January at the South Pole

Thursday, 1 January 2004
I woke up in time for breakfast, checked my e-mail from my room, and helped Erin, back home, get directions to the New Year's Eve party that we usually go to. I made it up the beercan just in time for breakfast. I sat with Tony, Jules, Ed and a few others. We noticed the busy flight schedule on the scroll, four LC130s and two twin-otters.

Back down in BOS, I created accounts for Ilya and Markus, the two new arrivals today. I left early for lunch so I could eat quick and see people off who were leaving on the PAX flight. I had to find my way around the large snow mound between the dome and the beercan. Up in the galley, I arrived before they started serving, and queued up with the rest of the earlybirds around 11:25. I had a quick lunch of Chicken Pot Pie and Mashed Potatoes, then walked down the wooden staircase and out to the PAX terminal. I tried to take some pictures, but the cold killed my batteries. I left before the plane did to get back to the dome by 12:30 for the vault tour.

I walked back through the garage arch, grabbed my FDX boots from my room and waited for the rest of the crew down in Angela's area. We looked at pictures from this morning as we waited for Brandon, Andrea, Steve and Dave to show up. Angela gave us a short talk about the vault, its history and the basic safety rules (one person on the ladder at a time, etc.) We then walked out the dome, up the ramp, around behind Skylab, and a couple hundred yards over to a small wooden box set into the snow. Angela popped the hatch on the box and we could see the ladder down into the hole.

It was about 30 feet (10m) down to the bottom. There were lights on and the wood was free of frost, but I don't like ladders in any case. I slowly made my way down to the vault and only turned around when my feet were firmly planted on solid snow. The view was amazing. I've been to the Ice Caves in the Erebus Glacial Tongue, but this was different. It was all white (not blue), and the walls and ceiling were covered with huge ice crystals. The ones on the walls were like down, and the ones on the ceiling were like enormous rock candy crystals.

We took a few pictures around the ladder area, then we moved towards the back of the vault. The wooden shack with the computers in it was plenty warm enough, but then we moved around the back side of it, and Angela showed us where the snow was breaking the roof supports and trying to crush the building. I tried to take some digital pictures, but at -40°F (-40°C), my batteries froze quickly and I didn't bring any spares. I took several ambient light (no flash) pictures with my 35mm camera, with both my 19mm wide-angle lens and my 35-70mm zoom lens. I was the last of the tourists to scramble up the ladder. Angela turned of the lights and came up after me.

Back under the dome, back in Science, I met Ilya and Markus, then went up to my room for a nap. Timo called me in my room to tell me the detector wasn't happy, but with Jeff here, I rolled back over and went to sleep. I woke up for real after dinner started and after missing the Pole-moving ceremony. I went right to the galley for some chili, sat and talked with Nick for a while, then walked out to MAPO to see how the detector was doing.

Among other problems, our cold room wasn't so cold. I called the UTs and Ken came out to check the air handler and the dampers. Timo showed up to work on the TWR, Ilya showed up to work on Rice hardware, and Steve showed up work on Rice software. Very busy night in the detector room. I worked on things for a few hours, then walked back to the new station for some midrats, eating with Jon and Steve, then stopped by the back of Science on my way to my room. I kicked off a backup of the TWR area for Timo, looked for Erin on IM, then went to sleep.

Friday, 2 January 2004
I slept through breakfast and went straight down to the back of Science. I loaned Sarah my RedHat 9 installation disks so she could build a replacement box for the AST/RO folks since their server in the back of Science died.

Going to lunch involved more snow mound hurdling; they are really starting to clear off the area right in front of the dome. I went back down to Science after an Italian Sausage Sandwich and Fries. While I was fiddling with a Quake server for Linux, Sean came through wearing a black long-haired wig, looking for some helium and a balloon to hang an inflatable sheep from. Evyind followed in a pointy Viking hat, looking for a blonde wig. Apparently, I must have missed the e-mail that mentions costumes at the "Near Year's" party.

I tried to work after dinner but was too tired. I went to take a short nap and woke up at midnight. I was so disoriented, I though it was noon on Saturday and I'd missed half a day. When I walked around and cleared my head a bit, I realized what time it really was and went down to Science.

Saturday, 3 January 2004
Since the satellites were up, the first thing I did was to jump on the 'net. Both Tom and Erin were on. I IMed back and forth for a while and made another backup for Timo in the background.

I stopped up for breakfast on my way out to MAPO to retrieve my notebook. I had to get back to Bio-Med for a temporary filling, so I hopped on the shuttle for a quick round-trip. Molly was busy; Troy had to fill-in, so to speak. It took him a couple of tries, but he eventually spackled the hole in my molar and covered up the sharp edge that was cutting my tongue.

While waiting for my temporary to really set, I put together a Quake CD for the poor unfortunates who had Windows on their laptops. I finished in time for lunch - Grilled Cheese and not-too-tasty French Fries (it was a day off for the regular galley staff; the departmental managers were cooking instead). After lunch, several of us gathered to play some DeathMatch Quake in the bar.

When I arrived, Sean was just setting up the network switch. I was the first player. As people came in, I helped them with loading Quake onto their machines; Sean helped them with their network settings. It took us a while, but we managed to get the software and hardware together for four players. Mostly, Brian (a former champion player) was mopping the floors with us. Some of the levels I was more familiar with (especially E1M1) than he was, and I held a slim lead. Brian was amazed I could play as well as I did with only the keyboard (a consqeuence of being a Linux player - touch the mouse and the game goes nuts).

After about two hours of Quake, the guys switched to "Baldur's Gate" and I bowed out. I went home and slept through dinner. One of my neighbors had come home from the Near Year's Party early and woke me up as he thumped down the hall. I got cleaned up, threw on a nice shirt and headed to the Garage.

I could hear the band, "TO HOT SOUP" (an anagram of " SOUTH POLE") from outside the garage building. I was greeted by several people with jello shots (I wish I'd let mine warm up first; it had been stored outside and was too cold to eat). I wandered past the wood shop and the office and into the main area. They had moved all the equipment out, and cleaned up the place from wall to wall. The dance floor was packed. I danced some up by the stage, and sat a few numbers out, chatting with Nick and a few others in the wings. We counted down at midnight, as if it were really New Year's, then went back to dancing. Things started slowing down around 02:00 and a bunch of us went to the bar.

It was absolutely packed. You couldn't hardly move in there. Sean was absent, leaving me to pick the music; of course, I leaned heavily on 80s music, and the crowd loved it. Every number packed them on the dance floor. Paul took over for me after I'd made my choices, and people were trickling out after a long night. Before long, it was just Paul, Pedro and me. We cleaned up the mess (cans, bottles, glassware, etc.), and I went home to call it a night.

Sunday, 4 January 2004
When I checked my e-mail from my room, I found an e-mail from Timo about detector being unhappy again. Fearing a long morning in MAPO, I stopped off at the galley for some brunch first, threw on my ECW Gear, and walked out to the Dark Sector. The problem took seconds to identify: the older high voltage crate had been reset, probably by some power instability overnight. I reset the crate, reprogrammed its high voltage values and restarted the run. I arrived back at the galley just as Bill was about to all call for a dealer.

We started the big Poker Championship with sixteen players. I dealt for one table, Bama dealt for the other. I had never seen "Texas Hold'em" before; they had to teach me the game first. The first rounds went back and forth. Every 40 minutes, they upped the "blind bet" (ante). During a break, Tyler pulled me aside and asked me if I would reprise my role from "Terra Nova" as Birdie Bowers for his entry in the film festival. He didn't give me any details, but what he did say make it sound like a lot of fun.

Back at the poker table, we started losing players a few at a time, and condensed the action down to a single table about the time dinner was starting. I did all the dealing from the single table as they went from ten players down to the final two, then to the winner. I didn't catch his name, but he was a grantee that arrived only yesterday.

We finished before dinner was over; I grabbed a plate of Turkey and Mashed Potatoes and sat at one of the few open spots, near the front of the room. When I started, the table was mixed folks (RPSC and grantee) but by the time I was done, it had changed over to all grantee (from AMANDA and Icecube, Viper, and ARO). I wanted to attend Vladimir's non-Science lecture about his travels with the Soviet and Russian Antarctic programs, but I knew I'd be too tired to stay awake through it all. I went home to bed, with the computer at my head, waking up occasionally to IM home.

Monday, 5 January 2004
I woke up for real around 07:00, got up, and went to galley for breakfast. I sat with Jon, who is leaving today. After we finished, he headed out for his redeployment meeting, I headed down the beercan to the back of Science tweaked on some kernel sources. Jon came down to say goodbye, then after working on a problem together, Brandon and I went to lunch. On my way into the galley, I ran into Steve Barwick, one of our new arrivals, on his way out to MAPO. I sat with the other AMANDA folks who were already there. Wolfgang joined us when he arrived.

One the way down to Science, I stopped off at the coat room to pick up the sheet of plywood that Billy left for me so I can start my EarthDial. I grabbed some markers and some drawing equipment, and started sketching circles.

Later in the afternoon, Markus came down to Science, and we fiddled with Polechomper a bit. I took a break to check the water levels and pH in the greenhouse, but went right back to Perl hacking until dinner was almost over. After eating, I went home to take a nap before going out to the newly-traditional "Cinco de Montho" party.

Tuesday, 6 January 2004
I didn't wake up until 02:30 - way past any potential festivities. I went down to the back of Science to make calls to Universal Voltronics about our high voltage boards now that they should be back from their holiday plant shutdown. I left a few messages, caught up on e-mail and went to breakfast.

After some eggs and and what-not, back at my desk, I finally reached a human at Voltronics and described how our broken boards were misbehaving. Hopefully they'll be able to fix them and get them back to us before the end of the summer (in just over a month). I went back to work on the driver for the VME adapter board that Wolfgang brought down with him. I started a kernel compile on the TWR system and went to lunch.

It was a pleasant walk to the galley, a clear day with few clouds. No hot meal today; they set up a sandwich line with cold cuts and condiments. I ate with Andrea and Brandon.

Back down in Science, spent all afternoon twiddling the kernel and got the driver working under RedHat in just over an hour. I went to dinner, skipped the Wednesday Science Lecture and tried to go back to work in Science. I was too sleepy to concentrate, and went to bed early again.

