December at the South Pole

Monday, 1 December 2003
Working through the wee hours in the back of Science, I got a call around 02:00 from Per Olof at MAPO to reset one of the high voltage crates. This time of year, many of the grantees are working long hours. I finished up my Polechomper testing in time for breakfast, then returned to the back of Science to do some minor computer housekeeping tasks.

Mike and Darryn were supposed to leave today. There were several all calls that were progressively pessmistic. First, they announces that all flights were delayed. Next, they cancelled the first flight, then then second flight. Finally, before lunch, they cancelled all flights today. There was enough wind and moisture in McMurdo to form rime ice on the planes on the ground. That, coupled with lots of snow yesterday has things pretty well shut down on the other end. The weather isn't forcast to improve for a while, either.

In the meantime, the weather is great here. Kris asked me if I wanted to help out with measuring snow accumulation on a "snow stake" run. Naturally, the answer was yes. I gathered my ECW gear and ran out of the dome and up the ramp, where the rest of the group was waiting for me in the Pisten Bully. Besides Kris, we had Don (another Met guy), and several eager volunteers to measure the stakes. We drove around the New Station, past the Russian tourist bi-plane, through the normally forbidden antenna field, and along a flagged route designated "Route C", bearing grid 170. There were stakes every 1/2 km, and flags in between (to help keep us on the route). Because of the antenna field, some of the closer stakes were abandoned, but there were still 39 stakes left on the 20 km route.

When we reached a fresh stake, the procedure was about the same: everybody with a job jumped out, one person measured the length of the exposed stake, another measured the angle and someone else recorded. We rotated jobs every five stakes. Riding along on snow that hadn't been touched in a year, we were surprised to cross tracks at a right angle to our own. We figured it they were probably left by the traverse group last week; there was no other group who had been in the area a recent as these tracks looked. Four hours after we set out, we hit the final flag. Several flags back, the station had disappeared over the horizon. For the final flag, we did something special: tied on a new flag with the date and all of our names. The results were there from previous trips, plenty of familiar names. I tried to take a few pictures at our terminus, but my batteries had frozen. We piled back into the Pisten Bully for the two hour ride back.

I'd spent the trip out in the rear compartment. We rotated around and sat in the front passenger seat on the way home. I was tired (more from being up than from exertion) and drifted in and out of sleep as we sped across the snow as fast as we dared (15-20 kph), heaving and surging over the terrain as if we were on the open seas. We did stop at the traverse tracks for a photo op: Don stood by the tracks with his thumb out, hitchhiking. We were most of the way back to the station by then; I think I was awake more than I was asleep for the rest of the trip.

The Met guys dropped us off by the beercan before taking their gear to the dome. Most of the volunteers scrambled up the stairs and made it to the food line with about 15 minutes to spare. After spending so many hours away from work today, I decided it would be a good idea to put in an appearance in the back of Science and knock a few things out. Darryn and I discussed some of the things left to do this summer, then we kicked back to watch a movie. Afterwards, Darryn headed up the bar for a smoke; Mike and I went up a little later. It was somewhat quiet - the only beer left was Coors Light. I sipped on a shot of peppermint schnapps and listed to the music. They were trying something new, a fresh tradition: Monday Blues Night. Folks dispersed early. I went home to read and sleep.

Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Before I could get out of bed, I heard over the all call that flights had been first delayed, then cancelled. Apparently, there was a lot of snow to be removed from the Ice Runway and the road to the Ice Runway in McMurdo.

Down in the back of Science, I worked on a Perl script to extract and format high voltage values from the database. I went to lunch with Mike; today was deli sandwich day. After lunch we had another fire alarm, this one caused by soldering fumes in the new station. They managed to call the disregard before too many of us ran off to our assigned stations.

After dinner, I ran around a bit trying to find a suitable box to send home some film for developing, but I ran out of time before the weekly Trauma Team meeting. We went over patient packaging and c-spine precautions (important anytime there's a mechanism of injury that involves sudden deceleration or falls from more than a couple of meters). The lecture part of the meeting was watching Nick and Angie wrap up Mountain. For the hands-on part, we split into two groups; my group packaged Angie, the other group packaged Sarah. We tested the quality of our work by tipping her over and back. Success! After the meeting, I found a small box in the back of Science and got it to the Post Office just as they were closing. Hopefully, Tom will get the film in a couple of weeks, get it developed for me, scan the slides and negatives, and e-mail me the results by the end of the year.

I returned to the back of Science to stomp out one more Polechomper bug, then went to the pool room to play some nine-ball with Mike. He won every game, even against some of the pool sharks we have down here, like Dar. After he beat me several times, we joined the gathering crowd in the movie room to watch something Michael Brown brought with him - a final cut of his movie about climbing Everest with the first blind climber to make the summit. The place was packed even though it was his second showing of the night. We sat around for a brief Q & A session, then most of us went to midrats. After refueling, I went back down to Science to wait for MARISAT to rise.

Wednesday, 3 December 2003
I was up through the satellite pass, working in the back of Science when I heard the all call that this morning's flights had been delayed again due to snow on the Ice Runway and Ice Runway Road in McMurdo. I went to my room to nap briefly before lunch, but was woken up by the announcement that all flights had been further delayed. I went back down to Science to help Mike install Linux on Jules' new Thinkpad, then we all went to lunch (Mexican Chicken Wraps).

Back down in Science, we got the announcement that all "skier" (LC-130) flights had been cancelled (the Twin Otter flights are still on, apparently). I went out to MAPO to work on the computers that talk to the String 18 dAOMs, but I needed to shut down a server that the T0 team was using, so I caught the last shuttle trip of the day back to the new station. We had a full load between T0 folks, SPASE folks and me. Dinner was Teriyaki Salmon with Broccoli and Green Curry Cous-Cous. Tasty. As has been usual lately, the AMANDA team sat together. Afterwards, I fiddled with LCDproc on my laptop (using my Palm V as a simulated LCD display), then dropped by the bar to see what was going on.

For the middle of the week, the joint was jumping. It was Cori's birthday (one of the GAs who happens to be driving the shuttle van this week). Sean was spinning dance music; several folks took turns tending the bar. Mike came up after midnight to let me know that the emedded processor that collects muon data was acting up. I left the party in full swing and went back down to Science to see what I could do from here.

Thursday, 4 December 2003
Sure enough, the muon data collection CPU was unhappy. It doesn't like being reset the hard way, and it's been reset too many times recently. There's nothing wrong with the hardware, but the filesystem isn't clean. Mike started a job to build a new disk from the backup we have, and I kept trying to repair the damaged filesystem. We finished up the new disk in time for breakfast. After eating, we tried to catch a shuttle to MAPO, but the shuttle was down because of problems with the brakes. Mike walked out to swap disks, and I went back to Science to make changes from there. I saw when Mike physically exchanged the disks, and was trying to switch things over, but I was too tired to type, and wandered upstairs to crash.

I slept through Mike and Darryn leaving. I didn't wake up for real until around 17:30. I checked in on the hosed computer - Darryn and Mike did a little work on it before they had to leave, but it was still unhappy. I decided dinner was crucial before starting another round. Spaghetti and meatballs; the meatballs were excellent. I sat with the the AMANDA team and met the new arrivals, Blaise and Anna.

Back down in Science, I couldn't get the disk to come up clean. Darryn called from McMurdo over Iridium to discuss our options. I shut down the machine, and waited for Matthias to return from MAPO with the disk.

Friday, 5 December 2003
I took a break at 01:00 for midrats: Grilled cheese and onion rings. I went back to work on the machine remotely until it locked up, forcing me to make the trip out to MAPO on foot. Matthias was still there, working on his own part of the detector. I threw both the new disk and the old disk on the machine at the same time, brought it up on the new disk, and started a backup over the network of what was left of the old disk. It takes hours for a tiny machine like that to push that much data over a wire, so I went to breakfast, then came back.

