Ginger, Shredded Squid Snack, Jolt Gum, and some other tasty treats. As I rifled through my loot, Henry and Eyvind walked past on their way back from tweaking the GOES antenna. Hopefully, we'll have fewer mid-pass dropouts now. I got back to work and kept at it through the night.

Tuesday, 20 April 2004
I worked on a couple electronics projects and watched the detector hum along. I tried to watch a DVD on my computer, but couldn't get it working in that particular box. Finally, I took a real break and played a couple of levels of "Dungeon Keeper", and ancient game I borrowed from Don in Met. Eventually, it was time for breakfast. I took the outside route - a bit nippy, but not a bad walk. It was -78°F (-61.1°C) with 6 knots of wind. There were no aurorae, but it was nice and clear.

On my way into the galley, I posted the announcement for tonight's movie, "Dr. Strangelove". I ate with the Met guys (about the only ones in the place at this time of the morning), then took the outside route back to the dome. I worked at my desk for a bit, then went up to my room to get cleaned up. Dana made an all call about good aurorae. I put on my Carhartts and grabbed the rest of my ECW, and went out the dome entrance to check out the skies.

I could see an auroral glow around the horizon, but the snow was too tall around the entrance to see much. I went up the snow stairs in the dark, and up at snow level, it all opened up. At least 120 degrees around the horizon were lit up, from ARO to the new station. I took a few shots in the direction of ARO and over the beercan. After half-a-dozen 20 to 30 second exposures, I headed in for lunch.

I set the camera in the corner to thaw, grabbed some lunch (Fried Chicken, Potatoes and Jambalaya), and sat with Dana and Kris. I showed my camera around the table; the pictures looked pretty good. On my way back to the dome, I took the outside route in case there was more to see.

There was. The aurorae were better than before. This time, they weren't just at the horizon, they were going over the top between ARO and the beercan. There was an incredible streamer, rippling like water past the Southern Cross. I tried to get some pictures of that, but it was moving too fast. I'd set up for one shot, the glow would fade, then start up somewhere else. I couldn't capture the really dynamic stuff, but I did get a shot or two.

Down in the dome, I was nodding off as I was dumping the camera. I'd been up for too long to get any editing done (long exposure times cause ghost noisy pixels to appear in dark areas - they look like ultra-bright stars). I tried a nap in the hammock, then finally went upstairs to crash. I woke up just in time for the big Dark Sector power meeting.

I ran up the beercan to the galley. One whole line of tables was full. All the interested parties were there - Pete for station management, Carlton for construction, Tom and Kevin the electricians, and me, Jeff and Nick for Science. Jeff and I decided to take our stuff down next Tuesday for some scheduled maintenance. During the interval, Tom and some others would be measuring power flucuations as they turned various motorized equipment on and off to narrow down the source of our interference. With our battle plan in hand, I went back down to Science to edit pictures for a bit before coming back up to the galley for dinner.

I walked in and saw one of my pictures from this morning up on Watcher (Sarah must have spotted it after lunch). I grabbed some Tuna Noodle Casserole and a fresh Salad and sat at the beaker table with Nick, Henry, Sarah and a few others. After we ate, I hung around for a while talking to Nick about where things were going with Science over the next few seasons, about working for big companies, random and cyclical layoffs, etc. He mentioned that he and Jules were going to miss the movie to go out to AST/RO fix some equipment. I went back down to the dome to get a start on the evening.

The movie crowd was small to start with. I made the usual announcement and a few more people showed up. Finally we had a mostly-full house: me, Henry, Dana, Dave, Clayton, Steve, Larry and Angela. More than half the crowd had never seen the movie before. Those of us that had, hadn't seen in a quite a few years. As usually happens, the crowd dispersed quickly after the movie. I stuck my head in the bar to see what was going on there - just Mike and Sean watching "Scarface". I gave that a miss to go back to my desk and work on some stuff overnight.