Wednesday, 7 January 2004
I woke up at 04:00, checked the detector from my room, then went down to get the skidoo key from Al. I went out to start it and let it warm up, then rode it around to the beercan and walked up for breakfast.

Afterwards, I went down to the back of Science and started shutting down servers (our UPSes are designed to get us through short power glitches, not long outages). While I was waiting for John to arrive, I took some pictures of the construction crew demolishing the former gym building that was between Science and the wall of the dome (it had been dark since we arrived; they were just now getting around to tearing it down). Once John showed up, we walked out to the skidoo and zipped across the skiway to the Dark Sector.

I dropped John off at SPASE and I went to MAPO. We both had our respective systems down well in advance of the 09:00 soft power-cutover (which went by quite unnoticed by us). While we waited for the hard cut-back, Wolfgang, Timo and I worked on the TWR DAQ machine. They'd brought a card to directly control the VME crates rather than depend on an embedded CPU card and network link back to the main machine. The problem was that the main machine didn't have any suitable PCI slots open. We put things back together and waited for the power to drop.

Since it was just a cut-over, the power wasn't gone for long. Once it was back, I ran around the room, flipping literally a hundred switches in the fifteen racks of electronics. On my first pass through, I missed one switch that controlled a crate of SWAMPs. I had to back track a little (there's a particular order to powering things on), but only a few minutes worth. With everything turned back on, I started the software for the detector, but not before the flights started coming in and the skiway was closed.

With an enforced delay, I took the time to restart the rack of modules that had their own software configuration, separate from the regular modules. The controller for those modules is supposed to be on a UPS, but the batteries are toast. I think it died as soon as the power was cut. I punched in their settings, grabbed my parka and tried to get my skidoo across the skiway before the next plane. I passed Andrea on the way (one of the AST/RO grantees) and gave her a ride back to the beercan. I parked the skidoo over by the garage arch and went to lunch.

It was Mexican day again; I had chicken and beans on corn tortillas. After lunch, back down in Science, I started turning machines on. One of the servers couldn't seem to find its ethernet. I called Brandon (who had started his day in the wee hours and was just getting to bed). We worked on the problem for a while, and were still going at it when the AMANDA status meeting started at 15:00. Eventually, we narrowed the problem down to not being able to request a DHCP address. I don't know exactly why this machine was different from all the others, but installing a networking package that it lacked fixed the problem (with no clue as to how it had been working since November missing this software). With the machine up, I went up to the galley for the meeting just in time to give a status report on what I'd been working on for the past few days. Steve was surprised that I was able to initialize those special modules in as little as 45 minutes.

Back down in Science, after the meeting, I got pulled into helping with the replacement box for adelie, the server that we depend on for calculating satellite uptimes. I helped Sarah with a Linux question, then tried to mount adelie's old disk on a spare box. I was having issues with the "grub" loader and fought with that until dinner time. They were serving Broiled Snapper and Asparagus. I sat with Bill and Rich (Raytheon IT). We talked about Australia (Rich is an Aussie), the weather display program "Watcher" (which I found out got its name from its original purpose, "tomato watcher"), and VAXen (once popular in the program, here and at McMurdo). For dessert, I tracked down John and asked him about grub, over a bowl of ice cream.

Back down in Science, string 3 of the detector was down. The high voltage crate that feeds it was in an error state. I brought the crate down remotely, and called out to MAPO to see if there was someone there that could reset the hardware. Jiwoo answered. I explained to him which crate needed attention, he turned the key off and on, but that didn't restore string 3 to operation. Checking through the database, I identified which SWAMP was probably down, and blew off the science lecture to hike out to MAPO.

As I walked out to the Dark Sector, I arrived at the skiway when the crossing beacon was on. I could see one plane sitting in the fuel pit, and I could see the landing lights for another about to touch down. I waited, watched the second plane land, then kept waiting as the first plane taxied out of the pit and took off in the other direction. Eventually, the skiway was clear and I could scurry across.

On the way to MAPO, I passed a couple of other beakers going home (I think they were with AST/RO); and I ran into Dave Besson in the coat room as he was getting ready to leave. This late in the day, Ilya was the only person left working in the building. I went upstairs to the detector room, walked right over to the suspect SWAMP, verified it was down, brought down the high voltage (after clearing up the logins on the terminal server), fired up the SWAMP, brought the high voltage back up, and restarted the detector. Everything was now humming along, including string 3. I grabbed my parka, headed for the skiway, and was stopped again by the beacon.

I wasn't the only one trapped by the plane; Dave never made it across, and he was waiting with Oren (who works for DASI, I think). They'd been there long enough that they were just sitting in the snow. The beacon was on for a departing plane (which also took turned left from the pits and took off in the "wrong" direction), that left after yet another plane landed. We all crossed the skiway after things stopped moving around and they turned off the beacon. I headed for the beercan because the dome entrance was still blocked by high snow piles from Bob working to clear the area in front of the dome.

Down in the arches, I ran into Brandon and Andrea by the old power plant. They were on their way to the bar for a goodbye party for "Spiffy" Steve (who works on the SPIFI project for AST/RO). I went with them to say goodbye. Once we were there, I got hit with computer questions; Brandon was asking about SYSV vs. BSD UNIX, Andrea had some SSH questions. I danced for a little while at the party, then ducked out before it got too late.

Thursday, 8 January 2004
I was awakened before 07:00 to the sound of a sawsall on the other side of my escape hatch. It was loud enough that it sounded like they were cutting the legs off my bed. There was a demolition crew finishing up the work on the old gym five, feet from my hatch. I figured there was no way it was going to be quiet enough to go back to sleep, so I went up to breakfast. Out of the galley windows, I could see weather closing in and the visibility dropping. After breakfast, I walked out to MAPO to help Wolfgang and Timo with TWR upgrade issues.

They had a new driver that was supposed to work with RedHat. I still had to fiddle with it a little bit to get it to compile. I noticed that the resultant binary was bit-for-bit identical to my previous efforts and took it as a good sign. While we were fiddling with drivers, I noticed that one of the high voltage crates was in an error state (two days in a row). I reset the crate, and got back to work on the TWR system.

In order to use the driver, we had to remove the Remote Monitoring/Lights Out card from the server, freeing up the only slot that could accept the new card. I fixed a kernel issue, loaded the driver and watched it (rightly) complain that it couldn't see the VME crate. We pulled the processor card out of the VME crate, replaced it with the bridge card, hooked it to the server with the fiber, and the driver was happy. In the middle of all of this, there was yet another high voltage error. This time I reset just the offending channel and the problem seemed to go away (three HV problems in two days is unusual; I'll have to keep a close eye on things here).

I tried to call the shuttle van for a ride back to the new station, but Chad was on lunch. I walked back in really bad visibility, but only at ground level. There was plenty of sunshine coming from above. It was a fried food day, Grilled Reubens and Tater Tots (and the Tater Tots were fried so long, they were pellets). I was sitting with Bride and Jason when we heard the all call that letter mail (small packages and envelopes) was in. I ate slowly enough that the table turned over, and after Bride and Jason left, Dar and Kelly sat down, along with Adrienne. The conversation turned to Ohio (it turns out that Kelly is from Hiram, and I already knew that Bride is from Cleveland). Those of us from the table who were from Ohio discussed various farm products, "Buckeyes" (the chocolate-covered peanut butter candies vs horse chestnuts), etc. Afterwards, I went down to the dome to check for mail, and there was mail, just none for me.

Back down in Science, I changed tapes, and extracted the satellite up-time scripts from the former adelie's hard disk and installed it on my laptop. A little later, I was over in Met, talking to Dar about the new weather system that's being installed, and the topic of wind chill came up, especially since recently, the winds have been so slow, they've been kicking off a bug in Watcher - when the wind is slower than about 4 knots, there's a bug in the wind chill calculation formula (that assumes "walking speed" of the observer) that makes the wind chill seem warmer than the ambient temperature (in practice, though, I can say that on those days when I've walked out to summer camp with a 2 knot wind at my back, I feel a lot warmer than when I'm standing still, but that's because I'm walking along with the same pod of air that is being warmed by me and by the sun reflecting off my jacket). The problem this bug causes is to generate a lot of questions to the Met office about "how can it be that warm here". Just this week, when the winds were reported at 0.2 knots, the calculated wind chill was +25°F (-4°C), clearly absurd. Between all the buzz this bug had generated this week including a comment from someone at home, I decided to fix my script that generates a signature file for my e-mail from the current weather data. That took all of three minutes; the script already knew the temps, I just had to add a couple of lines to make sure that wind chill was never higher than the ambient temp. From there, I took it upon myself to write a filter to grab the current watcher page and fix it on the fly. Since it had to display the same as the web page it copied its information from (including a link to a picture), that took a little longer to get perfect. By the time I was satisfied, it was time for dinner.

I ran into John up in the galley. We sat and talked about UNIXy things over our spaghetti and meatballs. When we were done, I went back down to Science to check on the detector and see about recovering more of adelie's disk.

Friday, 9 January 2004
I awoke for the first time at 07:00, then for real around 08:00. I skipped breakfast and went straight down to the back of Science, taking advantage of the satellite window while I had it. Tyler stopped by and dropped off a pair of Carhartt bib overalls and a script for his movie. I looked over my part, then went to lunch.

Bob is still moving lots of snow, making the walk between the dome and the beercan difficult, but I clambored over the chest-high furrows and went inside. I sat alone with my Jambalaya and Tofu E'Toufee, but found some winter-overs, Sean and Sarah, to have dessert with. Sean got up, Mountain sat down, and he and Sarah talked about travel around N.Z. and Australia, and Sarah told us about WWOOFERs, itinerant volunteer organic farm labor. It sounded a bit like a network of rural youth hostels, but you called ahead to see if they needed any help that week, and worked the farm where you slept. For people with the right temperment, it would be an interesting way to make an extended trek across the country. We all finished eating about the same time, they went back to work and I walked out to MAPO to get ready for another generator cutover.

Things went more or less smoothly except that the 1440 high voltage crate was knocked offline. I reinitialized it and made sure everything else was working before I left. I walked outside just as the shuttle van was leaving. I saw it, but they didn't see me. I started walking home. As I was crossing the skiway, Mike was delivering a dewar of liquid nitrogen to ARO and gave me a ride back to the dome.