Now that I had a stable, known point to work from, I felt better about making changes. I identified what files had been changed since the backup was taken, and looked for them on the corrupt disk. There were only a handful of files, but identifying them took hours. Finally, I brought the new disk in alignment with where the old disk was, and fired up the detector. It got to a certain point and got wedged just as it was doing 24 hours ago. That, at least, was progress. The breakthrough was when I backed the application area back to a copy I'd made in mid-November. With that version of the software and config files in place, everything initialized and ran perfectly. My two-day adventure was over. I showed the team that everything was back on its feet, just as the shuttle van was pulling up to take everyone back to the new station for dinner.

We dined triumphant on steak tips and roast potatoes. Per Olof brought out the remnants of Bob's bottle of whiskey, and we toasted the return of the detector. After dinner, I went back to my room to get ready for some evening's entertainment to unwind from a grueling couple of days.

Unfortunately, I fell asleep as I was changing clothes. I woke up around 23:30 and headed over to the bar for another new tradition: "Cinco de Montho" (since May is a long way off). Pedro, one of the support workers here, is from Chihuahua State in Mexico, and it was all his idea. We had margaritas at the bar, and a variety of Mexican music playing on the stereo. It was pretty popular, especially with the swing shifters who don't get off work 'til after midnight. Even with the four hour nap, I was tired and went home after a few hours, leaving the place to people who weren't so sleep deprived.

Saturday, 6 December 2003
I did some basic housekeeping this morning, setting up a discussion board for the T0 team, and making accounts for the three new arrivals. There was mail, so I stopped by the Post Office and found a card from Erin, the second one I've gotten from her (and the second thing that I didn't send to myself).

Up at lunch, I met Marc, Stefen and David, who had come in on this morning's flight. Stefen ran a status and planning meeting right after lunch, then most of us went to the back of Science to dig into the afternoon. At one point, between Stefen, Matthias, Marc and Andrea (an AST/RO grantee), I was entirely surrounded by Germans. It made me wish I spoke a lot more of it than I do.

Late in the afternoon, it was time for the all-hands meeting. There were no earth-shattering announcements, but it's good to go to these when they happen. You never know what's coming over the horizon if you don't go. The meeting was long enough that the galley crew started to set out the pizza. I had a slice and went back down to Science. Elisa had been calling for me - the detector wasn't getting its trigger, meaning that there was no data being collected because the detector didn't know if any events were going on or not. I tried to restart it several times, but it wasn't responding. We decided to go out to MAPO after dinner.

Mike, Elisa and I all went up to the galley together. I had another slice of pizza (with chicken and brie topping), and, after some ice cream, we all started the walk out to the Dark Sector. Matthias passed us in a tracked vehicle after we had crossed the skiway on foot. We piled in and rode the last 20% of the trip. When I stood in front of the detector, the problem was obvious - the first rack of the trigger had no power. It had a blown fuse, but the replacement blew right away. I was hoping to avoid removing all the cards from the crate and the crate from the rack, so between Blaise, Mike and myself, we managed to remove the power supply from the back of the crate while it was still populated and mounted. Over on the test bench, the supply sparked and gave a loud crack when I powered it up; I switched it off before it could smoke, but it was clear that it was fried. We found the spare, installed it, and all was well with the trigger. The detector still didn't get through initialization, but that was because we'd also lost a circuit breaker, and a crate in another rack was completely without power. That was simple to fix - go to the panel and reset the breaker. That plus a reset, and we were back in business. I walked back to Science with Jeff.

After my much-needed shower, I went to the bar by way of the old upper galley. There, outside the smoky area, I ran into Matthias, Paddy, Nick and Troy. I grabbed a drink and sat with them until they moved on. Things were quiet inside, only a few people. I called Summer Camp, and there seemed to be a crowd there, so I headed on over. On the way out, it was sunny with the wind to my back - the sun felt strangely warm on my neck fleece. With such nice conditions, it was a quick walk. When I got there, though, there was no dancing, quiet music, and clusters of people sitting on the floor, talking. There was a group heading back to the bar; I went back with them (into the wind, a much colder walk back).

On the way up to the bar, we ran into Tammy and Greg in the workout room. We stalled there for a while as Greg finished up his workout. We started throwing around movie titles, and since Tammy had "Princess Bride", we decided to watch that. We tried the library, but they had just started "Young Frankenstein". We almost stayed for it, but the DVD player in the bar wasn't being used, and the revelers there had long since gone home. We watched the movie, watched a few of the extras, then all dispersed to home.

Sunday, 7 December 2003
I slept through the formal hours of brunch, got up, went downstairs to check on my e-mail and see if the detector was running (it was!) I ran off to the galley to grab a bowl of something from the leftover fridge, and sat with Troy, Sean, Sarah and a few others who were lingering after their meal. I fixed a bowl of cold cereal (with powdered milk), some toast and vegemite, and indulged in a cup of coffee with some real milk I bummed from the cargo folks at the next table.

Later, down in the dome, I stopped by the store to check out the "Yard Sale" of older merchandise. I picked up some shirts and browsed the movie selection. I wandered on up to the music room in Skylab, and warmed up by playing "The Maple Leaf Rag" all the way through. After I ran through my repertoir, I went on down to the Library for a meeting about our reading of the play "Terra Nova", a drama about Scott's expedition to the Pole and almost back in 1912.

There was a pool tournament going on, so the "Terra Nova" folks reconviened in the old upper galley. We decided to split the production over the next two Sundays. We made tentative assignments of the parts (I'll be reading the part of Birdie Bowers), and handed out books to prepare. I whiled away the time until dinner over in the back of Science, catching up on e-mail, then trucked up to the galley for some Pot Roast and Mashed Potatoes. I skipped the science lecture in favor of coming back down to Science to finish my correspondence.

Monday, 8 December 2003
I was still up when MARISAT rose. Some of the other AMANDA team came down a little while later to take advantage of the satellite window - there were several of us here before breakfast. A bit later in the morning, Sarah offered me a cup of fresh pressed coffee. I drank it back in the NOC as we talked about sushi and other Japanese food (and what we might need to have shipped down here to have some this winter). Late morning, I ran out of steam and went to my room for a nap. I woke up after lunch for the AMANDA meeting in the galley. Afterwards, I fixed a corned beef sandwich out of the leftover fridge.

New mail was in. My 50mm Pentax lens finally arrived. Hopefully the 19mm lens will follow close behind. Some stuff gets here in as little as two weeks, but four to six is more common.

Over at MAPO, things were pretty crowded. The entire T0 team was there (six people), and there wasn't much room to move around. I had come over to install the recently-arrived power power supplies in the new high voltage crates (so we could run them at capacity). In the middle of upgrading the first crate, there was an all call that Jon Johanson's would be flying overhead in his home-built RV-4. I went outside to take pictures, as did most of the people over at AST/RO We didn't know from which direction he'd be arriving, so we kept watch towards McMurdo and towards Palmer. He came in low and fast. I turned as soon as I heard him, but he was already past me. I snapped a few quick pictures of him as he left the end of the skiway. He turned around to go back north, a little higher and a little slower, and I had a little more time on the second pass.

Back inside, I finished up the first high voltage crate, updated the database, and it was time for dinner. Afterwards, it was an uneventful evening working on various server tasks in the back of Science, and went to bed early.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003
I awoke suddenly at 03:00. Rather than go right downstairs, I finished the last couple chapters of "Heretics of Dune" and walked over to the Library to swap it for something new to read. Down in the back of Science, I hacked on xearth a little (to make Antarctica white instead of green, a long-time goal of mine). Stefen came down at 04:30 for the AMANDA conference call, while I worked on my hardware database import tool. After I added accounts for today's arrivals, I went to breakfast. Back down in Science, I finished my work on the database tool.

