October at Pole

Sunday, 1 October 2006
I was still hanging out in the bar when the time change hit. I set my watch up and spectated until the beer pong ended. I switched to throwing some darts. I threw a practice round of "around the world", ending with a nice double-bull. The place started clearing out, leaving just me and Jared. I took off and left the place to him. Up the beercan and to my room to crash.

I woke up around 08:30 and went down to the galley. It was completely deserted. I poured a bowl of Fruit Pebbles (one left!) and ate in the empty room. Down in B2, all was well. I hacked on some code for LCDproc, then went back to my room for a nap.

I slept longer than I wanted to - I woke up around 16:30 with only a few minutes left on the satellite. I checked online for Erin, but she wasn't on; she probably wasn't home from Red Dragon yet. Once the sat set, I wandered down to the galley where folks were watching "Madacasgar". I stayed and watched most of it. I found the Red Curried Scallops from Thai Day and nuked up a bowl of them to eat while I watched the movie. Once the film ended, I went back to B2 and finished up the work on LCDproc and checked the weather. I'd heard that earlier in the day, when folks were starting their golf game around the berms that it was -80.0°F (-62.2°C) and 5 knots. As they were playing, the wind picked up and visibility plummeted. It was now -50.3°F (-45.7°C) and 23 knots, with visibility as low as 200 meters.

I cleaned some more my junk around B2, then got hungry and went back down to the galley. The view out the window was really bad - the Pole was starting to disappear into the distance. The vis had to be below 100m. The winds were still around 24 knots, and it had warmed up to -49.7°F (-45.4°C). I didn't linger in the galley - I just took a cup of hot water back to B2 and made some Miso Soup. As I was drinking my soup, Victoria came by her work area and collected her already cut and polished glass, probably to go foil it in her room or while watching a movie. I readied my LCDproc patch for delivery, then suddenly ran out of steam and went off to my room to read "Wizard's Bane" and crash.

Monday, 2 October 2006
I finished reading and crashed out, sleeping until breakfast-time. When I got up, I went down to the galley and had to skirt the floor work in the A2 hallway. The textured rubber flooring was peeled back, and they were replacing sections of broken cement board. It was obvious that this was another place in the station that someone had originally installed the corrugated steel subfloor in the wrong orientation. I suppose that someday they'll have to rip up all the floor in A2 and A3, both levels, and put it right. With all the other work to do around here, I don't expect that will be anytime soon.

A quick bowl of Kix later, I was down at my desk in B2, checking on things, and working on a client to monitor the state of the detector and display it on my LCDproc display. Erin called for a quick chat, then she went to work and I went to lunch - Chicken Caccitore, with Mediterranean Veggie Mix, Rice and Fresh Bread. I ate with Victoria, Lane, and Liesl, but Victoria was almost done. I finished my meal as Liesl and Lane talked about greenhouse particulars (energy usage, the recent shock to the cucumbers from trimming the light back from 17 to 12 hours, volunteer duties, etc). I stopped over at the next table to talk a bit with Guy and Craig, then went back to B2.

Most of my afternoon was spent cleaning up around the place (there's a lot to do - I'll probably be still cleaning when the first planes arrive in a few weeks). At least I got a lot accomplished. Victoria made the Monday rounds to collect power monitoring data while I cleaned. The sat dropped and I did a few last minute things, then went off to dinner, a spicy Chili courtesy of George (who really likes to make spicy food). I ate, went back for a second bowl, then retired to B2 where I spent most of the night fiddling with a keyboard-based hardware project, and continuing to tidy up. It got to be a bit late, so I headed off to my room to do a bit of reading before calling it a night.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006
I finished "Wizardy Compiled" in my room, and started reading "Wizardry Cursed" until I dropped like a sack of potatoes. I woke up late morning, checked a few things from my room, then headed to lunch for Deli Day. Judy was grilling sandwiches to order; I nabbed a Grilled Roast Beef and Swiss from the line, then sat with Joe, Liesl, and Lane. Joe was talking about his out-date - it was originally going to be the same as mine, 15 November, but now he's not sure. The view from the galley was especially nice at lunch - the sastrugi in front of the station were side-lit and really stood out. The light also showed off where the new road is being put in, above the crossing beacon, pretty much along the old pedestrian path between the Dome and MAPO. Liesl confirmed for me that they were moving the road to what will eventually be the top of the new skiway when they finish that work in a few years. They also want to break down the old hump at the old crossing point to make for a smoother takeoff for departing planes.

I spent the afternoon in B2, fiddling around with stuff there. The sat set on me as I was trying to get some fresh schematics off the 'net, annoying, but not unusual. Dinner followed shortly thereafter. I took a small chunk of Grilled Halibut and filled up on Beef Stroganoff. The galley looked strange with all the chairs and tables shifted up to the entrance end of the room (Jodi had been cleaning the carpets on the exit end and the floor was still drying). It's also going to look strange in a couple weeks when they take out the couches and soft chairs and convert the place back to Summer Mode. I picked one of the long tables at the front of the room with a bunch of folks, including Doc Will and Erik. I asked Erik if Henry was back in Mactown yet, and talked about how hairy the Mactown network was (translating IT jargon for Will who was interested, but mostly in the dark).

