Saturday, May 23, 2015

Science Fairs, Open Mic Nights and Pulp Fiction Live Reads in Antarctica?

Science Fairs, Open Mic Nights and Pulp Fiction live reads. And you thought Antarctica was boring in the winter! And all this within the span of 2 weeks.   

The fun started with our Open Mic Night.  We've been having these pretty consistently once a month.  We have some excellent musicians here that get up and perform for us all.   We had a five person jazz and blues band, an excellent banjo/guitar duo with original music,  a dueling guitars performance and a dance routine.   For a community of just barely 140, that's pretty impressive.  We had some stellar, almost professional performers and then you had people like me who just enjoy an audience. This most recent one I was requested to play Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips so I obliged.   I also sang back-up for my friend Katie who dedicated her favorite song to her mom.    The woman who's been organizing the event is leaving soon. I'm hoping someone else will take up the charge because I'd like to avoid getting my hands into one more project. 

 Open Mic Night was followed up two days later with a Science Fair! I find it hilarious that we were hosting a science fair at a science station when all but one scientist have left.  On the other hand, I think our fair was much more entertaining than if we had real science to look at.  (not to insult any of our researchers in McMurdo's First Annual Winter Science Fair).  I thought it was funny and insightful that of the 10 or so experiments we had, only two of them weren't focusing directly on McMurdo or the McMurdo community.  With such an insular community,  we are often and mostly focused inward.  That in and of itself is an interesting thing to think about and look at.  But, let's get down to what our participants put forth as their all important research.  
 My question was about our Radio Station: Ice Radio 104.5.  When listening to Ice Radio, I felt that the vast majority of the songs that got played (when the station was on Autoplay) were Country or Christmas-sometimes both.  My question therefore was: does Ice Radio play mostly Country and Christmas? My hypothesis was "yes, yes it does."  The result, however, was no.  Unfortunately, I couldn't answer part of my question.  I couldn't find information for Christmas as it's not listed as it's own category.  I did discover that while the station is not playing mostly country, it is playing a lot of it-Country is played 21% of the time.   I had a lot of fun putting that together.  Other experiments were "what's the chance of a guy finding an eligible woman?' That one was slim as there are only 7 available women on station right now.  Crazy, huh?  There were a few about the galley: How many average calories is a meal, how many ounces does each bowl hold, which mug keeps your coffee warm the longest?  One of my favorites was a survey of travels to see how well traveled we are as a group. The average number of countries people here have been to is 20 and the average number of states is 39.  Pretty good I think. 
The best part?  We made Sorbet from liquid nitrogen.  Liquid Nitrogen is a byproduct of our water treatment plant.  (I'll tour that and get you the full story in the future).  What a great use of it, huh? Can't let it go to waste. 

The following week we had a Pulp Fiction live read.  Essentially, we read the script of Pulp Fiction in front of an audience.  This was way more fun than I expected it to be.  We had a few rehearsals and honestly, I was worried it was going to be super boring.   When we did the full read though-it took more than three hours! Isn't that insane?   But then, when it was finally time to perform, it was so good.  Having an audience made it much more entertaining and people really hammed it up making it much even more engaging.   My friend watching said it was just the right amount of camp and seriousness. She said it was a great evening of "good theater".  I'll give her a little leeway with her "good theater" comment but it was pretty interesting.   If you remember Pulp Fiction at all, Jamie and I were "Pumpkin and Honey Bunny" the couple that hold up the restaurant at the beginning and end of the movie.    I think we did pretty well.  

It'd be great if I had photos of those fun things I was just mentioning, but well. I don't really. Sorry about that. I'm working on it.  For now, just enjoy these fun photos!  

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OK.  So you've had to see lots of pictures of me driving loaders.   Well...there you go.  If you look closely in this photo, you can see the windmills poking up over the hill. 

This happens once a week. Jamie puts in a food order and then it all gets delivered on Thursday.  The people pulling the food are called "food monkeys' because if they have to get something that is up higher they have to, literally, climb up those boxes to get the requested items.   Often, what we get served in the galley is restricted by what is accessible in the freezer.  After the vessel comes in summer, this freezer is so full that we can only access things on the outside of the "box" of frozen food that gets built, filling the center of the freezer. 