Wednesday, 21 April 2004
As I was working at my desk, I remembered that the flag pole from the top of the dome was sitting in the Carp Shop, waiting to be reinstalled later today. I went over there to sign it before it was too late. There was a Dremmel tool and some grinding bits. I found a bare patch near the top (no mean feat - there were two winters worth of signatures on it), and engraved "Ethan Dicks - AMANDA - W.O. 2004". It would have been easy to go up to breakfast from there, but I decided to skip it and crash early. I fell asleep while watching "Diamonds are Forever".

I woke up after lunch to a bunch of noise outside my door. House Mouse was on. I checked the chart to see where I should be - the bathrooms in A1. I went to the new station via the outside route, but there were only a few faint aurorae. I showed up to clean the bathrooms, but the guys were so quick about it that they were essentially done. I wiped down a couple of things, then walked back to the dome with Sarah. The aurorae were much better now. One was overhead and looked like it was coming straight at us (that's what it looks like to be directly under a curtain formation). I hurried back my desk, grabbed my gear and came right back outside. Sarah had hung back to watch and was just coming in. I looked around, but all the overhead activity was gone. I went up the snow stairs, set up the tripod and took a few pictures of the activity around the horizon, then went inside when the sky started to die down and I started up frost up. Just as I got to the bottom of the snow stairs, there were a couple of big bursts overhead. I set up the camera right there for one or two more shots, then went inside to thaw me and the camera out.

I caught up on e-mail, then went off to dinner. It was London Broil. The Wine Society was meeting at the other end of the table, but I decided not to join in. I went back down to Science and was surprised to see Henry at his desk in the NOC. I'd forgotten he was upgrading one of his servers. I hung around until he was done then cajoled him into a break up at the bar. The poker game was just ending as Henry and I got up there. Nobody stayed for long. The place pretty much cleared out after one round. I went back to my desk and watched a video and worked on some electronics as the detector hummed along through the night.

Thursday, 22 April 2004
When breakfast time came around, I went up for a small breakfast and lingered in the galley talking with Nick and Glen until 09:00. Back down in Science, Henry was just bringing in some of his good coffee. The first press went quickly, so I went over to the old galley and made a second press, and took some back to my desk. Nick came by to work on one of the AST/RO servers while I debugged jumpers on my MC-1N board. I figured out where it needed to be, and got the thing talking to a dumb terminal. Before I knew it, lunchtime had rolled around.

I walked down the tunnel on my way to the beercan and passed Sarah coming the other way. There was a light aurora on the horizon, but it was too windy for me to feel comfortable walking outside without my parka today. I stuck my head out the snow-level door in the beercan to have a better look. There were some wisps behind the Pole, but not very active.

It was late enough that Richard had started pulling the food from the line. I was still able to grab a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and some Chicken and Dumplings, though. I sat with the other beakers; we were the only ones in the galley. Back down at my desk, I went back to fiddling with the MC-1N board, and took care of some correspondence with folks at home. When it was time for dinner, I ran up, ate quickly, and came straight down to the band room for our weekly practice.

We ran through our old set first, top to bottom, then we started tackling the new songs. "Gone Daddy Gone" went pretty well, especially considering it was our first attempt. We finished, and a couple of us adjourned to the bar. I didn't stay too long. I had intended to get some writing done at my desk, but wasn't up to it. I went to bed early.

Friday, 23 April 2004
On my way up to lunch, I didn't have a flashlight with me, but could have used one going up the snow stairs. There's not much twilight left, and I could start to see wisps of the Milky Way. By the time I got into the galley, Richard had already pulled the pans off the line. I went around to the back side of the line, grabbed a Corn Dog and some Swedish Meatballs, and sat with the other beakers. After lunch, I walked down to the dome with Bride. She took the bare slope next to the stairs, I found an LED flashlight in one of my many parka pockets and used it to light up the stairs.

I spent my afternoon straightening up my area with videos on in the background. Sarah came by, and I shared some of my candied ginger with her and made plans for sushi night sometime later this winter. About midway through dinner, I headed up the beercan for some food. It was Chinese Night: Beef with Shitake Mushrooms, Duck Breast, and Eggrolls. I ate then went back down to the dome to get ready for Radio Darts.