Today's planes arrived, and brought mail. I got my Christmas package from Erin, but my lens and a few other items are still in the pipe.

I went to dinner early to have more time to work on the second high voltage supply (and to catch the last shuttle out). Anna, Matthias and Stefen were still out there, working. Stefen and I pulled the upper crate (which was resting on wooden blocks) to get access to the lower crate, but after removing all the cover panels I could, I discovered that one of the cables I had to add to the crate to install the third supply can only be accessed from the bottom. Stefen and I pulled all the cards, and put the crate up on the workbench. It was much easier to install all the new cables and replace the other power supplies with it on the bench. Two hours later it was back in the rack, tested, powered up, and back in service. I started a muon run, and Stefen and I walked back to the station.

On the walk back, we had a great halo display to watch, with sundogs and the circum-zenith arc. I ran into the dome and into Science to grab my camera and the "eclipse stick" (a circle of cardboard on a 3 meter bamboo pole), then back outside for some pictures. By the time I got back out, the sundogs were dimming, but the halo was still clear.

Back in the dome, I checked my e-mail for the evening (since LES 9 was up), then went over to the bar to see who was around. It seemed that I'd walked in at the tail end of an IT gathering. A couple of the IT folks were still there, as was most of the AST/RO team, having scotch and cigars. Sean was playing cheesy music, getting ready for the disco party this Saturday night. When the bar ran low on beer, folks started trickling out. I ran back to my room for an emergency six-pack, and put it on ice for the bar. I took over the CD player for a while, finished my beer and hit the sack.

Wednesday, 10 December 2003
I had my hands full in the morning with full disk problems. While I had that going on, Greg, one of the grantees with AST/RO left this morning. He's been great to have around. One of the hardest things about being a winter-over in the summer is watching people leave that you wish were part of the winter crew.

After lunch, I took a quick round-trip to MAPO in the shuttle van. I was only going in to pick up an extension cord and my notebook. Rather than wait outside, the shuttle driver came in with me. I gave him a quick tour of the building (most people here have never been to the Dark Sector), and we went back to the station.

I stopped by the bar for a beer after dinner. I spent a while talking with Cookie Jon about sushi ingredients, what we have, what we need. I think I have a pretty good picture of what we need to order, personally, before station close. I know a few people who are going to be in New Zealand in January or February, who can probably bring stuff down with them, or put it in Guard Mail. I'm finding more and more sushi fans as the summer goes by. We should have at least one good sushi party over the winter.

While it was still early, I stopped by the pool room to either practice some nine-ball, or maybe watch a movie. There were no movies going on, but Stefen, David and Jason were playing pool. Stefen and I pored over the selection of VHS and Betamax tapes in the library. He didn't have any strong opinions, so I offered him a choice: "This Island Earth", the original; or "Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie", where they make fun of "This Island Earth". Stefen chose the original. There's a great line in there about neutrino beams that I hadn't remembered.

I tried to get on LES 9 afterwards, but I couldn't get any packets to go through. I gave up trying, and took my laptop up to my room to do a some writing in peace. Without a desk, it's awkward. I balanced my laptop on my lap for as long as I could, then stuck it on the shelf and went to sleep.

Thursday, 11 December 2003
The first thing I heard when I walked down to the back of Science was that there was a problem with the high voltage crates. I grabbed some lunch before heading over to MAPO. Mike, Blaise, David and I all arrived in the same shuttle. I didn't even have time to set my notebook down when the power went down, hard. I was frantically switching off fifteen racks of electronics when Comms called to ask me if it was OK to restore the power. Since I wasn't done, I had to answer no. Jeff came by as I was finishing with the main racks, and helped me reconnect a monitor to the rack on the end (that was on a local UPS) so I could bring the computers in the rack down easy. Unfortunately, just as we reconnected everything, the UPS died.

Jeff ran out to SPASE to shut it down, and I finished up with the server/workstations in the other room. Once Jeff was ready at SPASE, I called Comms back to tell them to restore out power. About ten minutes later, we were up again. I spent the next 30 min bringing things up from a cold start. The T0 folks went back (since the detector was still down); Jeff stayed behind to help debug 1458s. We found some odd behavior and started to document what was going on, until we ran out of time to call a shuttle to take us back for dinner.

The AMANDA team nearly filled an entire table. We ate our lamb chops and talked about how to tackle the latest problem. I was just taking my dishes to the window when the fire alarm went off. Unlike most alarms, when I stepped out into the hallway for this one, I could smell something unusual - an air of welding sparks or grinding smoke. I reported in to Bio-Med by phone and stood by in the new station. BK hearded people to the designated muster points. After a long few minutes, we got the stand-down order. I walked to MAPO.

Matthias was already there, bundling and moving cables to free up suspect high voltage cards. We tested each card and slot in the first two crates and narrowed down the problem to only four cards. Once we knew what was good and what was bad, we quickly divided the channels so that both crates were once again working. What that meant, though, was that we had to reassign several hundred channels of high voltage values, probably about 25% of all the channels in the detector. Jeff and Matthias recabled the old 1440, and I loaded the new assignments into the database.

There have been a few hardware changes since I first arrived. The procedures in my notes that last year's winter-overs taught us don't apply any more. I tried to feed the high voltage crates directly, but couldn't get the crate to take the data. I then generated external files for the new method, but couldn't get the Java program to accept the data files. Finally, Matthias and I gave up and entered several hundred high voltage values into the crates by hand. It was slow going, but we triple-checked everything and discovered no mistakes. With the high voltage restored, the detector started right up. We walked home.

We got to the galley so late the Don was putting away the food. We nabbed some chicken, mac & cheese, and a tuna melt before they went into the fridge. We sat at a table in the corner, eating and watching the last few turns of a midnight game of Scrabble. After we were finished, to unwind, Matthias broke out a deck of cards, and we played a few hands of poker for fun. Jeff wandered through the galley and joined us for a few more hands.

On my way down the beercan to go back to Science, I decided to take the outside route. I turned the corner to go down the snow ramp and was faced with two giant closed doors. Normally, the dome entrance is left standing open. When snow or ice ice crystals start to blow and drift in, they close the entrance. There's a small, person-sized door in the right large door. I stepped through that, and felt oddly indoors. When the doors are open, you don't feel as if you've gone inside until you enter a building or a side arch. Tonight, with no light poring over my shoulder, and the overhead lights on in the main arch leading to the dome, it felt completely different. Eerie. I wonder how different Winter will feel, when they switch the ceiling bulbs to red.

Friday, 12 December 2003
I worked in the back of Science through the 04:30 conference call. I crashed after that, got up just as lunch was ending and made it to the galley in time for an open face turkey sandwich that was, in and of itself, not bad, but way too bland for my tastes (I did hear some favorable comments coming from some of the people from the northern mid-west, where this sort of thing is a comfort food). I sat with the rest of the AMANDA team at a couple of round tables we pushed together. There are so many of us that it's hard to sit as a group at meals.

For the afternoon, the T0 and string recovery teams went out to MAPO; I went back down to Science to sift through dozens of e-mails, only a few of which required my attention. After dinner, and after slushies at ARO, I ended the evening by moving a few gigs of detector data into the queue to go north for Blaise. I saw the queue start to drain and called it a night.

Saturday, 13 December 2003
With all the new grantees on station, we had our first weekly science meeting in a few weeks. We covered topics like all calls and flight announcements, the upcoming move of the TDRS antenna from the El Dorm, and we made our usual introductions all around, with our names and projects and a brief status update. There was still about 45 minutes left in the GOES pass, so I went back down to Science to do some work while we were attached to the outside world. Once the satellite set, I went to lunch.