After dinner, I went back to B2 and added a couple more wires to my LCDproc keypad before it was time for the Science Fiction movie to start. Over in the B1 movie lounge, Lane was watching an old WW-I documentary on Betamax, but it was time to start the Tuesday movie, and we switched over to "Time after Time". It wasn't a large crowd, but it wasn't smaller than most weeks. George came by at the end of his shift in the Galley and popped in "Lawrence of Arabia" when my movie was done. I went back across the hall and resumed work on my keypad. It was all going great until I realized that all the work I'd done so far was 90° off. I ripped out everything and started over. After a while, I needed a break and showed up at the galley just as some documentary was ending and a bunch of people streamed out. I made a lattè and took it back to B2 and finished my keypad, correctly this time.

Flushed with success, I explored how menus work with LCDproc (the whole point of making the keypad in the first place), then got up from the bench and tidied up some more (and there's plenty left to do).

Wednesday, 4 October 2006
After a bit of cleanup, I turned back to a repair job - busted LEDs on a 24-hour clock radio. I don't have enough parts on hand to finish the job, but I might be able to get some brought in at the beginning of summer. After just a bit of soldering, I got tired and went back to my room for a bit of reading and journal writing before crashing.

I woke up around breakfast time, then headed down to B2 for our weekly call to Madison. Victoria wasn't around at the usual time, so I waited a bit, then called around 10:30. I had forgotten that going on Daylight Savings Time the other day, meant that our weekly call time was an hour later. I went off to the galley to make a cup of tea, returning as Victoria was dialing the phone at the correct time. We got the official word that there will be two winter-overs replacing us, Claire and Sven. PJ will get here a few days into Summer and stay until just past Thanksgiving. There are also going to be some budget-related changes up North, but those won't affect Victoria and me, since we are leaving soon, but they will affect Claire and Sven. The project is moving into a new phase, and there's just a bit of turbulence as it makes the transition.

By the time we were done with our call, it was time for lunch - Burger Day. Judy once again made Patty Melts, which I couldn't pass up, and all the fixings were there for Chili-Cheese Fries. I ate with Renee, Lynette, Liz, and Bob. We talked about flights and minimum temperatures, and such, all very common topics this close to station opening. I dropped off my dishes at the dish pit to see Liesl working there (subbing for someone who works nights, I think), and she mentioned that the C-17 flight to Mactown was on a weather delay (they've only gotten one flight in so far this week). After dropping off my lunch dishes, I went back to the galley for a cup of tea and a spot of dessert and to work on the Tuesday New York Times crossword puzzle. I finished it, then went back down to B2 to check on the detector and get through a totally ordinary Wednesday afternoon.

Dinnertime finally arrived. It was Cornish Game Hens, one of my not-so-favorite dinners. There wasn't much else, so I grabbed a half a bird and ate with Liesl and Joe. I finished, then went back to B2 for a bit until I heard the all-call for the Wednesday Travel Lecture on Palmer Station. I've never been to Palmer, so I didn't want to miss the lecture. Jon the Plumber started it off with an hour of slides of the station and the nearby islands. He had lots of good pictures and lots of good stories from around 2001 or so. I even recognized a few people who have come here as well. When Jon was done, he gave the projector to Heidi who was going to talk about a couple of science cruises she went on, but I was too fidgety to stick around. I went back to B2 and organized parts while Victoria soldered on her latest stained glass bowl. Dennis came up from the power plant on his nightly lunchtime foray through B2; I kept working.

Thursday, 5 October 2006
I kept working on stuff at my desk; Victoria soldered the joints on her new bowl. Eventually, I headed to my room and read for a bit before crashing.

I woke up mid-morning, checked things, then, when lunchtime rolled around, headed down to the galley for Cajun Day. The Blacken Chicken Breast was nice and tender; the Blackened Catfish wasn't bad, either. The usual sides were there - Rice, Red Beans, Cornbread, etc., but there were no medium or large glasses in the racks, only small ones. I grabbed a couple glasses of Grape Juice and sat with Neal, Nate and Patrick. After lunch, back at B2, I found a couple of U.S. flags on my chair with a note from Liesl. She asked me to swap the flags out, take pictures and return one of the new flags to her so she could print up a certificate for Gus Shinn, the pilot of Que Sera Sera, the first plane to land at the Pole (31 October, 1956, nearly fifty years ago). I set the flags aside and cleaned my part of B2 for most of the afternoon.

Earlier, I had sent a note to Doc Will about borrowing his microscope to inspect some 0.5mm-pitch surface-mount parts for bad solder joints, and he suggested I retrieve the old dissection microscope from the greenhouse since it had a front-light built-in. Lane happened to wander by and said he didn't need it for now (he'd been using it to inspect plants as part of his Integrated Pest Management program).

By this time, it was dinner, and I headed down to the galley to find it was nearly deserted. We had a choice of Roast Pork, Ratatouille, or Tuna Casserole. I played it safe and went for the Tuna Casserole. I ate alone, then went back down to B-wing, stopping by my desk for a bit, then crossing the hall to see what was playing in the movie lounge.

The lounge was filled with Texas Hold'em fanatics, watching the "Jonny O Poker Show". I stayed to watch a few hands, then went back to my desk. Victoria was there working on her bowl; I had plenty to do in my area. I used the microscope to attach a FLASH chip to a fresh board, and to touch up old solder joints on a different board. After a successful firmware download, I was able to get the old board to work again (it's been out of commission since before I got here), but I still haven't figured out why it won't work reliably with Compact Flash cards.

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