March at the South Pole

Wednesday, 1 March 2006
I went down to the Dome hoping to get the perfect photo of the sun shining straight down the Dome entrance (it's only possible for a few days out of the year), but it was too early. The sun was too far to one side. I started laundry and missed the right moment. Shortly thereafter, I crashed for the night

I woke up a bit later than I'd planned, and went back to cleaning and packing. I ran into Victoria in the hall - she was hunting for a ladder to use with her lofted bed in the new station. She found something useful and went back down to the Back of Science and back to going through the stuff we have left to sort and pack and pitch. I took a break from cleaning and packing to check on the detector. The Supernova experiment was down. I dug a little ways into the problem, recorded some error messages, then restarted it and went back to my packing.

I hauled a box up to the new station. The walk was a little colder than yesterday... -65.6°F (-54.22°C), 8 knots, but that's perfectly normal this time of year. After a spending a while on e-mail and detector checking, it was time for dinner. I passed Tracy and Erik in the hall; Tracy told me that the buildings under the Dome were going cold soon. Down at the galley, dinner was Roast Pork (again), Veggies, and some sort of rich vegetarian Mushroom dish. I ate with Erik and swapped a few stories about winter, two years ago, From dinner, I stopped off at the store, then up to my room in A1 to rearrange my ECW stockpile. On my way back to my desk in B2, Clayton stopped me. He'd just gotten approval to hold a last party in Upper Berthing, a last long, skinny party. I told him that, of course, I'd help out. With this turn of events, it meant that the Dome won't go cold until Monday.

I puttered around at my desk on a few projects, then went back down to the Galley for a bit of a snack. The lounge-end of the Galley was packed with people watching a replay of the 2006 SPIFF (South Pole International Film Festival). As George made rye bread for reubens tomorrow, I popped in and out of the kitchen, alternating between mixing stuff up for this weekend and watching snippets of the films. I did get to see myself lip-sync the first verse of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements". I'd received numerous compliments for my part, but hadn't seen it yet. Several of the films were quite good, but a few, I think, were made for their shock value and little else.

After the movies were done, I went back to my desk to surf a bit and chat with Erin. When she left work for home, I took it as a cue to head down to the dome and to bed myself.

Thursday, 2 March 2006
Down at my room in the Dome, I chatted with Erin for a bit, until she crashed. Determined not to miss what's probably my last chance for a picture of the sunlight straight down the dome entrance, I alternated between reading chapters of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and checking the position of the sun. Just about spot on 03:30, the light was perfect. I got my shot and went to bed.

I woke up after GOES set and after an early-morning station-wide power brownout. Victoria had already gone out to MAPO to check the detector. I grabbed my ECW and went up to my desk in B2 to grab my boots before heading out myself. Once I was upstairs, I called out to MAPO and checked on the status of things with Victoria. All was well. We'd survived the brownout with little disruption. With nothing to do in the Dark Sector, I worked at my desk until lunch.

Lunch was Reubens, fresh off the grill. I ate quickly, then got back to B2 and worked on a variety of things, including a script to check up on the ftp server that moves science data north every night (it's had some problems recently, and we want to keep a closer eye on it). I had just finished the first part of it when I had to leave for station-wide Emergency Response training. The first Thursday of every month has been designated a training day. Each of the Emergency Response teams meets and goes over procedures, conducts drills, etc. My team, Team 2, met at the new Gym to practice room searches, sort of. What was really going on was that Jeff, one of the other members, had set up a scenario where most of the team thought the point of the drill was a competition to see who could sweep the gym the fastest, but the real point was to have the searchers at the back of the lines collapse and see how long it took the leads to notice and respond. I went in behind Robert, and I dropped in my tracks when Jeff gave me the cue. Robert noticed almost immediately and did a good job of coming back to see what was wrong. For the second run-through, Jeff gave me a radio to act as On-Scene Commander, and sent in two more teams, Rhys and Dainella as leads, and Robert and George in the rear. This time, in addition to the radio work, the leads had to rescue their fallen partners. George is a big guy, so we had two more guys, John and Greg, staged as relief. The cue came, Robert and George dropped, and the rescue began. Rhys was able to drag Robert out by his SCBA harness straps, but George was just too big to move. I sent in John and Greg and between three of them, and despite George losing his boots when they tried to drag him out by his feet, eventually, he was rescued as well.

After the drill, Dainella and I went down to the storage lockers near the Arts & Crafts room, and I sorted through several lockers of bunker gear to swap out my old-style yellow gear for the new tan gear. Predictably the ones that fit were at the bottom of each pile. I dragged my new gear upstairs and put it in my locker near the Galley, then went to dinner around 18:00.