In the afternoon, the T0 team went back to MAPO, and I went back down to Science. The only unusual thing that happened was having to reset the embedded data collection processor when the T0 team couldn't get the detector to restart one time. Fortunately, it was a clean reset. It will be nice when all the calibrations are done, and we can leave the detector alone for days at a time. Fewer restarts means fewer probems.

Saturday night means pizza night. I had couple of slices and ran down to the store to stock up for the weekend. Unfortunately, we haven't had a beer shipment in a while, and they were down to Coors Light, MGD and Ice. I admit it; I'm a beer snob. I'd rather go without than drink Coors or Miller. Thwarted in my search for some Canterbury Draught, I went home and crashed for a few hours.

Being the night of the big Disco Party out at Summer Camp, I put on the awful polyester shirt and hideous tie I found in the skua pile (they set out "vintage" clothes for the event). I stopped by the bar, but it was heavy metal night. I left as soon as I got there. Out at Summer Camp, thing were rocking. Sean was playing a mix of disco and modern stuff. The costumes were amazing. One of the best was a guy in an all-white polyester leisure suit with a large dollar-sign medallion hung off his neck chain. After about 01:00, the music turned more modern and less disco, but the dance floor stayed packed. I think that's about the time that most of the AMANDA team left (it was good to see them there; normally, events like this don't draw too many of the beakers who are only here for a couple of weeks. They don't get out of the work spaces much in the short time they are here.) I saw them off and went back to the dance floor for a while longer. Finally, as things started winding down, I walked back to the dome, checked my mail and went to bed.

Sunday, 14 December 2003
With all the dancing last night, I slept and slept and slept. I even slept through brunch. I kept waking up with a dry throat, dry mouth, even a dry tongue at one point. I'd drink some more water, then go back to sleep. I woke up for real just in time to go to library for our reading of "Terra Nova". We had just enough people to fill out the cast, with one person, Susan, as our audience.

Kris and Peter read the parts of Scott and Amundsen; Paddy read Kathleen, Scott's wife; Sherri read the stage directions; and Tyler, Andrea, Dave and I read the parts of Wilson, Oates, Evans and Bowers. I have to say, reading the part of Bowers was fun; he has some great lines. After we finished our performance, we realized that today is the 91st anniversary of Amundsen's arrival at the Pole. We went to the pool room to look at pictures and plaques of the event and some of the other anniversaries.

I had a little time before dinner, enough to check e-mail before heading up the beercan. Tonight was Steamboat Round with real roasted potatoes. The AMANDA team filled out most of a table, as usual; we were joined by Sarah and Jules. After dinner, I went back down to the dome for the brewer's meeting. A few of us have been talking about making beer over the winter (a common pastime). Kris showed us where the equipment and supplies were being stored. We planned some strategies on how best to make accomodations with the kitchen staff to use the facilities on an off-evening, what to make, and where to put it for the weeks it has to sit and work. I've been making homebrew since 1985, so I fell into something of a teaching and leadership role. We'll see if we can sustain this level of interest when it's time to wash glassware.

Monday, 15 December 2003
When I woke up at 03:30, rather than go back to sleep, I finished reading "Chapterhouse: Dune", then went down to the back of Science to accomplish something useful. Anna was there, working on string calibration; Matthias arrived a little later. Mike even came down around 05:00 to finalize his transportation details. I called back to Madison to fill Bob in on what's been happening with the high voltage crates, then went to breakfast.

Breakfast was interrupted, twice, with false alarms. Since they were in the new station, I just called into Bio-Med and stood by rather than make a hurried round-trip up and down the beercan. After finishing breakfast, I went back down the the dome to work on tapes for Elisa.

Mail came in on today's flight. I went to help unload, but there was so little that they had it all in the pool room before I arrived to help. I got a box of paperwork from home, and the remote camera cable I ordered for my digital camera. With this and one of the insulated boxes Robert left me, I should be able to take digital shots of the Aurorae Australis this winter (normally, digital cameras don't allow you to take exposures longer than two to eight seconds. This switch acts like a cable release in a 35mm camera, allowing me to take 30-45 second shots or longer).

After lunch, I boxed up a year's worth of raw detector data for Matthias to take back to Germany with him. I found a large crate (too large); he found a smaller crate that belongs to DESY (where the tapes are going) that was just about the right size. As we finished loading the crate, Eyvind came past with news of good sundogs.

Eyvind and I took the portable eclipse pole up the ramp and out of the dome. I tried to get it to stick in the snow at the edge of the ramp, but the bottom of the bamboo pole (which was already cracked), shattered. We took turns holding it up for each other. After a dozen pictures, his hands were cold and my face was cold. We went straight in the beercan, and up to dinner.

After some Chicken Scampi over pasta, I went back down to the dome, and up to Skylab to practice piano. I found my own music plus a copy of the "Moonlight Sontata" to work on. I'd been playing for a while when Jeff led Mike and Elisa through the lounge to take some pictures off the balcony. After they left, I went back to the piano until some other people came up to jam. I let them have the room and went down to see who was on the pool table. "Rocky" was showing in the library. It didn't pull me in, but since the table was empty, I played a few rounds of nine-ball, then stopped by the bar, where they were watching "The Matrix Reloaded". That also failed to pull me in. I tried to work in the back of Science, dumping my camera and catching up with correspondence, but there were too many people who were leaving tomorrow, milling around and making it too hard to concentrate. I left them to their frantic last-minute activities and went to bed.

Tuesday, 16 December 2003
I woke up early with the intention of cutting Elisa's files to disk, but I kept having problems with the burning machine. I gave up after making a few coasters, and went up to the galley for our wrapup meeting at 10:00. On the way there, between the beercan and the dome, I paused to gawk at the double-halo around the sun. The sundogs were as strong as I've seen them here. A great show.

Up in the galley, it was really too noisy to hold a meeting, but we didn't have time to find another venue. We went over some of the T0 and channel debugging experiences, said our goodbyes, and ended the meeting to let people leave for the plane. I wanted to see Mike off personally, and headed to the skiway via the wooden staircase.

I saw the shuttle van over by the PAX terminal and thought that they had already dropped off their load of outgoing PAX. I started to walk over when I noticed that they were picking up incoming PAX. It was warm enough out of the wind, -9°F (-23°C), but as I was only in a polar fleece and sneakers (all my ECW gear was under the dome), the wind chills of -42°F (-44°C) made the walk less than pleasant. I snagged a ride back on the shuttle, as it drove past. When we got back to the wooden staircase, I could see Mike and Elisa coming down from the new station. I said my farewells to Mike on the stairs (in Greek, of course), then went back to the dome and to the back of Science.

I continued to fiddle with files until it was time for lunch. It's a shame that Mike had to leave as early as he did; we had Gyros with real Tzatziki, and Hummus with Pita. My afternoon was filled with moving several gigabytes of raw muon data files to the high-speed ftp queue for Blaise. When dinnertime rolled around, we all went up to the galley as a group and sat together.

After dinner, I went to my weekly Trauma Team meeting. Angie had us do a rescue scenario: she was on a ladder in the Carp Shop when a nail gun went off into her leg. We had to deal with several simultaneous issues - she was on a cold floor, she had a nail embedded in her thigh, and she might easily have a neck or back injury. Mountain kept her head immobilized, while I kept pressure on her puncture. Greg was free to move around and fetch us supplies and equipment, and to do a head-to-toe survey. We packaged her on the backboard and practiced taking her down the stairs while she was strapped in. It was more elaborate than any scenario we'd done in Trauma Training in Denver.

After we unwrapped Angie and talked about how the scenario went, I went back to work to make a tape for Stefen, and to queue up more raw data for Blaise. I waited until the TDRS pass to see Blaise's files start to go North, and I went to bed.