Down in Science, I continued to rebuild the kernel on my laptop to add support for reading ntfs disks, then went to dinner. After I got back, Kelly brought by her busted digital camera - the aluminum case was bent from being dropped. It was a simple fix. Ten minutes later, the shutter button worked and the camera was good as new. As I was finishing up, Andrea and Brandon came down from the store with birthday presents for the party at ARO tonight. I went to the store myself, then to my room to get ready for slushies.

I was going out just as Susan and Angela were coming back. They said that things were still going strong. I walked out in the grey to the Clean Air Sector, and into ARO. The big summer project has left, and the ARO guys have moved slushies back upstairs. It was fairly well attended. There were some galley snacks (hot pretzels, mozzarella sticks, etc.), and a drink cooler filled with 2000-year-old snow from the bottom of a seismic drill hole. Paddy shared a nip of one of her birthday presents with me, single malt, which I had neat; and Ildy, who's here to sub for Dan while he's in McMurdo on R&R, got me to try some Jaegermeister over the ancient snow. The neat part about snow and ice from that far down is that there are trapped air bubbles. Not fizzy like soda, but little chunks of Ice do fizz and pop. I finished my slushie, danced a bit, then went home to sleep.

Saturday, 10 January 2004
I woke up to my alarm and went straight to the weekly Science Support meeting in the old Upper Galley. Besides the usual round of introductions by grantees and Raytheon staff, there was one announcement that caught my attention: more scheduled power outages before the end of the summer. After the meeting, on the way out, I ducked into the bar to grab my grey fleece that I'd left on a chair the night before. The night shift crew was there hanging out. Don asked if I wanted to be in a band this winter. I told him I could sing and play piano or bass. All I need is some time to practice.

Up in the galley, I passed over the over-fried chicken in favor of the vegetarian Shepherd's Pie. There were no AMANDroids to sit with; they were all probably still over at MAPO. Back down in the back of Science, Kris was hunting around for our "portable eclipse" (a cardboard disc on a long bamboo stake that we use to block the sun for halo shots). If we can't find it, we'll have to make another one.

It was a slow day so I went up to my room to do my laundry and get cleaned up for the first night of filming with Tyler. I put on my rattiest ECW gear, including the Carhartts I just got, and went to dinner. My timing was perfect; for once there was some fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza, much better than the stuff that sits out for 20 minutes. Cori made comment about my Carhartts, something about looking like I worked for a living (beakers normally get black wind pants, not Carhartt Bibs). Tyler sat down and we discussed movie plans for later. Even Andrea was getting into the act; over dessert, she was translating a movie script into German.

At 19:00, I went half-way down the beercan, to snow level. Tyler, Dar, and Isaac were there, fiddling with some of the props. We were held up waiting for Paul who was refueling a Twin Otter. In the meantime, we dragged the banana sled mounded with empty drums and other acoutrements out past the fuel line so we could have some virgin snow in the background. We shot various scenes for about three hours. It was a nice night for it - about -15°F (-26°C) with less than 5 knots of wind. At one point, we could see Jerry Marty, the NSF Station Manager, watching us from a distance. I think we are expecting some skiers in soon and we were far enough off the beaten path that perhaps they wanted to see if we were them. Dar had to leave around 21:15, but the rest of us kept filming until 22:30. We dragged the sleds back, put away some of the props and went home.

Tonight was the SPRESSO open house. I really wanted to see the camp before they take it down. I called Comms about a ride (it's about five miles away in the "Quiet Sector", away from the vibrations of the station), and they suggested I try to contact Jarrod directly to see if he was still making runs. I couldn't raise them on my little hand-held, so once I was out of my ratty ECW gear, I walked over to Comms and asked Vince to call them. I waited outside for Jarrod long enough that I stopped in the El Dorm to warm up. I ran into Christian, one of the other grantees, in the lounge. He decided to come along. When Jarrod showed up, I hopped on the back of the skidoo; Christian climbed on the sled.

The ride out to SPRESSO felt like a lot more than five miles. From the snow road on the back side of the dome, we could barely see the camp on the horizon. We bounced along for a while, then pulled up to a much more elaborate camp than I envisioned. At the core of the camp was the drilling rig itself, next to a galley tent and a paint shack. The vault wasn't impressive, of course, since it was underground, with only a hatch at snow level to give it away. Several people live and work in the camp, each with their own mountaineering tent, set back a bit from the middle of everything.

Jarrod had dropped off a large group before picking us up, and things were pretty quiet. Valerie was giving a tour of the vault to most of the people who were left. I climbed down the ladder and joined them. Unlike the vault close behind the dome, this one is meant to be operated remotely. Power and fiber connect the vault to the main station; once they have finished deploying the siesmometers, they'll seal the vault and run everything from Pole. We asked Valerie a few questions, I took a few pictures, and we all headed up together.

The party resumed in the galley tent. Because of a few of the questions down in the vault, Jarrod pulled out an obsolete seismometer spare and stripped off the outer shell so we could peer at the inner workings. Not too much later, most of the rest of the visitors wanted to go back. Valerie drove Jarrod back and returned with Cargo Matt. While folks were enroute, I walked around the camp taking pictures. Once Valerie and Matt returned, Navah reappeared (she had been writing in her tent), and we passed a couple of hours listening to music on an iMac and munching on grilled meat, rumaki, and smoked oysters. As the party wound down, even though I'd been offered a place to crash, I chose to return to Pole. Matt drove me and Megan (one of the heavy equipment operators) back to town on his skidoo. Megan took the back seat, I hopped in the sled.

The ride back was bumpier than the ride out. I alternated between sitting facing the back and lying down. The sled was made of sheet plastic and riveted on the corners. I could feel every bump in the snow road through the bottom of the sled as we ran along. I had a pillow to sit on, but it didn't make much difference. Back at the station, Matt dropped Megan off at the El Dorm, and me off at the dome entrance. I stopped by the bar to see who was around, and even stayed through a few tunes, but right after I arrived, the guys picking the music were turning it to hard core, harder than I prefer. I went home and to sleep.

Sunday, 11 January 2004
Being a Sunday, I slept in until brunch was almost over. On the way there, I passed lots of people scurrying around the dome for today's big clearance sale at the store. I ran off to get food and come back. There were no fresh eggs and no omelettes today, making the food a bit sparse. When I finished, I went straight back to the dome via the door at snow level. It's not all the cold, but the wind has picked up a bit.

Down in the pool room, the place was packed. There were hats and T-shirts for $5, fleece jackets and vests for $10. I bought a bunch of stuff, hauled it to my room, and took a nap. I woke up and went straight to dinner, but I had to stop back at my room to put my on Carhartt's for more filming tonight. I lingered in my room long enough to IM a few times to friends at a party back home, then ran down and out of the dome.

We were filming on the other side of the fuel line again, so we could keep buildings and other evidence of modern intrusion out of the picture. It wasn't any colder today, -17°F (-27.22°C), but the wind has picked up to 12 knots. Not such a nice evening to be outside for several hours. We filmed a number of scenes in that wind, including recreating the famous photo of Scott and his men clustered around the British flag marking their second-place arrival at the Pole. Once that was done, we moved closer to the station to film the scene where the modern South Pole Station Manager offers us tea and cookies. Tyler needed to film some closeups of Kris, our "Scott", so the rest of us stayed in the beercan, out of the wind, trying to warm up. Once Tyler was finished with Kris, we decided to call it a day and pick things up again tomorrow. I went up to the top of the beercan, into the galley and made myself a large mug of tea.

I could see the science lecture was about to start, but I really didn't want to sit there for the next hour or two. I finished my tea and went back to my room and peeled off my ECW gear. While trying to warm up, I sent a few IMs to the folks at the party, but it was past 02:00 back in Ohio and the party had just broken up a little while before. Erin got home around 02:30, saw I was on and we IMed for a bit. While I was typing away, there was an odd sound and an odder smell coming from the laundry room, two doors down. Someone had over-loaded the washer and the belt was slipping enough to cause a serious problem. I think that if I hadn't been home to notice it, the belt would probably started smoking enough to set off the fire alarm.

After all the excitement, I went over to the library to see what movies might be on. The room was full of people watching the final scenes of "Gettysburg". When it was over, they were debating what to watch next, "The Terminator" or "Army of Darkness". Since I'd seen both of those recently, I went over to bar, where they were watching "The Matrix".

I've seen "The Matrix" a number of times, so I wanted to sit in a corner and surf while I watched the movie. I tried to get online from the bar with my wireless card, but I was having mixed results. Eventually, my batteries ran down and I started to pack up to leave. Before I could finish, Markus and Wolfgang came in. We talked for a while, then Markus picked up a folding cribbage board and asked what it was. I started to explain, but that only created more questions. Finally, I began showing them how to play Cribbage, with the first hand face up, then, the rest of the hands face down. Wolfgang did OK with his cards, and Markus started strongly, but towards the end of the game, he drew three hands out of four with zero points. I think my worst hand the entire game was 2 points. When the game was over, I went home and tried to get some sleep before tomorrow's power outage.

Monday, 12 January 2004
At 06:30, the fire alarm went off in Upper Berthing. There was no visible smoke, and not even the merest hint of the odor of smoke. The hall was full of people trying to figure out whose room was causing the trouble. After a few minutes, we determined that the detector in Slay's room seems to have failed. Since I was already awake, I went down to Science to pick up the Skidoo key from Al. I then went back to the server area and prepped a few of the machines for the shutdown. When I was happy with the state of things, I rode out to MAPO.

As I was shutting down the high voltage and beginning to shut down the computers, John called from SPASE to tell me that he had all of it down and ready for the outage. Minutes later, right on schedule, the power died. While I was waiting, I took apart the top-most String 18 computer to repair its "broken" power LED (the LED wasn't plugged in because this particular unit had a different board than all the others and there was no obvious place to attach it). I fashioned a replacement cable to tap off of the screw terminals at the power supply connector, and waited for the power to come back.

Once we had power, John helped me lower a heavy UPS from the top of the String 18 rack so I could test its batteries (two dead ones out of 12). As we worked on bringing the detector back online, we heard the all call that all of today's flights were on a weather delay due to fog in McMurdo. Once things were up, John and I went to lunch.