Dinner resembled a normal-sized version of Thanksgiving Dinner - Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, and a few sides. I sat down at an empty table and was joined by Lynette, Bob, Dan, and a few others. Dan had made fiery-scarlet Poached Pears that everyone but he and I thought were too spicy to eat. I thought they were great. After polishing off my pear, I went down to the B1 lounge to see how far along the Pool League was in the rotation. My turn came up after about 20 minutes. I made a much stronger showing than I'd been expecting to. A couple of tricky shots went well for me, and I won one game by less than an inch (by not dropping the cue ball in right behind the 8-ball). I wanted to stay and watch the others play, but it was time to check on the detector. Back across the hall, I spent the rest of the night tracking down the mysterious causes of a cluster-wide slowdown. This seems to happen every couple of months or so (I think it's memory-related). I spent a frustrating few hours unhosing the situation before heading down to my room.

Friday, 3 March 2006
After I got the computing cluster back to a state of being able to move files hither and yon, I headed down to my room in the Dome. It was windy and a bit colder than normal, -62°F (-52.2°C), so I took the tunnels. I tried to get on the computer for a bit, but was tired and just went to sleep.

Woke up around breakfast time, checked my e-mail, made a few replies to queries about some of the modules on String 18. Tonya dropped me a line to update me on her job and apartment searches; I wrote her back. It was still a bit nasty out, -58.7F° (-50.4C°), and 13 knots. The vis was awful, making the tunnels the obvious choice. Up at my desk in B2, Victoria helped me unhose my workstation, and I worked on some logfile collection scripts. All the detector checks were fine, then I split for lunch

At 11:45, most of the FEMC folks are still on the job. The galley was deserted. I grabbed some Tilapia, Rice, and a couple of Swedish Meatballs, and found a spot. Michael was on break and joined me from behind the serving line. Joe, then Jeff and Dainella, then Tom all sat down at our table (the only occupied one). Michael and I talked about the Poole Tournament standings (my chances for advancement are slipping away), then I headed out after dessert. I stopped by my new room in A1 for some quiet reading time, then went back to work. I was dragging a bit, enough to stop back by the galley for a capuccino. As I fiddled with the espresso machine, Galley Dan and Neal (about the only ones left in the galley this late into lunch) were discussing how Dan was asked to stay the winter about two hours before his flight home left, and the mad scramble to take the psych test, get a new room assignment, etc., all went. I took my excellent capuccino back to B2 and tried to stay awake. Victoria was just returning from lunch. We worked on a couple of minor problems and the afternoon sped by.

I went down to dinner before the rush. It was "Hawaiian Night", Teriyaki Flank Steak, Shoyu Chicken, and a treat, Char Siu Bao (Steamed Pork Buns). I wanted another bun, but I managed to hold back and leave some room for Sushi later. After dinner, I went back to my room in A1 to finish "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", then returned to the galley to help prep for Sushi later. George cut carrots; I slivered cucumbers. I took a break back at my desk in B2, chatting with Erin for a few minutes, but the 19 knots of wind was pointing right at the window behind my desk and managing to create a very unpleasant draft across my legs. I had to leave my office just to get my legs to stop hurting. Down at the galley, sushi-making was in full swing. I made a few rolls, and dispensed (hopefully) helpful pointers to the novices. There were plenty of experienced folks, too. We whipped out a platter and a half in no time. At the end, we were running low on Nori, so I made some Sushi Rice Balls and topped them with slices of Smoked Salmon; not quite Nigiri, but much easier to make.

We arranged the sushi and condiments on a round table near the movie screen and started the entertainment. The end of the galley was full; about 16 people had showed up for the movies. Unfortunately, "Six-String Samurai" wouldn't play - too many scratches. George slipped out to fetch his CD cleaner; Judy popped in a Black & White Toshiro Mufune movie from 1964. The plot was just getting cranked up when George had buffed enough scratches out of "Six-String Samurai" to get it to play. We watched that, but lost about half our audience half-way through. I stayed for all of it, especially since I'd tried to play the same movie earlier in the year, but was unsuccessful. The next movie was another Toshiro Mufune movie from 1962. Nine brash, young warriors run afoul of a corrupt local Superintendant and have to rescue one of their uncles from his evil clutches. Victoria and Erik came by and polished off the last couple pieces of sushi. By the middle of the movie, the audience was down to George, Judy, Erik, and me.

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