We had two teams of three versus one Mactown team and two Scott Base teams. Scott Base won the first game, we won the second, and Mactown won the third. From there, I stopped off at my desk for a bit, checked on a few things, then took a short break at the bar before going home and making an early night of it.

Saturday, 24 April 2004
I was up at 08:00 for our weekly call to Madison, and met Jeff over in Comms. We had a bad connection and kept the call short. Back over in Science, I loaned Jeff my copy of "Starcraft: Broodwar", and talked to Henry and Sarah about the VHS copies of "From The Earth To The Moon" that are up in the store. Having missed breakfast, I made a noodle bowl and worked on my newspaper articles. I went up to lunch early to get a couple of pictures.

Troy was taking pictures of Don and Dana for the paper when I arrived. I took over and finished the shoot. I also snapped a few pictures of Richard serving folks, then grabbed a burger for myself. Before I left, I took a few shots of Sarah and Don clowning around for a different article. Back down at my desk, I noticed that one of our crates was off. I called around for Allan and when he called back, he confirmed that he'd been using the lathe and left without checking to see if any of our stuff switched itself off because of the spikes. I went up to my room to put on my ECW gear, but fell asleep while changing.

The noises from House Mouse out in the hall woke me up. I stuck my head out the door and saw Dana already suited up. He mentioned that he was going to have to be making the trip to the Dark Sector into the 26 knot winds. I asked to do me a favor and flip one switch for me at MAPO on his way thorough. House Mouse was over, and it was time for the all hands meeting. I went up to the galley, and barely had time to sit down before it was all over. Pete went over the usual stuff (conserve water and electricity, don't slam doors, etc.), then had me choose two flags from the stack for him to give away. Dana pulled Roscoe's name out of the hat for Argentina, and Pete awarded the Japanese flag to Dan (there are 26 flags total, 23 to go). I drew Dana a picture of the rack and the switch I needed flipped, and went down to my desk to wait for his call.

I was monitoring things closely and noticed that the system came up. Dana called and said he had no problem finding the switch. I stuck around a little bit to see everything come up smoothly, then went to dinner. As I went through the tunnel to the dome entrance, I passed Sarah and told her I'd be up in Skylab for our off-night band practice in a little bit.

Up at the galley, I grabbed a couple of slices of whatever was available and sat down with a few of the regulars. Kris was telling us stories about fraternities, Rush Week, frat parties, etc. I stopped off at the store on my way back down to the dome, then went up for practice. We went over a couple of our songs including "Never There". As we were getting close to finishing, the fire alarm went off. I was heading out of the Skylab tunnel, going clockwise around the edge of the dome when Brad and Slay ran past me going counter-clockwise. I was the second to get to Bio-Med, after Rob. I tried to fire up the radio, but the power lead had worked itself loose. Just as I hooked everything back up, they called the standdown. I heard from Sean that Brad had to take a fire axe to the door of the Grav Shack (the source of the alarm) because it was padlocked.

After things settled out, I headed up to the galley for Bingo Night. Adam and Jarrod were the callers for several tables of us. Jake was in the back of the room, sitting by himself, shouting "Bingo" at just about everything. When Sarah left, she gave her cards to me and Troy. It was nice of her, but it didn't help; her cards were as unlucky as mine. I got through the next game with one of them entirely blank - not one match. The last hand was the cash pot, split among three winners. When it was all over, most folks headed down to the bar.

The place was packed. I hung out for a while, and danced whenever the music was danceable. At one point in the evening, there were more people in the old Upper Galley (a non-smoking area) than there were in the bar, proper. Henry took over the music and steered it way over into Country. I was about to leave when he migrated back to Rock. I stuck it out until he and I were the last ones there. We did a bit of cleaning up, then I went home to crash.