After lunch, down in Science, I had to reboot one of the servers because it reset on its own with the tape drives powered off (rendering them invisible). Paul Sullivan came by with two sets of new batteries for the UPS I was testing earlier, so I took them out to MAPO on the Skidoo before returning it. I wanted to let them warm up before applying any voltage to them, so I dropped them off and called it a day.

After dinner, I stopped by my room to change in to the same ECW gear that I'd been wearing for the past couple of nights, but someone took my fur-backed mittens ("bearpaws") off the hook outside my door. I was late as it was, especially after searching for them, so I ran outside without them to get on with the evening's filming.

Tyler was filming a scene with "Evans" and "Oates". We followed that up with a shot of Adrianne driving by in a Skidoo. We then reshot the close-up of me commenting on the cookies, then we all took a break to warm up and get ready for the final scene.

We loaded up the sled, covered it loosely, added a prop for the final gag, then trudged away from the station with Tyler filming us from various angles. There's still plenty more for him to do on the piece, but at least we finished all of the group shots tonight. BK, the real station manager, will be playing the part of the station manager in the movie, once she gets back from her trip to Mactown in a few days.

Tuesday, 13 January 2004
While I was still in my room, before I could head down to work, there was an all call that two NGA Twin Otters were due in today to support tourist activities. I went right down to the back of Science and backed-up and cleared my camera card. From the window in the galley, I took quite a few pictures of the planes and the tourists, with both my Olympus E-10 digital camera, and my Pentax P3 35mm camera. Lunch itself was uninteresting, Mac and Cheese, well made, but quite bland. Angela sat with me to ask questions about cron jobs and mgetty. We also talked about a special vault tour for serious photographers this upcoming Wednesday.

After lunch, I called for the shuttle to get a ride out to MAPO, but had to wait for it to come back from a run to the RF building. While I waited, I took more pictures of the Twin Otters from a vantage point half-way up the wooden staircase, framed by the structure of the new station. Out at MAPO, I installed the new batteries in the UPS and left it to charge. On the shuttle ride back to the dome, one of the other passengers coming back from the Dark_Sector with me, spotted a skier crossing the skiway. We called in his arrival to Comms, then, once we stopped, I ran back and took pictures of him reaching the Pole.

As I was taking pictures, Pete walked up to greet the new arrivals (a total of three parties already today with one more expected). Navah had come out hoping that the most recent one to arrive was a solo woman skier, but this it was just the lone straggler of the Korean group who had arrived earlier. Navah and I went into the dome and to the post office to check for packages; both of us scored. I don't know what was in hers, but mine had some food bits from home and and a fresh checkbook (which I'll need to get spending money this winter).

Later in the evening, I heard that the lone skier that Navah was waiting to meet did arrive today, bringing our total to four groups in one day (two by plane and two on skis).

Wednesday, 14 January 2004
Over Burgers and Fries at lunch, one of the CUSP grantees was asking me some questions about cron. Nothing complicated, but I am rapidly becoming the go-to guy for UNIX and Linux questions around here. After some dessert with Nick, Tyler and Jessica, I went down to the back of Science and met Serap, who arrived today to work on SPASE and Ice Top. There were also DVs on the flight with her. I grabbed my camera and headed out to MAPO to wait for them to arrive for their tour.

Even though I went on foot and took a few minutes to get there, I was the only AMANDA person out there. I tidied up the detector room a bit, throwing away scrap paper and used paper cups, then people started arriving. Comms called us numerous times to tell us that the DVs were running later than expected. While we waited, Nick came over from AST/RO to ask for help with a sick Redhat 8 box of theirs. I worked on it for a while, then when the DVs finally arrived, I ran back to MAPO to be there for their tour.

Steve conducted the tour. I stood around the detector, pointing out a few items as he mentioned them. After the tour, I ran to dinner, then tried to go to the store. The line was out the door (they are upgrading the POS system and today is the last day until Sunday that the store is going to be open). It's also the day for the special vault tour, and I had left my camera over at MAPO.

I ran out as quick as I could, but before I could get ten steps across the skiway, they flipped the crossing beacon on. Fortunately, I had my radio with me and called into Comms that I was on the skiway. Liza asked me to call in as soon as I was clear, which I did about two minutes later. I went right to MAPO, grabbed my camera and came right back before the plane could leave and trap me for ten minutes on the far side of the skiway.

I heard Al Baker call into Comms to check out for the vault. I reached him on my own radio to tell him I was near the new station and should be there in a few minutes. When I got to the dome, Justus was waiting, and Valerie was off getting film. When she returned, we all ventured forth to the back of the dome (by way of Skylab) and down the ladder to the vault.

Angela and Al were fiddling with a black light to see if we could get some interesting pictures of the ice crystals under UV. Because it was originally a ceiling-mount lamp, it was difficult to keep the connections solid to the extension cord they brought. They worked on it for a while and finally got it going. Unfortunately, ice crystals are boring under black light. My camera needs a fair bit of light to focus, and until they brought out the spotlight, I was pretty much sidelined. Once they were finally finished with the black light, I took as many pictures as my fingers and batteries could stand (it's a constant -40° in the vault), and headed up.

I went back to Science to warm up and IM home, but the Back of Science started filling up with AMANDA grantees and got too crowded for my taste. I went to the bar to be social, and ended up bartending for a while (it's all volunteer at Pole, unlike McMurdo). Later, when Marisat rose, I went back down to Science to enjoy the fast connection to the 'net.

Thursday, 15 January 2004
After a morning in the back of Science, I took a late lunch and went right back to work. There was a slip on my desk that I'd gotten mail. I went to the Post Office but couldn't find my packages in any of the stacks in the hallway. Eventually, Andrea found them still in the office, one from Erin with goodies not to be opened before St Patrick's Day, the other from Mike in Mactown with my Halloween costume he'd handcarried from Columbus.

Back at my desk, Steve called from MAPO to have me adjust the thresholds on an unused channel to experimentally determine the optimal data rate for the TWR. I walked out there and brought the detector up and down several times with different multiplicity trigger values while Steve checked the readings on some modules in a spare NIM crate. We finished just in time for me to call a shuttle back before they stopped running for the day.

The shuttle came out and picked me up, but we had to wait for the other passengers who had called from SPASE. Once they walked over to MAPO, we all went back to the snow-level entrance to the beercan. Serap and John went into the dome, while Karl and I went up the beercan. He exited at the lower level of the station; I kept going all the way up to the galley.

It was Asian Night: BBQ Meat, Five-Spice Veggies, and Steamed Rice. I sat next to Bill and Mountain, and watched them finish their game of Cribbage. Back down in the back of Science, Serap, Wolfgang, Markus and I talked about TWR data rates, then I went to my room to tidy things up and watch a movie. Later, I stopped by the bar and found it quiet. I sat at the bar, nursing a beer, talking with Liza, Cryo Mike, and a few others who were there. Eventually, Andrea came by, followed by Brandon. Bride stopped in after she finished with her shift, followed by some of the other "swingers" who were coming from a birthday party in the galley. When they mentioned that midrats was Thai food, I headed upstairs before they started putting it away.

Friday, 16 January 2004
After excellent midrats, I stopped by the back of Science where Brandon was configuring our new IP phone. I didn't stay long before heading up to bed.

After a bland and unremarkable morning, lunch was also bland and unremarkable: Open-faced Turkey Sandwiches and Instant Mashed Potatoes. Down in the back of Science, Steve brought over a PCMCIA Type III hard drive full of oscilloscope snapshots. I tried to read it with my Linux laptop, but the FAT filesystem on it acted corrupt. I had just begun to debug the problem when the fire alarm went off.

One my way to Bio-Med, I could hear over the all call that the fire was in the Utilidor. Since I know some of the Trauma Team were training on confined spaces earlier this week, I figured we were in for another drill. When I reached Bio-Med, the information we had was that Lisa, our Safety Person, had checked-out with Comms and was down in the Utilidor somewhere, and there was smoke coming out. I was dressed for the office, not for an hour in a -50°F tunnel, so I ran the radio again. I talked to Pete over in Comms, and to the members of the Trauma Team we sent over to the scene. I could hear as they ventilated the Utilidor to clear the smoke (from a smoke generator they'd planted earlier), and as Billy, a member of the Fire Team 2 who arrive at the scene with SCBA tanks), located Lisa, breathing but with a "broken ankle". Once they'd tested the air quality and let people in without air, the Trauma Team went down, packaged Lisa, and extracted her with the tripod winch.

Our debrief in the gym was short. Pete was happy with our performance and had no major feedback issues. By the time it was all over, dinner had started, so I went right out of the gym, down the tunnel and up the beercan to the galley. I was sitting with Eyvind and Mountain, when Eyvind commented on the pile of Lima Beans I'd separated from my mixed vegetables. We all exchanged stories about vegetables we didn't like.

After dinner, back in Science, I met with Serap about some of the issues with the computers out at SPASE. I had some answers at my fingertips, other answers I was going to have to dig for. When we finished, I threw on my parka and walked out to ARO for slushies. There wasn't a large crowd this week, and most of the folks there were beakers. It wasn't all that late when I left, so I went to the bar. Troy was spinning the music until he took off. It fell to me to make the next pick; I put on "Dark Side of the Moon", the whole album. Those few of us who were still hanging around, chatted until people started leaving around the time the track "Eclipse" was starting. I finished cleaning up the place as the album ended, then went back to my desk in Science.

Saturday, 17 January 2004
Back down in Science, Markus and I worked on a couple of polechomper issues, I answered heaps of e-mails from up North, and I asked Steve about TWR and current data rates (because it turns out that the TWR team did hook something to the formerly unused trigger). After going over a variety of recent changes, I went to bed.

Saturday is the traditional cleaning day at Pole. I was awakened by the IT department running the vacuum cleaner outside my door. I got dressed and stumbled downstairs to some e-mail from Darryn that some of the stuff we'd been discussing was now working. After a quick slice of pizza up in the galley (another Saturday tradition), I stopped off at my room to get cleaned up for acoustic night, back up in the galley.