Wednesday, 17 December 2003
I was roused out of a deep sleep by the all call that the NGA helo was landing in 10 minutes. I got dressed as fast as I could, stopped by the back of Science for my camera, and scooted up the ramp and out of the dome. When I emerged, I could barely hear the helo in the distance, but the station was blocking my view to the direction I figured they'd be approaching from. As I walked toward the pole, a number of skidoos pulled up loaded with people to watch the landing. Most folks stood right by the Pole, but there were many people standing by the edge of the NGA taxiway, just to the other side of the pole. I took up a position equidistant from the geographic and ceremonial poles, with a good, clear view of the skiway.

I heard the helo get suddenly louder, and spotted it clearing the corner of the new station, heading for the NGA taxiway. I snapped off a dozen digital pictures and the last few shots on my roll of 35mm film. Once the helo touched town, at least thirty of us walked over to greet the pilots, Jennifer and Colin. BK gave the traditional speech to NGA visitors, letting them know where they were allowed to go and where they were not, and introduced them to Pete. People were snapping pictures everywhere. I think I ended up in a shot with Jennifer and Colin with their own camera. Eventually, the crowd trickled away. I went to the galley with Brandon, but didn't feel like eating much breakfast. I had a few glasses of juice, and when Jules saw I wasn't looking so hot, she made me a nice cup of green tea with honey.

Up in the galley, we heard over the all call that the first flight of the day, the PAX flight, was delayed due to mechanical reasons. I drank my tea and took pictures out the window of Jennifer and Colin, who were still setting up their tent and posing for hero shots at the pole. I went back down to Science, dumped my camera, and printed off a couple of nice pictures of the helo landing. I tried to find Jennifer and Colin to give them prints, but I heard they were back in the helo, repositioning it closer to the ceremonial pole and hovering for dramatic photos. I was too tired to go out again, and on top of it all, my camera batteries hadn't warmed up enough to work.

I tried to get on the satellite, but our GOES 3 connection kept going up and down. I kept at it until the satellite set, but it was never up long enough to be all that productive. On my way to lunch, I heard they'd cancelled the first flight and would be sending the PAX out on the flight at 16:00. I went back to my room after lunch and crashed for a few hours, missing Stefen and the others (normally, we try to have a good send-off). Paul came by to borrow the portable eclipse stick, and talked me into going out to photograph sundogs.

We took pictures for as long as we could stand being out in the wind, then went right up the beercan to dinner, for something new tonight - Mahi-Mahi and Caribbean Fritters. I sat after dinner for a couple of hours, talking with Nick and Paddy, then went down to the bar for some more socializing. It was Jon's night off. We sat and talked about music, movies, good steaks, trips to Manhattan, and, the most surprising to me, IBM Mainframes. Apparently, his father was part of the CICS group at IBM. I don't know how many other people down here could have appreciated that. I helped Kevin out with the last splash at the bottom of his bottle of Bushmills, then went back to Science to work on Polechomper to get it back online before the DAQ disk could fill up.

Thursday, 18 December 2003
I worked on Polechomper through the night. A little after 05:00, I went back up to the new station for my parka that I'd left hanging in the coat room yesterday. Through the galley windows, I could see Jennifer and Colin packing up their tent. I'd been expecting them to be up and around by this time of the morning, based on when they said they'd be leaving. I walked out to give them the prints I'd made of their landing, and they asked me to photograph them with their World Wildlife Federation banner at the Pole. I took several pictures of them with both the dome in the background, and the new station. About the time we were finishing up, folks started trickling in to see them off. Right before they took off, they handed me their video camera for one final shot of them on approach and landing at the the Pole. Once they landed, Colin came over to pick up their video camera, and they departed for real. I went inside for some breakfast and to thaw out.

I tried to get some work done, but I was too tired to even type. I crashed after GOES 3 set, skipping lunch. I woke up just before the end of dinner, Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce over Cous-Cous. I sat with most of the folks on the AST/RO project. They were meeting with Vladimir after dinner, so I went down to Science to work on the serial port configuration issue. I tried to resist, but serial port settings were too boring to hold my attention, and I wandered up to the library where Jeff was showing "Jackass". Having now seen it, I can say I'd have been better off to have stayed at work. When it was over, I escaped back to work to get back to figuring out how to make the serial ports dance.

Friday, 19 December 2003
After a few hours, Mark and I went up to the galley for midrats, then back down to Science. No matter what I tried, I could not get the 8-port serial card to respond to interrupts. I started a kernel rebuild to enable multi-serial interrupts and went to bed.

When I checked on the kernel build, the modules were not quite happy, but I had to reboot the machine anyway. I went out to MAPO, but when I got there, I noticed that the indicator lights on the analog-to-digital cards in the CAMAC crates were not lit, and the detector was frozen between updates. I tried a power-cycle-and-restart on the affected crates, but the lights just went out again. I called Jeff so we could put our heads together on the problem. He arrived just as I went through the third cycle of powering crates off and back on, but this time, things started fine. I went to dinner.

They were serving New York Strip with Mashed Potatoes. I found a couple of small, but nice chunks, and sat with Jeff and Eyvind. I stopped by the Post Office on my way home to check the new mail, but there was none for me. Down in the back of Science, Justus came by to see if I could take pictures of him at the Pole for his Christmas card. I grabbed my parka and camera and we headed out.

It was about as warm as it gets here, -4°F (-20°C), but windy. We didn't stay out at the Pole for long. After a few shots, with and without a Santa hat, we went up the beercan to the Galley, where folks were decorating Christmas cookies. I sat down to make a few, then went back down to Science to dump the pictures out of my camera.

Saturday, 20 December 2003
Jeff woke me around 09:00 (my alarm was set 12 hours off) for our call back to Madison. I was still getting ready to go out when Slay came by to inspect my fire escape hatch. Fortunately, he was in and out in a few moments. Down in Science, we couldn't get an answer back in the States. Jeff went over to the weekly Science meeting; I stayed behind to work on Polechomper. I mananged to fix two bugs that involved huge quantities of unwanted warning messages, and it was time for lunch.

The Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie was much better than the Fried Chicken. I ate with Bride and Jason; Tyler joined us for dessert. The store was open at lunch time. I checked out the copy of "Fantasia 2000" so I could listen to "Rhapsody in Blue" and follow along with the sheet music. I went down to Science to dive back into Polechomper, but I couldn't stay awake. I went back to my room and slept through dinner (Pizza Night). I did get up in time for bingo. I came one or two squares away from winning on several hands, but never did. I really wanted to win the $50 gift certificate to Sala-Sala, one of the best Japanese restaurants in Christchurch. After the cash round, they switched to $5/card "High Stakes". I don't mind a buck-a-card, but I'd feel bad about losing real money, so I went down to the bar for a while, had a beer, danced a bit, and left with things still going strong.

Sunday, 21 December 2003
I woke up at the tail end of brunch, so out of it, I didn't know what day it was. I figured out it was Sunday and went straight to the galley. By the time I got there, it was 13:30, and the omelette line was shut down. The hot line was still set up, but picked clean. All that was left were some dried-out scrambled eggs and the corner slice of a coffee cake. I opted for a bowl of Kix with powdered milk. There were still plenty of people lingering at the tables. I sat with Brandon and some of the folks from AST/RO, but didn't stay long.

I took the outside route back to the dome. It's been a gorgeous day: less than 2 knots of wind, so even though it's -15°F (-26°C), it feels like 0°F (-17.7°C). The sun feels warm; the sky is cloudless.

Down in the back of Science, while I was checking my e-mail, I heard Cookie Jon over the all call reminding us that vegetable peeling started at 14:00. On my way up to the galley, I stopped by the Post Office (a small amount of mail arrived on the 22:00 flight last night), but again, nothing for me.