Sunday, 25 April 2004
The big thing going on today was Byron showing "Seven Samurai" over at the bar. When I got there, folks were sitting around, having Irish Coffee. I made myself a bowl of noodles in the microwave and waited for the show to start. Around 15:00, the Nachos showed up and we kicked the movie on. Since none of us here speak Japanese (the movie was sub-titled), every once in a while, one of us would fill in a bit of dialog, a la "Mystery Science Theatre 3000". It was a good movie, but I didn't realize how long it was. I didn't stick around for the second feature ("Cobra"), and went over to my office to catch up on some writing.

I hadn't realized they pushed band practice up an hour, so I was late. They were already unpacked, plugged in, tuned up, and on the second song when I got to Skylab. We put in a long session, but it went well. Afterwards, back down in Science, I waited for a tape to fill, swapped tapes, then spent a little time on the 'net before turning in early.

Monday, 26 April 2004
In addition to the usual detector checks, I worked on articles for the paper, then went to lunch. It was still windy (over 20 knots), so I took the indoor route. Up in the galley, it was Italian Day. I skipped the Linguini and the Ziti and grabbed some Chicken Parmesan and took it over to the crossword puzzle table. As people filed past, I asked if they would let me take their picture and get their response to my question of the month. I was amazed at how many people declined. Bride accepted, and when Sean joined us around the puzzle and I asked him, he accepted, too.

After succeeding twice after so many failures, I went looking around the non-construction areas of the new station in search of a third and final candidate. I found Randi working on the new greenhouse, and she gave me and answer and posed for me. I've been going by the new greenhouse every few days to watch the slow progress. There's a door and windows on it now, but there won't be any plants for a number of weeks. I didn't stay long. The electricians are pulling feeder cables for the emergency power plant under the floors of A2 and A3. Kevin was running the winch at the door to the beercan. I passed him when the winch was off and went down to my office.

Around 15:30, Jules called to let me know there were aurorae out. I grabbed my parka and camera and went outside. It wasn't too windy down in the bowl by the dome entrance. Things were going on straight overhead, so there was no reason to move up into the wind. I took about six good pictures despite the fact that my camera kept jumping back to default settings everytime I'd see how the previous shot looked. The camera was picking up green, but to the naked eye, these aurorae looked white. There was a strong streamer bisecting the sky on a line from the Russian Plane over to ARO. After a few pictures, I went back inside to thaw my hands out and dump the camera. Besides the aurorae pictures, I pulled off the pictures for my part of the paper and sent them to Peter. I had just enough time to edit out some noisy pixels from the dark parts of the outdoor images when it was time for dinner.

I grabbed a Chicken Fried Steak with Instant Mashed Potatoes on the side, and ate, more or less oblivious to what was going on around me. Before I knew it, the newspaper meeting was happening at my table. Peter confirmed that he had my submissions, and we all talked about changes to the final pasteup and when it would be printed, before finishing up with plans for the next issue.

Later, I was working down in the back of Science when Glen came by to borrow some movies. I didn't make a late night of it; things to do tomorrow. About all I did before going to bed was to finish decoding the address PROM from my MC-1N board, and review some README files for someone I know back in the States who is putting together a CD-ROM of RT-11 distributions (a simple PDP-11 operating system).

Tuesday, 27 April 2004
I woke up in the wee hours and decided not to risk going back to bed and oversleeping. To pass the time until breakfast, I did laundry and read from "The Art of Electronics". On my way up to the galley, the aurora was a nice treat. As early as I got there, I was surprised it wasn't more crowded. There was all the usual stuff on the steam line plus fresh waffles. I managed to make myself a perfect waffle (didn't stick to the iron at all), and slathered it in butter and real maple syrup. I sat with Nick and Henry and talked about the upcoming network test before going down the my desk to grab the rest of my gear.

On the way down, I ran into Pete and asked him about the new wind-stopper balaclavas and LED headlamps. He told me to go over to Bio-Med and grab something off the pile. There's only one size of balaclava, so that was easy. What was harder was choosing among two styles of headlamp - 3 LED or 4 LED. I couldn't decide, so I grabbed one of each to test them out today. I started my walk out to MAPO on the flagged footpath, but when I saw lights in the distance behind me, I cut over to the vehicle path and flagged down the Skidoo Kirk was driving. He gave me a ride the rest of the way out to MAPO, and I sat on the back, watching the aurorae which were still going strong.