Moose was first up. He sang a rude little song to break the Ice. I went up next and banged out a bit of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", one of my old standbys. Justus read Coleridge's "Xanadu", then people started going up in groups, first Dave, Cookie Jon and Jessica, then Nick and Becky on guitar and accordion. Tony played some amazing stuff he'd written for guitar, then Angela's video tape ran out. We ran down to the dome, her for a tape, me for the rest of my sheet music. I played one of Chopin's preludes (and was much happier with my performance than I was with the ragtime). It was starting to get late and the crowd was thinning rapidly. The front of the room was more-or-less me, Kris, Jessica, Terry and Dave. I borrowed Cookie's bass and tried to keep up. On his way to bed, Tyler asked me to take care of the instruments. The last of the acoustic players wandered off as midrats was starting. I put the instruments and amps and cables away and went down to to the back of Science.

Amazingly enough, someone was there, looking for computer support at 02:00! I did what I could and fled to the bar before anyone else could rope me into work at this hour. This late, though, the bar was mostly empty, just a few of the dedicated crowsd. I danced for a little while, then spent most of the rest of the time talking about winter with some of the other winter-overs. I left when Brandon started spinning hard rock on the CD player. Back down in Science, I worked through the night on polechomper bugs. Jim, one of the Ice Cube engineers, came down in the morning to wade through his e-mail, and we talked for a while until he went to brunch and I went to bed.

Sunday, 18 January 2004
I slept until late afternoon when I remebered that Cargo was holding their annual "Cargo Carnival" - food and games in the DNF jamesway. I missed the game of "Pin the Gallstone on the Winter Over", but I arrived just in time for the pie eating contest. They were drawing names out of a hat; apparently, I'd missed the chance to enter, which was fine with me. They selected eight contestants from the crowd, parked each one in front of a cream pie and shouted "Go!" There was a trick to this contest: two of the pies were not what they seemed - six were filled with fruit goo, one was filled with vegetable stew, and the last was filled with cous-cous. I grabbed a bratwurst and watched the spectacle.

After the pie eating/wearing contest, they called for the banana sled relay. Teams of four had to do four laps of the course - three people in the sled and the fourth pulling. I joined the crowed and watched three teams race back and forth in front of the Cargo office. Afterwards, back inside, it was time for the final contest: "Fill the Tri-Wall". They took two 50 cube tri-walls (50 cubic foot, triple-thickness corrugated cardboard boxes) and divided us all up into two groups to see who could pack more people in. We tied - eight people in each tri-wall. That was the last planned activity. When it was done, people started trickling away. I went back to Science to work on Polechomper.

I worked through dinner and through the Sunday Night Science Lecture, but I finally found and squashed the bug I was looking for. I took a break over at the bar where they were watching "Sneakers". Afterwards, we sat around the bar and traded plumber and carpenter stories. When midnight rolled around, I went up to the galley for midrats.

Monday, 19 January 2004
I sat with Shana and Jodi for midrats. We had somewhat spicy Jalapeno-Cheese Grits, Cornflake-breaded Catfish and Tofu Scampi. I relaxed afterwards with a cup of Shana's Black Tea with Red Sugar Crystals. Back down in the back of Science, I kept working on Polechomper issues. I also got cdrecord working under Linux so I could make backups of some of the operational logs.

Later in the morning, I spotted my name on a Manifest for McMurdo for 27-Jan (for R&R). Up at breakfast, I sat with the Met guys, Kris and Don. On my way out, I saw the Ice Cube guys meeting with Vladimir. The back of Science was deserted. I tried to get on the 'net via GOES 3, but it wasn't cooperating. About that time, people started filling up the chairs around me. I went to bed.

The IT guys vacuuming in the hallway woke me up around 16:30. I heard that the PAX flight made it out today, but the second flight was cancelled. I stopped by the Store/Post Office and found a package from Tom - Black & White Photo Paper. After dinner, over in Met, Kris showed me this slick 19mm wide-angle lens for his digital camera. Over in the back of Science, Serap was happy because we finally located the watt meter that had been delivered weeks ago, but not unpacked. Several of us worked through the night, and I ended my day the way it began, by going up to midrats.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004
Up at midrats, it was a fry-night... Grilled Hot Dogs, Grilled Sandwiches, Curly Fries and Onion Rings. I started off sitting alone, but Markus and Wolfgang joined me when they got back from MAPO. I went back down to Science to meet with Markus about Filtering later in the morning. I went up to my room for just a moment to get something, but managed to fall fast asleep.

I woke up after lunch and walked out to MAPO to go over some things with Karl, but he was busy updating the firmware on his FPGAs. Checked various parts of the detector while I waited for him to finish up. In the meantime, Greg, one of the summer guys with VIPER asked me a question about NTP settings. In the course of our conversation, I learned that he wintered with Darryn in 2000. Karl was still up to his eyebrows in firmware, so I called for the shuttle. Unfortunately, the driver stopped at 17:15 today and I had to walk to dinner.

After dinner, I worked for a little while in the back of Science, then needed to take a break. The bar was completely deserted, and over in the Library, nobody was playing pool, but some of the Ice Cube beakers were watching "American Pie". I came in about 20 minutes from the start, and stayed 'til the end. When it was over, I went back to the bar where there was a small crowd, including the NSF Station Manager, Jerry (whom I've never seen in there, all summer). I made a quick detour to my desk, and came back with my copy of the CNN special "Antarctica: The Harsh Continent" (in which Jerry appears several times). We watched the last two segments, the parts about Pole, and had several good laughs. For me, one of the more interesting scenes was an all-hands meeting in what's now the new galley. In the video, it was just the shell.

After watching the video, folks started leaving. Rich is going back to McMurdo on the morning PAX flight. When we left, the bar was once again deserted. I went up for midrats to find an empty pan labelled "Blackened Chicken", and had move on to the New York Strip, Short Ribs and Shrimp Creole. Markus and Wolfgang joined me again when they had made it back from MAPO. We lingered over coffee and cookies after dinner, then all went down to Science so Markus could give me a tour of the new filtering software before he leaves on Thursday.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004
Markus and I went over the new Filtering package in detail. We covered starting, stopping, monitoring errors and more. We worked through breakfast, listened to the all call that the first flight of the day had arrived, then finally went to lunch. After lunch, there was a planned communication outage that affected my stuff (IT was cutting over some of the fiber over in building 61 in the Dark Sector. I shutdown Polechomper and tried to wait it out, but I was too tired. I went upstairs to crash.

I was awakened by an all call that there was pop and package mail to unload. I went to help, but by the time I got dressed and across the dome, most of the mail was sorted. I got in line and helped the last few dozen packages get from the tri-wall to the pool room. One of my packages floated by and I snagged it for later. When the mail was done, we all relocated and started unpacking pop, flat after flat of Mt. Dew, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. After all of that, I went up to the pool room for the rest of my packages. There were two more. A pretty good mail day, all in all.

Over in the back of Science, I tried to ping my servers over in MAPO, but I still couldn't reach them. While I waited, I opened my packages, a copy of Avalon Hill's "Kingmaker", some electronic components I ordered for projects, and bits of my home computer that I'd had packed up and sent to me. When it was time for midrats, the network still wasn't up, so I went to the galley.

They were serving Rotini, Mashed Potatoes, and a Seafood Chowder. I sat with Shana and Jodi, but we all left right after eating. I headed back down to the dome, and nearly got stuck in the tunnel between the beercan and the old power plant arch. I think one of the screws fell off of the lock plate for the doorknob. I managed to find the right pressure on the mechanism to let me open the door, and went straight to Comms to report it to the UTs. Back in Science, Serap and Markus were working for a while, but left in the wee hours to sleep. The network was still out.

Thursday, 22 January 2004
I checked on the network every once in a while. Around 05:00, they sent around a message that things were working, but my servers appear to have been offline so long that they've forgotten their addresses. Brandon came back from MAPO to give me a ride out on his skidoo. I reset all of the servers, but the detector software wouldn't come up. I checked all the crates to make sure they were all powered up, and I checked each server to make sure it could see the network. The software just hit a certain point and hung until things started timing out. I went back to the dome and called Darryn to see what he thought. He poked around remotely from Madison and couldn't come up with anything either. I took a breakfast break, then caught the shuttle back out to MAPO.

We were stopped at the crossing beacon for a tourist Twin Otter. They were repositioning from their fuel cache on the other side of the skiway to the tourist area near the Pole. Once I got to MAPO, I reset everything including rebooting several servers. The detector still hung up at the same point. I took the shuttle back for lunch (barely beating the crossing beacon this time), and ran into Jules, freshly back from Sydney. She had a bag of Japanese ingredients for me, for which I'd been impatiently awaiting. Before heading off to home and to bed, I met the latest AMANDA arrival, Klaus.

I'd meant to wake up early enough to catch Fiona Thornhill's talk about her ski journey to Pole, but I slept through it. With no other distractions on the horizon, I went back to debugging the detector.

Friday, 23 January 2004
Up at midrats, I sat down alone, but was joined by Kyros, a fellow winter-over. I skipped the Chicken Fried Steak in favor of a Fish Fillet and some Chicken Marsala. After eating, back down in Science, I e-mailed Darryn to call me when he got to work (there's a nineteen hour difference between here and Madison), and kept at my debugging. I finally tracked down the problem to some communications issue with the GPS unit, and went out to MAPO to check all the hardware again.

To start with, before I changed anything, I labelled the GPS cables so I could keep things straight. There are three signals in particular that the detector uses - 10KHz, 1Hz, and an RS-232 line with the ASCII time. All of the signals looked good at the detector end, so it wasn't the GPS itself. I was closer, but not close enough, and it was time for breakfast. I hopped the shuttle back to the new station.

After breakfast with Brandon, Thomas and Wolfgang, I tried to wait for Karl to help me debug the card in the detector that receives the GPS signals, but ran out of steam and went to my room to sleep. Around 16:00 a false alarm at the Hypertats woke me, then another alarm shortly after that got me out of bed. The all call said it was in the old power plant. I kept waiting to hear the "Disregard" while I was getting dressed, but it never came. I made it down to Bio-Med a few minutes after the alarm started.

