Saturday, February 19, 2011

My SPIFF on youtube

youtube link

If you're interested...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The next morning in NZ, I got up at 8am (after going to sleep at 3:30am) and found out that I had no flight and would be kicked out of my hotel room at 11. I got a hold of the right people who put me on the next plane out (today!) and moved my stuff into Zak's room (they book us into rooms with 2 queen beds for some reason). After about 11:30 we all met up and went out to get some food. We were hoping to go to Burgers and Beers but they were still closed from the earthquake. Further down the block was C1 coffee shop. It will take me too long to describe how awesome this place was, but let me sum it up with this: Instead of the normal male and female bathroom signs, they had framed Han Solo and Princess Leia action figures and the water was dispensed out of a 1920's sewing machine. Really really cool place. We started with lunch and Chemix coffee (where you brew it slowly at your table) and slowly moved on to beers. The beers were actually quite good for a change. They were local and actually had more than 4% alcohol and hops that you could taste! We were there for I think 5 hours sitting out in the sun and chatting. Eventually we moved on and got some dinner at the awesome indian restaurant in town. The food was quite good. One of the guys made the mistake of ordering his food "spicy" which was not "American spicy," it was painfully spicy. Quite delicious.

I'm heading out to the airport in 10 minutes and should be home in about 20 hours. Hoooooray other side of the world...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back in New Zealand

When I left the pole it was -45 F. When I landed in Christchurch it was +65 F and dark... quite a different experience.

We left at around 1pm from the pole on an LC-130 Hercules. The Herc's are remnants of the 70's but are incredibly well built and comfortable planes. I really enjoy them--although they are ear-splittingly loud (though it was on the C-17 that I busted my ear last time). About 3 minutes into the flight, we took a hard bank, where the plane went perpendicular to the ground (quite an impressive feat for how large this aircraft is). It took us by surprise and felt very disorienting, but once we returned to horizon a bunch of us applauded. It was a lot of fun. I've certainly never done moves like that in a commercial airliner. We think that the pilot's decided to buzz the station since it was the second to last day of flights. They usually dip their wings or fly real low, but I guess we had a veteran pilot who decided to give them a show. It was quite disconcerting to look out the window and see Summer Camp straight ahead...

All day I had heard rumors (from our famous South Pole Rumor Mill) that there wasn't going to be a C-17 flight that day or that it was leaving earlier, but anyway that we would have to stay in McMurdo until wednesday. Well, as we were landing, I didn't see the C-17 (a very obvious sight on the ice) but I didn't see the large transport to take us back to mactown either. Well, as we got off the plane, out in the distance we saw the C-17 circle around a mountain and come in for a landing. These planes are extremely impressive close up on the ground, but to see one maneuver and land (especially with the antarctic mountains in the background) was extremely impressive. They are truly gorgeous planes. Sure enough, we got on the C-17 within the hour. It was about 10 degrees outside and you would have thought it was the middle of a summer heat wave--I didn't hurt to breathe, my beard wasn't covered in ice, I didn't even need a jacket! The C-17 flight was packed. We lined both walls, as well as had 2 palletized airliner seat inserts and a center line full of people. It was a great flight, although after about 3 hours I was fairly bored. Although the C-17 is a much newer and prettier and faster plane, the LC-130's are way more comfortable. After about 4 and a half hours, I could see my first sunset in two months creeping through the windows. It was quite a sight to behold.

We arrived in New Zealand at around 10:00 and quickly rushed through customs, dropped all of our extreme cold weather gear off at the CDC, and checked in to our hotels. I'm staying at the Crowne Plaza again. Unfortunately, I still didn't have my flight info but I planned to call the next morning as soon as they opened (which I did--update later). I checked in at about 11 pm and we all decided to meet at the Casino across the way since we knew its kitchen would still be open. Thanks to the high-altitude training, by the end of the night I didn't feel so much as a slight buzz. It's quite a strange sensation...

I called the travel office this morning. They don't think they can get me on a flight until this weekend. To top it off, my hotel can't accommodate me any longer so I can't leave and I have no where to stay. Woo-hoo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Extreme weather, sponsored by mountain dew

The past two morning, the weather has been pretty extreme. It's been -25 F and the wind has been howling, kicking the temperatures down to -60 F. I'm still not wearing "Big Red" yet, "little red" combined with a fleece, windpants and a facemask have done the trick but I'm starting to feel the cold. The visibility was really bad this morning. I could only see about 2 flags ahead of me (each flag is probably 100 feet or so). It's a good thing there was somebody about 250 feet ahead of me wearing a big red parka so I could follow him. On the way back to the station (which was not visible from the 1km away lab) I started to veer off course because I couldn't see the flags. I only went a little bit out of the way before realizing. The lab was white, covered with the blowing snow instead of its usual blue. At about noon, though, the weather has been clearing up.

The station is winding down. Only about 100 people here, down from the 250 person capacity. It's like a ghost town. It feels pretty cool. With the extreme weather, small population, 24 hour sun, and strange landscape, it sometimes really feels like I'm on a distant planet. This, of course, makes the nerdy sci-fi part of me extremely happy. This is especially true when I'm riding on the back of a snowmobile to or from the lab and can really look at all the nothingness whizzing by. I've posted some pics below taken about 3 days ago (or 2... the days really run together here) of the view from the galley. When the wind blows like this, it carries small currents of snow that make the ice look like it's dancing. It's really breathtaking. I love staring out of the galley windows whenever I get the chance.