It was only a few minutes to MAPO from where I'd intercepted Kirk. I hopped off, opened the doors for him, helped him park the Skidoo, then shed my ECW gear and went upstairs. Jeff was already there. We started shutting down machines and powering down racks of electronics. We had everything off plenty of time to spare. Right at 10:00, they cut all the power to the building, and Jeff and I continued to work by headlamp. About the time I finished loading more channels into the high voltage crate, the lights came back on. Jeff and I waited a while to see that the power was stable before firing things back up. Since Darryn was standing by in Madison, the last thing I did before leaving was to send him an e-mail that everything was working and to thank him for being available in case there were any problems. It was good to have backup, but I'm really glad that we didn't need to call him.

I walked back to the dome with my headlamp off. The aurorae were still going on, and there was enough starlight, auroral light, and even vestigal twilight to spot most of the sastrugi. It was a good day for a walk back from the Dark Sector, about -63.6°F (-53.1°C) with a scant 6 knots of wind and near perfect visibility. As much light as there was, though, the snow is more jumbled by vehicle tracks near the station, so I did flip my light on when I got close to the beercan to keep from tripping. I got inside, back to my desk and shed my ECW gear.

After a bit of a break, Nick came by offering folks a shot off his cappucino machine. I finished my drink and was about to head up for dinner when Brad came by with his broken mp3 player. I took a cursory look at hit - he'd dropped it onto the headphone jack which broke loose and tore away a couple of capacitors from the main board. Repairable, but since it's all surface mount components, a bit tricky. I put it aside for now and went upstairs.

Dinner was BBQ Pork Loin, Roasted Potatoes and Spinach. I stuck around for a slice of cheesecake for dessert, then went down to the dome to start the movie. Dana was supposed to bring the DVD, but I couldn't find him. I made an all call for him, and Angela called me back to say that Dana was up in Skylab, practicing the drums. I worked on Brad's mp3 player while I waited for Dana to come down with the movie.

I hadn't seen "Silent Running" in a long time, perhaps not since I ran it as a summer movie when I was a volunteer at COSI. It was a small crowd, Dana, of course, Nick, Larry and me. After it was over, Nick and I hung back in the Library talking about PowerPoint and British vs. American educational systems. From there, I went next door to find most of the Radio Darts crew in the old Upper Galley throwing darts. When Jason left, I took his spot in the rotation. I threw a round or two, but the game was already down to everyone throwing for double-1, so after a bit, it broke up without anyone winning. We all adjourned to the bar for a bit before going home. I stopped off at my desk and finished up Brad's mp3 player, checked for friends on IM, and found my old colleague Bill on. I chatted with him for a while then went to bed very tired.

Wednesday, 28 April 2004
After a long yesterday, I slept in. About the first thing of any signficance I did was to go to House Mouse. Our group was assigned to clean the galley this week. That means clean the floors, wipe the tables, and stock the salt and pepper shakers and the napkin dispensers. When I showed up, Allan was the only one there, vacuuming. I started to work on the salt and pepper shakers. I was almost done with the salt when Jeff showed up. He worked on the pepper, then he mopped the tile in front of the serving line, and we were done.

Down in Science, I got on AIM to see who was around at home. My brother was on, but he'd been idle for some time (it was 02:00 at home; he was probably in bed but still logged on). I worked around the office for a bit, then headed up to the galley for dinner, choice of Bratwurst or Stuffed Red Snapper, and Asparagus on the side. After dinner, I checked the detector before setting out for my evening. Over in the Wine Bar, the couches were all packed for a game of Pictionary. The team I happened to join when I walked in, won; but then two people left, we reapportioned the teams and played another round. I found myself again on the winning team. With Pictionary done, I stopped at the bar briefly before heading back down to my desk to catch the end of the satellite.