Up in the galley, there were already two full tables of peelers going at several cartons of potatoes, zuccini, parsnips and more. Cookie Jon asked me to wrap the brie wheels in pastry for the appetizer tables. I had time to cover all three and to decorate one. We were performing the second act of "Terra Nova" today and I didn't want to hold up the rest of the cast.

We had reserved the Library, but there was a movie on that was running over into our time. Rather than wait it out, we moved over to the Upper Galley. Everyone was there at first, except Susan, our solitary audience member from last week. We started without her, for our own benefit, but she eventually found us in our alternate location and finished out the play with us. When we were done, Tyler had us pose for a cast photo in roughly the same formation as Scott's original party, while Susan took our picture. We had to clear out then, because the AST/RO folks wanted to start their meeting.

Dinner was excellent tonight. The folks from Cargo did all the cooking. They made a Chicken-Lemon soup, Green Curry Chicken, and a noodle dish they called "Pad Thai" but was more like Sesame Noodles with Vegetables and Tofu (it was still quite good despite its lack of resemblance to Pad Thai). The only snag was that they didn't make enough. I wanted to go back for seconds, but there was none to be had. I hung out in the galley, reading magazines until it was time for the science lecture to start.

Tonight's speaker was Tony Stark, the PI for AST/RO. He gave a talk rich in technical details about how they were measuring interstellar gas temperatures and density by monitoring a characteristic radio signature at 810GHz. He also showed us some data that supported the position that the seeing was better here than anywhere else in the world they've done sub-millimeter observations, including Hawaii and Chile (100 days of observation per year compared with 30).

After the lecture, I went down to Science to try to hop on LES 9, but the signal was terrible. I did manage to fix a problem I'd found on on of the SPASE servers while adding Jon to the list of valid users (seems someone had manually added themselves some time ago, but with different spellings in different system files, confusing the scripts normally used to add people). That nagging problem out of the way, I went back to serial port interrupt debugging.

Monday, 22 December 2003
Because the target machine is so slow, I tried copying the kernel source to my desktop and building it there. I went through several iterations before going to breakfast. Shigiru sat down with me, but since we both had much to do, neither of us lingered in the galley. I went back down to Science by way of the outside door of the beercan. It was another calm day, sunny and warm, about -15°F (-26°C). Down in the dome, I went back to rebuilding kernels until I had one that I liked. Unfortunately, when I tried it, the machine did not come back up after a remote reboot. I took that as a sign and went to my room to crash for a few hours.

I slept through lunch, but woke up in time to do my shift in the greenhouse. There was new mail, but as usual, none for me. I went to dinner, then stuck around the galley for pie making. I taught Kris and Brandon how to make pie crusts, then had to leave early to meet with Paddy about checking out the equipment for Karaoke Night.

I went down to Science to meet her. She came down as soon as she finished offloading the Liquid Nitrogen dewar from the plane. We walked over to Bio-Med (where the Karaoke machine is used to play DVDs for the two or three people who live in the residence rooms there). Everything was still set up, but since the place was dark and quiet, and we weren't sure if anyone was sleeping there, we left it alone and went to look for Sean.

We checked all the usual haunts under the dome, but could not find Sean anywhere. We decided to take things up tomorrow after dinner, before things got rolling. I went back down to Science to fight with LES 9, but could not get a stable connection. I gave up and went to the bar, not for a beer, but to clean up the area around the TV so we'd have room to sing. I sorted and re-sleeved and stacked video tapes for an hour (you wouldn't believe the collection of Betamax that's here!). When I was done, for the first time all summer, you could walk around the lounge without tripping on video tape cases and PlayStation cables.

Tuesday, 23 December 2003
Up at midrats, I caught an unannounced holiday dinner: Lobster, Prime Rib, and N.Z. Mussels. I sat with Nick and Jon, and we were joined a little while by Jeff. We were still sitting there after most people had gone back to work. Eventually, people drifted away, and Marc and I went back to work as well. I went down to Science, and he went out to MAPO. While he was out there, he found a recovery disk, and brought the machine back up. With that much accomplished, I went to bed.

Later, on the way to dinner, I made up the song lists for Karaoke Night. I didn't stay long in the galley; tonight was the big Christmas party in the Annex. I checked the bar on my way down from the galley. It was early and the only people there were the regulars. Over at the Annex, though, it was a different story. The place was absolutely packed. I went in at the far end, which turned out to be a wise choice: it was the end they were serving drinks and hors d'oerves from.

There were lots of people from Cargo, plenty of carpenters, and many grantees. The Annex residents were excellent hosts. Most of them had their rooms open for a little more space, and to show off the place. Billy's room has a cool desk and a TV shelf over his escape hatch. Some of the other rooms are like some of the ones up here in upper_berthing, with a loft bed and a sitting area underneath. I wandered up and down the Annex, talking with various groups of people, occasionally sticking my head in the bar to see how Karoke was going.

The gift exchange was still going on in the Gym, so things were still slow at the bar. On a couple of my visits, I went up front and did a number; "Brown Eyed Girl" was the most popular, but "Strawberry Fields Forever" got them going, too. Eventually, as the Annex party wound down, people came up from there and the place was swinging. The crowd even managed to coerce Nick into performing. I'll say this, he's a good sport.

After Karaoke had lost its allure for the jaded crowd, someone switched the stereo over to dance music. That was fine for a while, but when it mutated to hard rock, I left and went over to the library to see if there was a movie playing. It being a Christmas Eve by now, they were watching "It's a Wonderful Live". I stayed for a few minutes, then went out in the pool room for a game of nine-ball. By this time, the high-bandwidth satellite was up, so I went down to the back of Science to hop on the 'net.

Wednesday, 24 December 2003
Since it was now Christmas Eve and the satellite was up, I called Erin and opened my package while I could talk to her. It was chock full of caffeinated goodies from ThinkGeek, mints, gum, even soap. She also threw in some Asian favorites, bubble tea, filled panda cookies, and, an old family tradition, Botan rice candy.

After going through the box, it was getting late. I went to sleep and didn't get up until brunch was almost over. On my way out of the dome, I passed Sean grilling hot dogs for a pre-dinner nosh. I arrived in the galley just as they were pulling the food. I ate as preparations were beginning around me. I finished just as they were taking my table to reset the room. Down in the dome, the hot dogs were done. I grabbed one, then went over to Science to catch up on my e-mail.

Before going up to dinner, I got cleaned up and put on my Sunday best, including a Christmas tie I found in skua. As I was going up the beercan, I could hear music and shouting above me. I stumbled across Jack filming his South Pole Film Festival video. He was at the top of the stairs, filming Sherri, Adrian and Cori, dancing in front of the elevator in 1960s-ish go-go costumes. I joined the queue on the next floor down to dance with them as we went past the camera. I came right into the hall with the appetizer tables, baked brie (which I wrapped the other day), shrimp, veggies, and smoked salmon. I munched for a while, then went into the second seating with Nick, Tony and Glen. We happened to be at the last table to be seated. We sat through the toasts then got in line for food. The main courses were Beef Wellington and King Crab, accompanied by real mashed potatoes, roasted parsnips and carrots, and steamed asparagus. We ate and ate, but for me, at least, there wasn't enough time to finish before we were herded out to make room for the third seating. I stayed behind to take pictures.

I hung around back of room, talking about Russian with Vladimir (he told me that there were a few others here who were also students of the language). I took pictures of the settings and of the diners, then heard that Jack was doing another take in the beercan. I queued up for that, along with dozens of others, then sat at the bar at the far end of the galley, sharing a bittle of wine with Nick. Cookie Jon asked me to hook his Nomad mp3 player into the sound system, and it did inspire a few people to get up and dance, but for the most part, the party was over.