Sarah was already on Comms, the Doc was already on the scene, and most of the Trauma Team was deployed. The only ones in Bio-Med were me, Sarah, and Scott, the winter Doc. Before I'd gotten there, I had realized that this was a drill. The scenario was a "fire" in the power plant, smoke, noise, no lights, and three people down. The Trauma Team called us for more oxygen bottles and another stretcher (they'd already taken both jump bags with bottles when they left). Before Scott or I could find any more supplies, the first "patients" had started arriving.

When it was all over and we'd rescued all three "victims", Pete wanted to do an immediate de-brief in the power plant, but it was too noisy. We finished in the gym, then went to dinner. Before I went in to eat, I called Karl at MAPO. We arranged to meet after dinner to work on the detector problem.

After dinner with Pablo and Gary, and dessert with Paddy and BK, I threw my ECW gear back on, and called Comms before heading out. There's a Twin Otter due any time now, but I had time scramble across the skiway before it arrived. I crossed the skiway with Klaus, but we didn't see Karl anywhere. On our way out, Comms asked us for our position. Klaus and I were at the fuel line, but not yet on the skiway. As we were calling in, Brandon rode by on a skidoo and gave Klaus and me a ride across the skiway. Once we were safely on the other side, I called in that we were clear. Unfortunately, Karl hadn't made it yet. We waited for the plane to land, then for Karl to catch up to us. As soon as Karl cleared the skiway, they flipped the crossing beacon on for Skier 90, the next plane due in.

Over in MAPO, Karl and I, with help from Wolfgang, started tracking down the problem. Wolfgang brought us the VME extender card, and in a few minutes, Karl identified the problem as a bad comparator. The signal was getting onto the board in the detector, but not past a particular chip. He donated one from his clock box, and I soldered it in place. Once we put everything back, the detector started perfectly. I watched it operate for a few minutes, then we all walked back to the new station for midrats.

Saturday, 24 January 2004
Someone asked me if we were doing anything special for Chinese New Year's. I didn't think so, but the spread at midrats took me by surprise. There was an excellent Beef Stirfry, several kinds of Maki Sushi (Tuna, Crab, Shrimp, California Rolls), and more. After eating, I went back down to Science to work on various things. Other AMANDA folks started trickling in around 06:00.

About mid-morning, there was an all call for volunteers to put away supplies for the store. I threw on my fleece and helped haul a pallet of various beverages into the freshie shack. When we were done, I went back to my room to warm up, and fell completely asleep.

By the time I woke, the first showing of the South Pole Film Festival had already started. I went down to work for a bit, until folks started coming back from the show. Serap made several favorable comments about the movie I was in, "Nova Terra-ble", as did Steve, when I passed him in the tunnel on my way up to the galley. When I got there, people were still milling around the bar at the back of the room, and the second show wasn't due to start for a while. I went down to the bar under the dome for a while, and waited for the next showtime from there.

Sunday, 25 January 2004
I ran up to the galley, but the second showing had already started. I think I missed my appearance in Jack's music video of "Get On Up" that they filmed at Christmas, but I did walk in on my part in Tyler's "Nova Terra-ble". The audience loved it. I sat through all of the rest of the show. There was some really great stuff there. Afterwards, most of the night crew migrated down to the bar. I went for a little while, but as the show went on until well past 03:00, I didn't stay all that long.

I slept until after brunch, got up and read for a while, then took a nap until the 18:30 all call that dinner was ending in 30 minutes roused me out of bed. I made it to the galley with ten minutes to spare. Tyler snagged me up in the galley for some blank CDs and DVD-Rs to back up his machine so he'd have enough room on his laptop to mess with movie files. I told him I'd meet him in the back of Science after dinner.

On my way down the beercan, I noticed how nicely the new door at snow level is coming along. It's stainless steel, like doors around the new station, with a round window at eye level. It's been inconvenient having no access to that side of the station except the ramp up from the dome.

I stopped off at my room for the blank discs, then went down to the back of Science, where Tyler was waiting for me. The place was packed - Serap, Steve, Wolfgang, Thomas and even Karl, who is leaving tomorrow. We all went up to the bar around 20:00 for a goodbye party. I always thought of vermouth as a mixer, but on several occasions, tonight included, I've seen Germans drink it straight. I tried it, but mostly stuck with water.

We talked about a variety of things from the metric system, to tenured professorships to the winter-over psych exam. I had to move around the table; the movies in the other end of the room were mighty distracting, "Jacob's Ladder" and "The Way of the Gun". The going-away party broke up well before midnight, so I went back on down to work where Steve was trying to burn some data CDs from his work this season. We fiddled with one of the Macs, but it looks like either the external burner is broken, or it needs some software adjustment. After a while, I gave up on it and went to midrats late. The Mac is one of the public computers, so we'll let the IT folks fix it.

Monday, 26 January 2004
Up at midrats, it was Mexican Night: Tacos, Fajitas and Chile Rellanos. I ate and went right back down to the back of Science. Working throught the night, I finally got backups working to DVD-R. Right before breakfast, Kris came over and asked me to take some pictures of the Met department.

We walked down the Old Power Plant Arch, up and out to the BIF. I went up to the roof for a nice view and a few photos from overhead. The best shot, though was of Dar, Kris, Paul and Don standing on the wooden deck in front of the BIF. When we were done, I went straight to the new station and up to the galley.

After breakfast with Thomas and Wolfgang, I went back down to Science to wait for Thomas so we could go over some of the recent software changes. It was a bad morning for the satellite, but kept at it until around 11:00 when I'd had enough of a day that I went back to my room to watch the end of "The Big Bus" and get some sleep.

I stirred a bit around dinner time, but didn't get up for real until a few hours later. The noise from all the people coming and going from the sauna across the hall was the clincher. I took a slow approach to getting up, taking a few minutes to tidy my room up a bit before heading down to Science. When I got there, Paul let me know about a schedule generator cutover at 10:00 tomorrow, and that it might be wise to make arrangements for me to be on a later flight to McMurdo (so I could ensure that nothing odd happened with the detector).

While I was talking to Paul in his office, I noticed that I was not the only one working late the night before leaving: Angela was at her desk working on her own last-minute issues. Back over on my end of the building, I had two major things to contend with, one hardware and one software. The hardware issue was a tape drive that didn't want to finish a tape, and the software issue was that a change I made to a script didn't anticipate dealing with files older than six months (the date formats are different for new files and old files). I worked until breakfast trying to fix the problem with the tape drive, and finally replaced it.

Tuesday, 27 January 2004
With the system back up and filling tapes, I scribed the last few lines on my EarthDial and went upstairs to pack. I did my checked bags first (clothes, battery charger, etc.) and ran outside when I heard a snow machine. It was cargo, here to pick up our bags from the dome. I threw mine on the sled and went up to the galley for the redeployment meeting. Unfortunately, the only people in the galley were folks having breakfast. I called down to the dome library (the other place where these meetings take place), and that's where everyone was. I ran down to there, but things were more or less over. Almost everyone going has been to McMurdo several times, so Pete didn't have much to really cover. He did mention that the Navy cargo handlers (NAVCHAPs) were in town, as well as quite a few folks from the Coast Guard icebreakers the Polar Sea and the Polar Star. After we finished up in the library, I went back over to Science to pick up Jeff to go out to MAPO.

We walked out the Garage Arch to the snowmobile line and I went to fire up number 18. It almost started on the second pull, but when it didn't, it took me ten more minutes to get it going (and it still stalled out twice before we could get going). Jeff didn't wait and left for SPASE on foot. I zipped across the skiway over to MAPO and started shutting down the parts of the detector that aren't on UPSes. While I was turning things off, Ruth called to ask which flight I wanted to be on. I told her that I'd rather leave on the earlier flight with everyone else.

Ten O'Clock came and went, and after they finished fiddling with the power, I turned everything back on, saw that it all looked happy, and zipped back across the skiway and picked up my handcarry bag and laptop. I had one more thing to do - take a picture of the EarthDial outdoors. Jeff carried it out to the top of the ramp outside the dome, I positioned it in the snow, took my picture, and Paul from Met took it back inside for me. I said my goodbyes to Jeff and left the experiment in his hands for a week.

Before going over to the PAX terminal, I walked over to the crossing beacon to get a picture of the plane as it did a fly-by (there was a General onboard who probably wanted a good view of the station before landing). From there, I walked around the new station and over to the fuel pit and we all waited for cargo to be offloaded and onloaded, then climbed aboard ourselves.

Even with only a couple dozen people, an LC-130 is never comfortable. It's even worse when you are short and wedged in between two guys who are at least six feet tall. I tried to sleep but I was pretty hungry. I'd skipped breakfast and we left as lunch was starting. Finally, I pulled out my ancient Rio PMP-300 and fell asleep to some music. I think I went through its memory twice before waking up as we were touching down at Willy Field. We taxied, parked, and got off the plane. There was barely time for a couple of pictures before climbing on the shuttle and heading into Mactown.

The driver had his mp3 player attached to the airporter stereo. The first thing on got a good laugh from everyone, Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". When "It's a Wonderful World" came on, the line about seeing trees and green got more laughs. About this point, we were coming up on the transition and crossed over to the dirt road from the snow. We passed Scott Base, went up and over the pass, into town, turned left and parked at The Chalet.

We all went inside for our in-brief. The person who was supposed to give it was in another meeting, so we drank tea and hot chocolate and ate some stale macaroons. Finally, someone came in and gave us the rundown on things (most of it was old-hat for me). One thing I wasn't expecting was the mandatory dental exam. I needed to get a temporary filling replaced, so I wanted to see the dentist anyway. I stuck my hand up early and got the Thursday, 09:00 slot. Once the briefing was over, I gathered up my gear and walked over to B-155 to get my room assignment and key. They put me in 208, on the second deck, right by the stairs. From the looks of the tags on the bags that are already in the room, my roommate is someone I already know from my previous summers here, Bill Nesbitt, one of the IT guys.

After I dumped my handcarry in my locker, I called Mike over at his office in Crary, but he wasn't ready to go to dinner yet. I took the chance to go up to the MCC for my checked bags. When I walked up the hill, the bags hadn't arrived yet, but I did run into an old summer friend, Janet, who had come in to use the Post Office. We talked for long enough, catching up on things, that the bags arrived. I went to get them all, but my little blue gym bag with my sneakers and towel, was too heavy to pick up. I knew Tammy must have done something - when I opened the bag, there was a note (from her), a couple of candy bars, and a 25 lb cargo chain! Her note mentioned something about how sad my tiny little bag was, and that it needed some help. The cargo guys watched me try to lift it. I think from the smirks on their faces that they've seen this game before.