A picture of the ceremonial pole.

You can see the wind if you look carefully. It looks like it's coming straight from the sun. This was about 9 at night. Maybe even 10.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

King Harvest is Sure to Come

Yesterday, I did one of the more interesting things you can do at the South Pole, I harvested plants.

The winterovers are starting to arrive and the harvest planted about 43 days ago was ready and the greenhouse needed volunteers. I started with Basil. They had 4 different types: long leaf, cinnamon, spicy, and lemon. The lemon was the best. The smell was unworldly. They also harvested a couple strains of bok choi, a whole bunch of lettuce, and some chard. It was a lot of fun.

This is what it looked like as you walked in. Quite the lush wonderland.

Me with my harvesting face.

Our harvest. There were about 5 more bags inside. Afterwards. We all held up the bags as if we were DEA agents after a big bust.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Open Mic Night/SPT party

This Saturday there was an open mic style concert in the galley followed by a party out by SPT (the South Pole Telescope) which is in the same lab as BICEP2. Both were a lot of fun. The open mic went well. There are a lot of very talented musicians down here. I was planning on playing some acoustic stuff but I would have followed a band and the vibe wasn't right so my drummer suggested that we get up there for a "reunion" tour. So we played some of the stuff that we played last saturday.

Afterwards, I caught a snowmobile ride out to SPT for the "cheesy cheese" party, where they had a cheese plate (quite a spectacle down at the south pole) and played cheesy music, projected cheesy movies and were all around cheesy. It was a small party but a lot of fun. SPT went out and bought a lot of wine from the store and were generous enough to provide the libations.

I mostly had fun because I was able to give tours of BICEP to all the people who don't usually get a chance to get out to our lab. Especially when I have a few beers in me, but even just normally, I love to give tours and explain what I do. It reminds you how interesting your work can be when you get lost in the mountains of boring data. I also took people up to the roof and let them see the top of the telescope. It was a lot of fun. I had everyone from firefighters and dish-washers to other people on other telescopes.

Here's a picture of my band playing during open mic.

Peligrisso Gigante made a guest appearance at the party.

I can take Peligrisso Gigante!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Photos, Phinally

Here's a shot of me from a random weekend. I was headed over to the bar in summer camp. It wasn't too cold out and I had a liquid blanket.

The concert in summer camp.

A shot of what I was playing to.

The obligatory hero shot. Yes, it was very cold.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Damn near froze my toes off!

Wednesday night was soccer (although it was just two of us) and afterwards, I went out to the pole in just my soccer jersey. I really wanted to take a picture wearing my team's jersey and then send it back to our sponsor. If that doesn't get me free beer, I don't know what will! After that, since I was lightly clothed, I took what's known as the hero shot. Well, not the full hero shot. I kept my shorts on...

Thursday was one of the guys in my group's last day and so I had a lot of work to do before he left. It was a full day but afterwards, I relaxed with some beers and a movie. I watched Appaloosa. It was pretty good.

Today, I got some good analysis work done that had been giving me trouble all week. Later, I watched Bananas and laughed until my sides hurt.

It's that time of the season where everyone is leaving. It's kind of depressing, but I'm really enjoying it here (though I do miss trees and weather). At around 10:30 tonight, the Keck collaboration asked me to help out while they put a giant mirror on their telescope. I damn near froze my fingers and toes off. I didn't realize we would be working outside for that long and didn't exactly dress appropriately. On the way back, I was riding on the back of a snowmobile and looking out at the reflection of the sun off the hard-pack and just thought about how amazing it is that I'm here. I get to tell about this for the rest of my life! It's very special to be able to come here.

I'm trying to post pictures, but it's just not working out. I'll keep working on it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Internet has been down

The faster satellite has been down for the past few days. It's only been up for about 10 minutes today so this is going to be a short post. Once satellite is restored to its former "glory" I will be able to post more details.

This past Saturday was the SPIFF and the concert at summer camp. SPIFF went really well. There were about 7 movies, all of which were quite excellent. My movie got a great response, even though it was the only non-overtly comedic movie. One of the IT guys will be posting it to YouTube. I'll link it when I have it. Afterwards, the concert went really well. My band went on first and totally rocked the place. It was a packed house (probably 40-50 people) and everyone was having a great time. They demanded an encore. It's a good thing we actually had another song that we worked on or else we would've been screwed. I would have hated to follow us...

Afterwards, it was party time. I had a lot of fun hanging out with my group and talking with the other "directors" about our movies.

There was a strange point in the night where apparently, somebody had a neo-nazi tattoo on his forearm. It was strange. I had talked with this guy a few times before and he seemed nice, but nobody with a racist tattoo is ok in my book. One of the guys in my group got really upset and we've since contacted the higher ups about how inappropriate it is to hire someone with a racist tattoo. I really hope I don't see this guy again. I don't want to be stuck on the ice with hate.