Several of us decided to head down to the bar since it was still early. I brought along a bottle of single malt scotch to share with Nick and others. The place was packed. Even Jeff made an appearance (I've never seen him in the bar before). Things were still going strong when I left to hop on the satellite.

Thursday, 25 December 2003
From my room, I heard the all call that the "Race Around The World" was starting in fifteen minutes. I didn't know what to wear, but it's been nice out lately, and I grabbed my grey fleece and windbreaker before running out of the dome. The race had just started, and some of the more creative modes of transport were just getting underway. The runners were on one course, starting at the Pole, going behind the new station, past the dome, and back around. This year, for vehicles, they've groomed an outer course, a bit longer, but with enough separation to keep people on foot safe. As I stopped to survey the course, Kris was pulling up in a wicker balloon basket tied to two weather balloons, sitting on a sled, towed by a Cat. He invited several of us aboard, and we started tooling around the race course. There were four of us in the basket, and several more on the sled.

We did a couple of slow laps, passed several times by people on snow machines, and in the Pisten Bully. I took pictures of the runners and the other vehicles as we made our stately way around. I was wishing I'd worn some ECW gear. It was about -11°F (-24°), but with the wind, more like -33°F (-36°C). It was even worse when I climbed on a sled behind a snow machine and did another lap that way. Paddy dropped me off by the dome, and I walked another quarter of a lap, just to go over the finish line (almost dead last - the two laps in the basket took a long time).

On my way over to the beercan, I passed Dan and Tyler playing horseshoes between the poles. They had lost one when it hit the snow at a sharp angle and got entirely buried, but eventually, they dug it up and kept playing. Angela and I and a few others watched them play a couple of rounds, then headed up to the galley for brunch.

The brunch line was longer than usual. I dodged back to the coat room to put my parka and camera away, and noticed a copy of "Songs by Tom Lehrer" in the magazine box. I set it aside and jumped back in line for some left-over Beef Wellington and fresh Antarctic Cod Nuggets (dissostichus mawsoni). Much better than an omelette and waffles. I was still munching when Mary handed out the awards and T-shirts for the participants in the race. Nick even got a shirt for the life-sized inflatable emperor penguin he'd toted around the course.

After a fine brunch, I went down to the dome to check e-mail, then over to the library where they were watching the MST3K version of "The Unearthly". I watched a few scenes, then came back later for the viewing of Cheech & Chong's "Up in Smoke". After running around all morning and sitting in a dark room all afternoon, I went back to my room for a nap, and woke up after dinner. I wasn't hungry enough to rummage through the leftover fridge, so I went down to the back of Science and went back to work on my serial port problem. Eventually, I got things working in polling mode, a major milestone. It's not fast or efficient, but at least it's possible to talk to the rack of hardware that controls some of the digital OMs.

Friday, 26 December 2003
It was Mexican Night at midrats, Tacos, Bean Burritos, Nachos and some tasty Chile Rellanos. Jon and I sat with Oren and Kris as we ate and listened to Mexican music over the PA. Back down in Science, I finished debugging serial port issues, then, after he got back from breakfast, Marc and I walked over to MAPO to configure the OMs that are on the other end of those serial ports. After resetting a high voltage crate and restarting the muon run, Marc and I sat down and went through the procedure to initialize the OMs, getting them back online at last.

On our way out, Marc and I grabbed the dead power supplies and took the shuttle van over to Cargo. We filled out the retro forms, and went back to Science. I worked through GOES 3 setting, then went to lunch. After lunch, I crashed until Brandon woke me up to tell me that he was showing "Monty Python's Holy Grail" a little later. I stopped by dinner first, for a Chicken Fried Steak, then went down to the pool room where I found two packages waiting for me (a 19mm lens for my 35mm camera and some electronic components). I walked into "Holy Grail" during the "Castle Anthrax" scene and stayed to the end. Afterwards, I went down to the back of Science to open my packages.

Saturday, 27 December 2003
I went to midrats late, for Chicken a la King over biscuits. When I was finished eating, I called Mark in the back of Science, and walked over to MAPO and waited for him. When he walked over, we ran through all the settings for the dAOMs and tried to write a value to each one in the documentation. Some responded perfectly, some did not. We checked the labels on the serial cables and discovered that the config file did not match the documentation web page or the present state of the cables. Since the config file was new and the wiring was old, we chose to change the config file, and were able to talk to three more OMs.

Flushed with success, we walked home, and I worked in the back of Science until the start of the weekly Science Meeting. When it was my turn, I said my piece about the TDRS move and power consistency issues. The meeting ended before the end of the GOES 3 pass, so I jumped on the 'net for a few minutes, but was interrupted by a fire alarm. I made it all the way into Bio-Med before the "disregard" all call. I went back to work until the end of the satellite pass, then went to bed rather than go to lunch.

We had another alarm at 16:00. I wasn't even dressed before we heard the "disregard". I went back to sleep and didn't get up until 20:00. I stumbled up to the galley, but all there was on the line was cold pizza. I sat with Nick and Jules and had a glass of juice. Back down in the dome, I went to the library to see if anyone was watching a movie, but the place was deserted. Over in the bar, there was a light crowd, which dispersed when someone set off yet another alarm with the popcorn machine. After we established that there was no fire in the upper galley, and things were back to normal, I went down to Science for the last few minutes of the LES 9 pass, then off to midrats.

Sunday, 28 December 2003
Up at midrats, Greg was asking me about Babylon 5. He and Tammy had been going through the boxed set (seasons 1 to 3), one episode at a time, after they got off work in the morning. He had never seen the show before, so I had to help him sort out some of the characters. Hopefully, we'll get season 4 in before the end of summer; it's due to be released in just over a week.

On my way back from the dome, a few hours later at breakfast time, the wind was blowing ice crystals around, producing good halos, with sundogs, false suns and a sharp circumzenith arc. We've had quite a few nice shows lately. After breakfast, down in Science, I worked with Brandon on some DNS issues. The rest of the morning passed quickly. Lunch was Chicken Fajitas, which I ate while talking to Ed, here on an Artists and Writers Grant to study the history of science at the Pole.

Back down in Science, I found a platform I could fit between my bed and my escape hatch, giving me a place to put my laptop when I'm working in my room. It's not a desk, but it's someplace to put my computer where it won't get kicked or pushed off the bed. Suitably set up, I worked from my room for the rest of the day, put "Grease" on the VCR, and fell asleep during the closing credits. I woke up well after dinner, got cleaned up and went out.

I stopped by the bar, which wasn't crowded, but there were plenty of people congregating in the old upper galley (which is non-smoking). There were enough people to break up into smaller clusters. I spent most of the time talking about technical issues with a couple of the ACBAR grantees, Mike and Oren. Things broke up after the bar ran out of beer. I went back to my room to work from there some more. I watched "The Hunt for Red October" and worked late into the night.

Monday, 29 December 2003
Monday was an odd day to have off, but when the Air National Guard changed the weekend flight schedule, it turned Sunday into just another work day, so they made today the official day off. I went up to the galley for breakfast at 07:30 and the place was almost deserted. I had a quick bowl of cereal and went down to the back of Science and worked from there until brunch time. Brunch was the usual affair, an omelette, a bagel and hash browns. I sat with the W-event writers, talking for two hours, well past the end of the satellite window.

After lounging about in the galley for so long, I went back to my room to work from there for a while, and nodded off. The all call for the end of dinner woke me up, but I rolled right back over and slept for several more hours. Eventually, I did get up, and went down to the back of Science to get some work done.

Tuesday, 30 December 2003
After sleeping through dinner and working all night, I went up to midrats for some excellent Stuffed Red Snapper and some tasty Flan (which I'd missed at dinner). I went back to work until breakfast, when I sat with Jennifer, and we talked for a while on how long the supply chain is to here and the lag in technology that causes. Back down in Science, I helped out Brandon with a Solaris question, then we heard the all_call that skiers were approaching the station.