After hauling my bags back down to 208 and getting them up to the second floor, I put things away and took a luxurious shower that lasted maybe as long as six minutes! After I got dried off and dressed, I wandered over to B-155 and ran into Pete and Andrea as they were arriving (they came on the second flight of the day). Pete wanted to know if any of us had been put in one of the bunkhouses. I told him as far as I knew, we were all in pretty nice accomodations.

Further down the hall, I ran into a bunch of Polies who were just coming from dinner. I talked with them for a while, noticed that the store was open, and grabbed a few items and got in line between Angie and Pete. After nagivating the checkout line, I hung my jacket up and went up to the galley for some food. Good selection tonight, Thai Beef, Spicy Tofu and Veggies (with only the veggies left) and Spicy Miso Soup. I don't remember such flavorful food all the seasons I was here before.

On my way to a seat, I passed several people I recognized, including Cheryl from the USGS. I didn't spot Mike, but I found Karl up by the windows at the front of the room. We were joined by another summer Pole grantee, John (whom I sat next to on the plane). I ate quickly and had to excuse myself before John and Karl were done, because the safety lecture was starting soon over in Crary.

In order to be allowed to check out at the fire house for recreational travel other than Scott Base and Ob Hill, you have to attend a safety lecture that's only held twice a week. I wanted to be able to go on hike with folks, so this was my only chance until Saturday to attend. The lecture has changed a bit over the years. They seemed to dwell more on various incidents that have happened over the years (that I've heard all about before), and less on details of hypothermia symptoms, etc. There were several of us from Pole at the lecture (probably 1/3 of the audience). We watched the video, signed the sheet, and got on with our evenings.

After stopping off at my room to drop stuff off, I went to the Coffee House to see who was around. The place was full - not an open table in the back, or an open seat at the bar. Angela was sitting at the bar, so I stood and chatted with her, waiting for some service to order a latte. A seat opened up, and Angela and I waited by the bar for any other Polies to come by, but none did. Finally, a table opened up when the ladies at it finished their game of Settlers of Catan. We quickly nabbed the table, and were quickly joined by the McMurdo Science Tech, Laura, one of Angela's collegues.

Laura and Angela fell into shop-talk pretty fast. I let them hash out some things, and talked instead with Jeff, one of the McMurdo Fire Techs who visited Pole this summer on an inspection trip. He wanted to hear all about the detector, something I can definitely go on at length about. It's a work-day for most folks in town (we Polies are about the only exception other than people who are leaving tomorrow), so the group broke up around 22:00, but not before Laura invited Angela and me out to Arrival Heights and COSRAY tomorrow.

Since we didn't have to work, and the clubs were still open, we went over to Gallagher's to see if we could find Brian to say goodbye to him (he was going to winter with us at Pole, but now he's on his way home). The place was pretty crowded. There was a large group of people from whichever Icebreaker is in port right now (either the Polar Sea or the Polar Star; both are in the area), and another large group of meteorite hunters. Peter was at the bar, trying to get some service, but they closed the register before he could place an order. Fortunately, Kris was in line ahead of him and was able to get a last beer for both me and Peter. We sat at a table and worked on our drinks until they turned the lights up and pitched everyone out.

As is common in the summer, once the clubs close, people mill around trying to decide where to go next, a lounge, or off to bed. I think tonight's crowd was heading for the B-155 upstairs lounge. We didn't recognize anyone in the crowd, so Kris, Peter, Angela and I walked out to Hut Point. It was a calm and sunny evening, and a pleasant walk. There was one other person there when we arrived. We all stood by Vince's Cross, looking for whales in the open channel. We didn't see any, but we did spot one seal and heard another through its breathing hole. It was around midnight at this point. We all walked back to the galley together for midrats hoping the rumors of ribs were true.

Wednesday, 28 January 2004
We got to midrats around 00:30. I nabbed some Ribs, a skewer of Grilled Shrimp and a large Salad. Richard (who will be wintering with us after summer in McMurdo) was on break and joined us. After we ate, most of us went off to the public computers down the hall. I managed to get the last free one. I tried to check things at Pole, but I couldn't seem to get a good connection. I IMed with Erin at home and checked my webmail accounts until I started falling asleep at the keyboard. I signed off around 03:00 and went to bed.

The walk past Derelect Junction woke me up. By the time I got back to my room, I was quite awake. I was going to work my webpage in the room, but I decided that the clattering of the keys would be too noisy for my roommate. I went down the hall to the lounge and created a simple page for my EarthDial while I watched Letterman on AFRTS. The view of the Transantarctic Mountains out the window was spectacular, expecially after 05:00 when the light put them into a sharp relief. The lounge was as cold and drafty as I remember it. I finished what I was doing, and went back to bed where it was much warmer.

I woke up right before 15:00, when I was supposed to meet Laura and Angela at Laura's office in Crary. I grabbed my laptop and camera and ran out the door to the lab. One of the nice thing about being the McMurdo Science Tech is that they assign you your own vehicle. We hopped in Laura's pick-up and went to Cosray first. I'd been wanting to come back for years to take a couple of specific pictures: the Feynman Diagram on the wall, and the "Bit Bucket", a trash can full of paper tape chad (i.e., "bits"). Our next stop was Arrival Heights. It hadn't changed much since my previous visit, but being summer, it was full of beakers. We stayed there for a while, talking with various folks, including one or two that had been at Pole for much of the summer. On our way out, we gave one of them a ride, but with the cab full, I volunteered to ride in the back (I had my red parka with me; Angela did not). A bumpy, windy ride later, we stopped at the NASA Ground Station where I helped Laura with a couple of VNC questions. We all piled in the pick-up for one last leg, back to town. Angela got off at The Galley, but I had left my laptop in Laura's office in Crary. She dropped me off there, and I took the opportunity to go upstairs, plug my laptop in, and check e-mail.

When I had finished with the 'net, I stopped off at my room, swapped my parka for a lighter coat, and went to dinner. The summer food at McMurdo continues to amaze me - they never would have served a Spicy Potato Soup back in the old days. I found Mike and sat with him. He was discussing Grand Canyon geology with NASA Mike. I sat with them through dinner, then had to excuse myself to meet with the rest of the Polies at the Burger Bar.

When I walked into Gallagher's, the burger line was out to the door. I went over and sat down with the gang until the line got shorter. Brian came it and joined us; he's here until Friday before going home. We all sat around, talking, and waiting for our orders. After a long while, Kris and I were the last ones to be served. As we ate, a steady stream of former Polies came by to talk. I didn't know any of them, but most of the people at the table had been to Pole in recent seasons and knew each other. Among others, I met Monique and her husband who had been there either last year or the year before. Around 21:30, I excused myself and did a quick walk-round to see who else was at the clubs tonight.

I poked my head in the The Southern Exposure, but didn't know anyone there, so my last stop was the Coffee House. I said hi to the couple of people I did know, ordered a latte, and checked my e-mail on the public computers in the back of the room. As I was finishing, Angela came in, looking for some of her friends. We talked for a while, and when I had finished my latte, we walked around outside for a bit, then stopped by Gallagher's.

Most of the Polies were still there. We hung out until almost closing time, then we all drifted away in different directions. Angela stopped off at the public computers in B-155; I went home. I didn't want to disturb Bill, so I read in the Sauna for a while. On my way out, as I was leaving, John Sale, a fellow winter-over from 1995, was coming in. He was at Pole briefly this summer, but as part of the traverse team, and only passing through. We talked briefly, then I went up to my room, tried to type quietly on my laptop, but gave up and went to sleep.

Thursday, 29 January 2004
I woke up early enough that Bill hadn't yet gone to work. After he left, I made a quick call to Madison to ask what the best technique was to get to my account at Pole, then went off to breakfast. I had a quick bite to eat with a couple other summer Polie beakers (who are here for a few days before going home), then went down to the traning room for one of the two public laptop ports in B-155. I had 350 unread messages in my Pole account. I did what I could, given the slowness of the connection (all the packets have to go from McMurdo, back to the States, then turn around and come right back South to get to Pole - it takes nearly two seconds for keystrokes to echo), then had to shut down and head over to Medical for my pre-winter dental appointment.

I was right on-time, and didn't have to wait but a moment to see the dentist. The inside of Medical was just about the same as I remember it from previous seasons, except I think the people there are Air Guard rather than NSFA. In addition to the same inspection/cleaning that everyone else was there for, I needed a temporary filling replaced. It went a lot quicker than I expected; I was back on the street in under an hour.

Back over in B-155, I heard Andrea's voice coming out of the HR Office, and stopped to chat for a few minutes. As I was leaving, I passed another old friend, Suzanne, at the ATM (I wintered with her brother, Ken, in 1995), and had a brief hello, since she was on her way to work in the Galley. I was heading for the chapel to check out the piano when I passed Kelly, the McMurdo GIS person. She had just come from the Coffee House, and it was still open for morning service. I stopped in for a latte, but couldn't stay long; they kicked us all out at 10:00. I spent the rest of the time before lunch on the public computers, trying to catch up with the flood of backed-up e-mail.

After lunch, a number of us Polies met up to check out for the Castle Rock loop. We waited around until past 12:30 and picked up a party of six: Monique, Angie, Andrea, Peter, Kris and myself. Because we figured we were going to split up on the trail, we took two radios with us when we were checking out at the Fire House. It was a nice day out; most of us were in wind-breakers rather than parkas.

We took the usual route, past the Heavy Shop, and up a long, steep gravel road that didn't level out until we were at least 200' above most of town. We turned right at the sign that marks the start of the trail (going left takes you to Arrival Heights), and hit our first patch of snow on the route. It was still sunny, but a bit windier than the 5-7 knots they told us it was. We walked along the mix of gravel and snow, faces into the wind, until we got to the first survival shelter. We all piled into the Apple, and shared some trail mix and chocolate bars. After about 20 minutes of resting out of the wind, we were ready to move out.