With such a small community, the medical staff tries to make sure that as many people as possible are trained to help assist in an MCI, a Mass Casualty Incident or any emergency that would overwhelm our two medical professionals.  I've been trained to use the X-ray machine but other people are trained in labs, pharmacy, general triage, recording or just basic assistance.  They have held a few training sessions since then where they'll bring in "patients" and we'll have to respond as if it's a true situation.  Very interesting and I'm enjoying learning new skills. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The last Sunset at McMurdo

Guess what we had last week at 1:45pm on April 24th! The last sunset!   Now, don't be thinking that we are wandering around in utter darkness just yet.  In fact, it's still quite bright for a few hours in the afternoon.  I've included a picture I took at 1pm on the 24th, still plenty of light.   

March and April have been fun months to be living through.  For March we had almost normal sunlight.  The sun would set around bedtime and rise as we were getting up.  It was novel.  The first time I didn't have to close my shades at bedtime was very exciting and all the summer people were marveling about it at breakfast for a few day.  After that novelty wore off,  we got the April sunset. Pretty much constant sunrise/sunset colors. The mountains and sky were a stunning pink and red all day long for weeks.   It was a delight.  One of those days, I looked over toward Erebus and saw the steam coming out of the top, but with the pink sky, the steam was glowing red. Spectacular. 

I'm curious to see how I'll settle into the darkness. As it is,  I can still feel myself waiting each day for it to get brighter and experience a minor sense of relief when I walk out of a building and it's a bit lighter out.  I wonder if this isn't partly because the sky is still in the process of  lightening and so I expect it to get bright. Perhaps I won't feel that expectation when we are total dark mode.   It will be an interesting experiment.   I have a friend her that's been tracking all the data for sunrises and sunsets.  She's still putting information together so will have some trends to share with us in the future, but for now I've learned some interesting facts about twilight. 

There are three different types of twilight: Civil, Nautical and Astronomical.  Nautical is named this way because it's the twilight when seafarers can see the stars enough to navigate. Astronomical Twilight is when it's dark enough for astronomers to stargaze.  In any day, you will go through all three of those twilights.  Start at night, move into astronomical, next is nautical, then civil and then day. 

Currently, with the sun just setting, we are in Civil Twilight for most of the day. The sun in only about 6° below the horizon.  On May 11th we'll move into Nautical twilight with the sun 12° below the horizon.  We'll have Nautical twilight at some point during the day until the next sunrise.   We'll start with about 6 hours a day and then by June it will drop down to 3.  So there is no point during this winter when we will have full "night" for 24 hours. Isn't it all so interesting?!

And Auroras!  There have been some sightings but I've yet to see any.  I'm really excited for an Aurora viewing. 

Well folks,  I hope everything is well with you wherever in the world you might be.  Enjoy the pictures! 

This is my 1pm photo on the day of the sunset.    I've been taking one every day (almost) at this time and I'm hoping to put them all together.  We'll see. 

A storage space at Lake Hoare in the Dry Valleys with the Canada Glacier in the background. That glacier is their source of water.  They collect (you're going to love this) "Glacier Berries" and melt them down. Glacier berries are parts of the glacier that have calved off. 
A super secret silent dance party on New Years' eve.  We met up at 11:30pm,  brought our own music and headphones and danced around to our own beats to ring in the new year. It was incredibly fun.

The inside of an empty LC-130. 

I like the story of this Helo pad with it's tiny H.  When the painters were sent out there, the Head Pilot told them to paint something fun on it. The painters painted a butterfly. You can kind of see the outline of it still.  Someone, however, didn't like that and made them go back out and repaint it.  What a bummer.  On the bright side, because of this project, I was allowed to ride out in the extra seat on the helicopter and got a little fly over in the Dry Valleys. 
The moon and Antarctica. 
It snowed in my pickle (the name of the tractor). The pickles are very old vehicles from the military and there is no real seal on the doors so the wind blows the snow right inside. 

SCIENCE!  The Research Assistant, Liz, touring us through the Arrival Heights building where she monitors a variety of science experiments. 

This is the boxes that the science equipment from Japan comes in. HOW ADORABLE! 

All the science equipment, all lit up.