Thursday, 29 April 2004
I grubbed around on the 'net until the satellite vanished, worked a little bit on my second SBC6120, then went to bed. I woke up just as lunch was ending, and ran straight to the galley. Most of the food was put away by the time I got there, but I found enough ingredients to make myself a Beef Fajita. I saw with the only other person in the galley, Jason, and we worked on the New York Times crossword puzzle together. Sean came through on a break and joined us for a bit. I left before we finished the puzzle, and went down to my desk. I noticed right away that Dana had reclaimed the soldering iron he'd loaned me. He must have taken it out to work on the SETI telescope. I caught up on critical e-mail, then went upstairs to crash out for a bit.

I was only out for a little bit, and made my way up to the galley for dinner. Again, I got there just as things were getting put away. I had my choice of Cornish Game Hen halves, Stuffed Peppers, Baked Ziti, and Veggies. After I ate, I went down to Skylab for band practice. The group was already going over old songs when I arrived. OV was there taking pictures of us at work. We played for over two hours, with Don showing up right at the end, just as we did our first run-through of "Gone, Daddy, Gone". Richard took off around 21:00, but most of us stuck around to practice "Space Oddity" with Kevin (Sarah and I did backing vocals).

After practice, down at the bar, it was Moe's birthday. Someone brought a cake, there were chips, etc. I pulled up a seat and talked to Kevin and Sarah for a while. I don't remember what tonight's movie in the Library was, but several people came in after the movie ended. I talked with Henry for a bit when he came in (also from the movie), but didn't stay too much later. It was still early in the evening, so rather than go to bed, I went back to my desk to see who was on AIM. It was a busy night back home; I had windows open to Erin, to my old buddy Bill, and my brother Matt. When they all logged off, I moved over to a different computer and popped in "Dungeon Keeper" for a bit of relaxation. I finished a level, caught up on a bit of writing, and went home to crash.

Friday, 30 April 2004
I slept in late enough that I decided not to make a mad dash up the beercan for lunch. Instead, I grabbed a packet of noodles and went down to my desk in Science. As I was catching up on my logbook entries, Dana made an all call about great aurorae. I grabbed my camera and my ECW gear and headed outside.

This windstopper balaclava I got from Pete is nearly useless. I can't breathe without frosting up my glasses - the mouth holes are way too small. My vision was completely obscured before I reached the bottom of the snow stairs, and I had to feel my way up to the surface. There was a group of folks up there, admiring the view. From their voices, it sounded like Rob, Sarah and Dana. I set up the camera and guessed at where to point it. There were auroral ripples over the top of the sky, with wide swaths closer to the horizon. The sky is finally dark enough that the aurorae have taken on a distinctly greenish tint. Unfortunately, it's so cold now that my external trigger cable snapped off my digital camera. All I was doing was repositioning things, but I must have bumped something. I took a few more pictures by pressing and holding down the shutter button (jiggling things a bit, no doubt), then I had to get back inside. I had to feel my way back down the stairs, then I could get inside and try to get warm.

I checked the temps in Met on my way by. No wonder my hands were hurting from several minutes outside without gloves (they get in the way of operating the camera controls). It's -85.7°F (-65.4°C) ambient, and -141.3°F (-96.3°C) in the wind. Kris told me that at one point this afternoon, it dipped below -90°F (-67.8°C) ambient.

As I sat at my desk warming up, the fire alarm went off. I was the first one to Bio-Med, but the disregard came before I could even turn the radios on. Back in Science, I dumped my camera from this afternoon, and spent a while touching up noisy pixels. After I had left a number of good pictures on the common drive, I went up to dinner, steamed Crab. I grabbed some and sat down. Most people were already on their second plates when I arrived. I'm glad I didn't want seconds; the ravenous hordes devestated the serving line before I could finish what I was working on.

Being a Friday night, I made my way down to Comms for Radio Darts. We fielded two teams of three versus one Mactown team and two Scott Base teams. We won one game, lost three. With the weekly phone call looming over me in the morning, I didn't make a late night of it.

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