It was still all up hill (now all on snow) to the next survival shelter, at least a kilometer away. About halfway there, the women decided to go back, leaving Kris, Peter and me to finish the hike. We didn't stop at the next survival shelter, and kept on going until we were at the base of the Rock. I'd been here before, but always on a skidoo. This was my first visit where the weather was nice enough to consider climbing to the top. Kris led (he'd been up it before), up and around the shallow side, until we were off the snow and on solid rock. Ohio being as flat as it is, I was not accustomed to the terrain; Peter and Kris kept stopping to let me catch up. There's one section that's a steep scramble over loose rock, but there are a pair of climbing ropes to hang on to. We made it over the rough patch, up the chute, and up the last steep part until we were at the summit.

We sat on the leeward side, facing Erebus and the Sea Ice (Willy Field and the Ross Ice Shelf were on the windward side). I shot the rest of my roll and reloaded in the calm, then poked my head over the top to take a few shots of Willy, with what felt like 20 knots blasting me in the face. As little as I like heights, the trip down was harder than the trip up, but we made it back down to the snow at the base, and started the walk back to town. With the wind mostly at our backs, it was a little easier than the walk there, and we made good time. Even with the time we spent at the first shelter, and the time at the summit, we were back in town and checking in about four hours after leaving. We had split up at the Heavy Shop, and since I didn't have to return the radio, I went straight to my room and called the Fire House from there.

Dinner had already started, so I grabbed a few things, ran over to the Galley, had a quick bite by myself, then stopped off at my room for my laptop, and over to the 203B lounge for the Polie Party. I don't think I was all that late, but the place was already packed. There were more ex-Polies there than those of us in town for R&R, but it made for some interesting story telling of seasons past. I showed off a few pictures from our hike, then Sally, the McMurdo Kitchen Manager (who had previously been the Kitchen Manager at Pole, before Cookie Jon), brought out the tape of "Nova Terra-ble", from the South Pole Film Festival. After a good laugh at our on-screen antics, I excused myself, went back to my room to swap my camera for my laptop, then walked outside to Derelect Junction to grab a shuttle to Scott Base for American Night.

Unlike earlier this season, there was no queue, and no wait. The shuttle van was right there, and departed as soon as I got on board. I dropped off my parka and hat in the vestibule, and headed through the station to the bar. I didn't know anyone there (rather unusual given how much I used to frequent the place in years past), but I found an open seat at the bar and ordered a Guiness. I sat next to an older gentleman who had retired from his regular job, and was on his first trip to the Ice, working in Fleet Ops. We talked for a while, I finished my beer, and decided to try to make it back to McMurdo on the 22:15 shuttle to make the rounds before all the clubs closed.

I didn't make it; I got outside just in time to see the shuttle driving up the hill to the pass. Fortunately for me, the Willy Field shuttle went by right after, so I jumped on that. Once I was back in Mactown, I stuck my head in the Coffee House, but didn't recognize anyone. Over at Gallagher's, it was a different story. I ran into Ildiko, who had been at Pole for a week while Dan was on R&R, and she introduced me to a few of her friends. After introductions and a few questions about life at Pole and how AMANDA works, I made my way to the back corner to say hi to Eileen, yet another fellow winter-over from 1995. We caught up on the past few years, then they flipped the lights on and started herding people out. Ildi and her group tried to migrate over to The Southern Exposure, but the recreation staff has already emptied that out as well.

I tagged along with Ildi and her friends, and we stopped briefly at the TV studio on the first floor of B-155 before heading up, en masse, to the second-floor lounge. It was packed, mostly with dozens of grantees who are leaving tomorrow and NAVCHAPs who are waiting for the vessel to arrive. We were all having a great time, until the Fire Department came 'round about midnight to bust the party up for the noise. With the festivities prematurely ended, a bunch of us went down to the Galley for midrats.

The group was mostly meteorite hunters, with a few Polies sprinkled in. We filled three tables, munching on freshies, Pasta with Chicken, and Grilled Shrimp. I tried to stay awake, but after the forced march to Castle Rock earlier, I just couldn't manage. I left the group, still chatting away, and went right to bed.

Friday, 30 January 2004
I woke up the first time just at 07:30, realized that breakfast was about to be over, and went back to sleep until 08:30. Awake for real, I went in for a nice, long shower before heading out to Crary. After wandering around the lab for a bit, I ended up in the computer tech area down in Phase 2. I talked with Holly for a little bit; I was hoping to borrow a parallel-port QuickCam to use with my EarthDial, but all they had was a Mac serial QuickCam. Just in case I can find a use for it later, I borrowed it for the Winter, then went to lunch.

I found Valerie and John to sit with (from the SPRESSO group at Pole). Valerie had some post cards that she wanted sent from Pole, so she asked me to take them back and mail them. Angela came in and found the table full of Polies that I couldn't find earlier. I moved over to sit with all of them. After lunch ended, I went down the hall to the training room with my laptop to catch up on e-mail. Not too many minutes later, I had to disconnect and head over to the bowling alley for our one R&R perk, a free hour of "Polie Bowling".

Seeing as I was a little late, I didn't expect to be the second one there. It was just Nick the UT, bowling some practice frames. I grabbed a pair of shoes and tried to find my old ball. I think I did, or at least one that was close (I prefer an undersized ball, but there are only one or two with large enough finger holes). Nick and I warmed up and played a game. I don't usually manage an 11th frame, and a gutterball for my first throw in the 10th didn't bode well, but I managed to spare anyway, and scored exactly 100 points for the game (which is pretty good for me). Besides the game, I took pictures of the bowling alley from various angles, something else I've wanted to do for years. After the hour was up, I went back to my room and crashed.

I woke up at 21:30 while Bill was taking a shower (I think the noise of the water is what did it for me). I gathered my things and went out for the evening, doing the rounds, looking for people I know. I found one each at The Coffee House and The Southern Exposure, but found the Polies congregating at Gallagher's. I joined Andrea and Peter who were going through a pile of Sun Chips (they won't send chips in bags to us at Pole, only chips in cardboard tubes). We stayed 'til closing, eating chips and talking about, of all things, Linux. On my way home, I stopped at the B-155 lounge where Sci Cargo was having a quiet party. I stayed for a while, answering questions about AMANDA and neutrinos (a couple of the cargo folks were really interested after they asked what I did on the Ice). The party was already winding down, so when they started to put things away around midnight, I went downstairs to midrats.

Saturday, 31 January 2004
I didn't see anyone to sit with at midrats, so I dined alone, then went over to Crary to work on my web page. Around 04:15, The light was getting to be just about perfect to emphasize the relief of the Transantarctic Mountains. I took a few pictures through the windows, then, a little later, when I could see the winds had died down to almost nothing, I walked down to the balloon platform and shot a panorama series, in both 35mm and digital.

After all this walking around the lower end of town, looking for views of the mountains without buildings in the way, it was time for breakfast. I walked up to the galley, grabbed some generic breakfasty items, and sat with Richard, who was just getting off work. I showed him the pictures I'd taken earlier. Mike sat down nearby and I joined him for the remainder of breakfast.

After eating, I went down the hall to the public computer area, and had just signed on when I heard someone mention the Coffee House. I walked over with my laptop for an Internet connection and a latte. The place was more crowded than usual, more than on some nights. There was a large plate of cookies set out, for impending tourists, apparently. When I heard that the boat had pulled in, I went out for some pictures. It was the Capt. Klebnikov, one of the ice-strengthened Soviet vessels that is now a tour boat.

From the Coffee House, I walked over to the Southern Exposure for the barbeque. I could smell it before I came around the corner of the Acey Deucy. When I walked in, they had some steaks and hot dogs, fresh and hot. I went with a steak and a beer, and grabbed a seat with Richard. He introduced me to some McMurdo folks that he knew, and we sat at one of the quieter tables, chit-chatting and enjoying the food.

After I'd had my fill, I walked next door to B-155 and tried to get on the 'net but it was too congested. Lunchtime rolled around and I went hunting for other Polies with no success. I did see waves of tourists walking up and down the hallways, and in and out of the store. One pleasant surprise, I ran into Claudette, the mother of one of my fellow 1995 winter-overs, Marcello. I haven't seen her since my last trip down. She was herding tourists around and couldn't stop to talk for long, but we did have a couple of minutes to catch up.

In the middle of all the people milling around, including a Discovery Channel film crew, Pete and Angie went by on their way to lunch. I went in and sat with them. It was Chinese Day: Pork Stirfry, Eggrolls, Rice, etc. I was still full from the barbeque, so I just nibbled while they ate. After lunch, on my way back to my room, I tried to call the Polar Star (WAGB-10), to arrange a tour, but there was no answer. I went back to my room and got some sleep.

I woke up and went right to dinner. I sat with John Sale, another of my fellow winter-overs from 1995. Several of us at the table went straight upstairs to the Margarita party that was widely announced. I hung out there for a while, sometimes in the hallway, crowded as the room was. I spent some time talking with Jay, the store manager, and his wife, Sonia. Most of the people I met at the party had the typical McMurdoite reaction when they found I was wintering at Pole ("what, are you crazy") After I'd circulated a bit, I made my rounds at the clubs. I didn't know anyone who was in The Southern Exposure, but I ran into Angela and Rich at the Coffee House. They had just started a game of cribbage, so I went home to change into party clothes before resuming the evening.

I got back to the Coffee House just as they were finishing their game. As they were pegging their last few points, I talked at the bar with one of the psychologists who give the pre-winter interviews (she was in McMurdo this week, due to go to Pole on the same flight we are going back on). When the card game was over, Nick, Angela and I headed down to the Jimmy Buffet party in B-157.

By the time we got town there, things seemed to have pretty much wound down. I think it was us and the hosts. There was still plenty of food left; we nibbled on the chicken and the tortilla chips. We all pretty much decided to depart shortly before 01:00, and walked back up the hill to Gallagher's, but got there right as they were turning up the lights and throwing people out. Angela and I walked over to B-155, but the lounge was empty. We checked a couple of the other dorm lounges, but they were quiet, too. Finally, in search of tea, we went over to Crary and up to the kitchenette around the corner from the Telesciences area. After each checking e-mail, we left the lab and called it a night. The walk back to D-208 was warm and virtually windless. Once home, I didn't even bother trying to write; I went straight to sleep.

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