We get several visits a year from tourists. These particular tourists were dropped off about 60 nautical miles away and skied in from 89° South, the "Last Degree". When I walked out, three of them were paused on the station side of the skiway, talking to Nick (who was on his way out to AST/RO, and Molly, the doc. Several members of Cargo came out to greet the skiers, too. The only name I caught was Bruno, from Italy. Pete, the winter-over site manager, came up to give them the standard welcome speech, but we all had to wait for the final two memebers of their party to catch up to them. Pete addressed them all, then lead them over to the groomed area near the pole where they could set up their tents and wait for their airplane. I took a few more pictures of them trudging by the Pole, then went back into the dome.

A little while later, I was walking from Science to Comms in just a T-shirt when Pete was taking the skiers on a tour of the dome. Bruno was surprised that I wasn't cold in my shirtsleeves. I told him that it wasn't so bad; I was just going from building to building, and it was a summery -11°F (-21°C) with no wind (since we were under the dome). I guess when you are here only long enough to ski 60 miles, you have a different opinion of the summer weather than when you are here long enough for it to warm up fifty degrees.

Back over in Science, I squeeked out the last few moments of the satellite pass, then took a short nap. I went back downstairs to work for a little while, then took a restroom break over in the bar (rather than stomp around upstairs in upper berthing when people are trying to get to sleep). The place was nearly empty, just Sherri, Big Kevin and Kevin the winter-over Fire Tech. From what I could see, I was glad I hadn't come to the bar earlier in the evening... both Kevins were sporting Mohawks. Apparently, they doled out more than half-a-dozen to any and all who would stand still long enough. No thanks!

Back over in Science, I grabbed my parka and went up to midrats for something to eat, and to meet Jeff to go over SPASE hardware while he's off station for three weeks.

Wednesday, 31 December 2003
Walking through Science on my way to midrats, I passed Angela and Paul who were also going for some food. Paul went up the ramp; Angela and I took the tunnel, and we all met up about the same point in the beercan. Up in the galley, first Marc, then Jon joined us at the table. Eventually, Jeff came through. He had already gone over the SPASE stuff with Jon, so I didn't need to go out with him after eating. Instead, Jeff was finishing up the filming for his film festival movie. He needed a couple more extras for the scene. We all stood by, wielding bamboo sticks taped up to resemble swords while Jeff and Annalisa ran through a choreographed sword fight.

After Jeff was done filming in the galley, he went outside for some location shots. I went back down to Science to work on the detector alarming libraries (which phone us when the detector stops detecting). I was interrupted by an error light on one of the disk shelves. I looked for documentation both around the room, and on the 'net, but could find none. Eventually, it was late enough in the morning back in Madison that I could call Mike and ask him what he knew about how this particular disk array worked (how to replace volumes and what you have to do before pulling drives out). Between the two of us, we managed to locate the right pdf file on the HP website, and I swapped in a spare. Unfortunately, the insertion did not go unnoticed and I had to reboot the server it was attached to. By the time things were humming again, it was time for breakfast.

I ate with Jules and Tony; Nick later joined us. I found out that today is Nick's birthday (just as bad as my nephew, Calvin, whose birthday is tomorrow). Because Tony has been doing research for a while, the topic of ancient computers came up. He used to use PDP-8s for data collection when I was just a toddler.

After breakfast, I walked down to the dome and saw a twin otter near the Pole, here to pick up the skiers. I didn't have the energy to run down to my office, grab my camera and come back up the ramp. Another good example of why you should always have a camera with you here. Moments after I walked into Science, the fire alarm went off. I ran to Bio-Med, where we had a full compliment - Eyvind, Sarah, Jeff, Troy and Molly, the Doc. It's burger day. The grill set off the alarms in the fan room yet again. On my way to my room to grab my T3 pill (for the medical study), I ran into a couple of the winter-overs on Fire Team 2 putting their bunker gear away. They were disussing that they'd heard that there were going to be a few winter-over positions added, raising our ranks to 82! (not so long ago, the limit was 28)

Down in the back of Science, I said my goodbyes to Marc and Shigeru, then went to lunch. It was a chore to take the outside route. Sometime during the morning, the crew that was moving snow away from the dome entrance had left an enormous track of raised snow blocking the door to the beercan. There's a lot of snow to move there, and I'm sure today won't be the last day that there's an obstacle course to navigate. Up in the galley, as we already knew, it was burgers and fries. I sat with Marc and Shigeru and talked for a while. We all finished and departed in separate directions. I grabbed my ECW gear and headed down the wooden staircase to see folks off to the plane.

I arrived at the PAX terminal before anyone else. I took a few pictures of the plane and waited for them to arrive. Once they did, I took some pictures of the people who were leaving, including Marc and Shigeru, but it wasn't until I'd gone through a dozen shots that I noticed that I'd bumped a dial on my camera and over-exposed everything. I reset the camera, took some more pictures and waited to leave until the PAX boarded the plane. Once they were closed up in the Herc, I walked back to the dome via the garage arch and waited for the mail to be taken to the dome and sorted.

While I was waiting, I talked for a few minutes with Vladimir, then went back to Science. When he passed by, I loaned him the two Russian movies I'd brought with me, "Solaris" and "Kin Dza Dza". He was, I think, surprised that someone had brought Russian science fiction with them to the Pole.

I'd been up long enough and wanted to enjoy the evening, so I crashed until some time after dinner. I got cleaned up and dressed to go out (I even went clean-shaven for the the first time in months). I stopped by the bar first, but it was still somewhat empty. I danced a bit with Cori and Liesl (we were the one ones on the dance floor), and we watched people trickle in. I cracked open the bottle of Tullimore Dew that my buddy Tom gave me before I left, and shared it around. Nick arrived in time to celebrate the remaining minutes of his birthday. By this time, things were starting to get rolling. In addition to the usual spectacle of a couple of the ladies dancing on the bar, Big Mike and Brandon got up there for a number. People continued to file in until it was getting close to midnight. I needed to grab my cameras and left first, but most of the crowd also headed out to the Pole to celebrate the moment of the changing of the year.

There were at least forty of us at the Pole. It was sunny and mostly calm. A pleasant -10°F (-23.4°C). We milled around, gathering in groups to take pictures, waiting for the last minute to do a countdown. At the stroke of midnight, Vladimir took a picture of his GPS unit over the geographic pole. I tried to sneak one over his shoulder, but my camera was too cold to get anything at that point. I stuck it back in my coat for a while and posed with people for their pictures as we toasted the New Year. Some brought champagne, others brought single-malt scotch. Vladimir shared some Russian brandy that was quite interesting.

After several rounds of toasts and pictures, people started migrating to the ceremonial pole which had become the base for a game of kickball. About an hour later, the wind started picking up and we started getting a bit cold from playing in the snow. Several of us headed up for midrats. It was Chinese Night - Broccoli Beef, Fried Rice and Eggrolls. When we were done, a large group of us went to Summer Camp, looking for more festivities. Unlike a typical weekend, the lights were on at the Summer Camp Lounge, there wasn't much music, no dancing. It was mostly people sitting around on couches, talking in groups. I stayed for a while and met Brad the Boy Scout when his group stopped by. I talked to two of the N.Z. Raytheon employees, Rhys and Bodie (Rhys is a winter-over pipefitter, Bodie is here at Pole for a month as a fuelie), then to Peter and Andrea. She confirmed what I'd heard earler, that new winter-over positions had been added but were as yet unfilled. If I knew any electricians or pipe-fitters, I'd tell them to apply. After a bit of quiet socializing, I went home and sacked out. Tomorrow is a workday, after all.

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