Friday, May 09, 2008

Separation Anxiety

A recent letter to my boss:
"I am unable to end my leave of absence next week as originally planned. My sincere apologies for the late notice. I was offered the opportunity to stay the winter in Antarctica and have taken it with some reluctance. This rare life-changing opportunity was too special for me to pass up.

My original hope was that I would be able to come down here and then return to your group. However, it looks like I won't be able to return until October due to the unavailability of flights during the winter months. Since I do not know the exact date of my return, I am reluctant to extend my leave for the full year because I may or may not be able to meet that date. Therefore, I am proposing that I separate from the company until I return to Denver for good.

It was truly a pleasure to work for you. I enjoyed it and hope to do so again.

With that short letter earlier this week, I entered uncharted territory in my life. I was supposed to be returning to my full time job in Denver this week. Instead, I've left the relative security of full time employment. I could consider Antarctica as a full time job with a specific end at which point I'd find another full time job. However, it doesn't feel that way. It feels wide open.

I consider Colorado my home, but I don't need to go directly there. I had a conversation a friend last week: when they leave here, they are deciding whether to buy a house or to go climb Mt. Everest. What an amazing choice?!? The American Dream or My Dream. That is the choice. What is my dream?

Some people work here for half the year and don't work the rest of the year. Some loaf. Some volunteer. Some explore. Some take contract jobs near their homes so they can see their family and friends. I have all of these options and more. I considered coming back down here next summer after a short break, but that possibility doesn't look as good anymore. I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I want to bike across the USA. I can't do those things until spring in the United States. I'm considering living at a ski resort for the winter before doing one of those things, probably in Summit county so I can be near my friends in Colorado.

Of course, there is also a world I've been wanting to explore for years. I want to walk among the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia and visit Adriana's Bottle Beach, Thailand. I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and visit Cabrini in Botswana. I want to swim along the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. I want to take Craig's suggestion and bike Mt. Haleakala, Hawaii. I want to hike Torres del Paine, Chile or the great walks of New Zealand. I want to sleep in the ice hotel in Sweden. I wan to mountain bike the White Rim and Moab, UT with Lindsay. I'd love to touch the tens of thousands of non-stinging jellyfish of Palau. I want to be amazed by the ruins in Petra, Jordan. I want to explore the natural and cultural beauties of this world we share with so many others.

I also enjoy my life in Colorado and want to go back to it and the great people I spent it with. When there was an abundance of work, I loved my job, the people I worked with, and its location. I even found a way to use public transit. It worked for me and it wasn't just a habit. It was a great way of life and became home in ways that Baltimore never did.

I don't know what I am going to do yet, but I have infinite choices. The only reason for my unhappiness is me.

The rising moon over Mt. Discovery (photo by William T.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Story of Another Winterover PC Tech

"Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." from Reason in Common Sense by George Santayana

This story may be a bit biased since it was written by the PC tech's girlfriend.

Friday, May 07, 2004
As most of us already know, one of the evacuees on the recent McMurdo medevac did not want to be evacuated. Here is the perspective of one of his friends:

"As the sole PC tech in McMurdo (we have roughly 600 PCs in town), [C] had literally hundreds of PCs to move to warm storage for buildings that were closing, and about 50 work orders in his queue that stacked up in a week's time. Instead of seeking help from other staff in IT, he tried to do it all himself, worked about 18 hours a day and slept no more than about 30 minutes at a time. He started drinking to help him sleep, which was a bad idea in the end. After about 10 days of this, he had a sleep-deprived bout of paranoia, well honestly, he lost his shit one day, thought there was a camera in his smoke detector, and pulled it off the ceiling, which triggered an alarm to the firehouse. So he went to medical for some sleep aids. I'm not sure exactly what the Doc gave him to sleep, but I went to see him while he was still sleeping and the Doc told me, after one visit with [C], "I'm certain that he's either schizophrenic or bi-polar and will need to be on medication for the rest of his life." I've spent a lot of time with [C] on and off the ice and he's never had anything even remotely resembling a psychotic episode before.

"Upon waking, he was given Haldol, a drug given to schizophrenics with myriad side effects that range from Parkinson-like symptoms (that can be permanent), to insomnia and drooling. (Haloperidol is the actual drug name). None of these side effects were discussed with [C], in fact, they didn't even tell him what they were giving him. At first he didn't ask because he was groggy from sleeping for almost 2 days and trying to be a good little patient. But he started acting very strange, doing the "thorazine shuffle" (I'm sure you've seen 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest'), having a hard time keeping his thoughts organized, and he just wasn't himself. So he asked about the meds, and when the Doc told him what she'd given him, he wanted to stop taking them. She said if he didn't comply with treatment, he'd need to be medevac'd out. He spit the pills out, but later ate them anyway because he didn't want to leave. He was all screwed up again, so he stopped taking the Haldol and was back to normal in a couple of days. He was sleeping normally, getting caught up with work, drinking less, and back to the same old [C] I've known for years. The Doc was still talking medevac. [C] talked to the RPSC and NSF Station managers, Dr. Nicoletti, Dr. Shemenski, and let everyone know he wanted to stay, that he felt better, that he would quit drinking if that's what it took for him to stay. She set up a video teleconference with a psychiatrist in Texas, I actually sat in on it at his request. At the end of their conversation the psychiatrist said that he saw no indication that [C] was schizophrenic or bi-polar and saw no need for a medevac.

If you feel like something is dying to get out of your head, it just might be a skua trying to get in.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Open House!

A tropical paradise in Antarctica? Caesar's room says yes.

This past weekend there was a lot going on all over base. Friday night, I got to roll my own sushi for the first time ever! Fabulous! Cathy had nori and was able to get the galley to give her some fresh veggies. We had tuna, cucumbers, carrot, mushrooms, sprouts, Japanese egg something, rice, and wasabi goodness. Great stuff, especially when B-Nelson showed us you can use a Ziploc back to roll sushi just as well as the official wooden rollers.

After sushi, I headed over to the 2nd floor of 208 for an open house. I thought I had a neat room. I have nothing. Some of the people over there have been coming down for years and know how to do it up right. I'm sharing these so my you can truly understand that we aren't necessarily roughing it.

Genevieve's foyer and walk in closet to the right.

More of Genevieve's room. So cozy! Her bed (unseen to the right) doubles as a couch.

Genevieve's room isn't set up for larger social gatherings, but just about perfect for tea time for two or three. Tons of great tea, good lights, great rambling conversation, and lots of music I don't know.

Lee's room is a little more down to earth, but still a dream for those in the summer.

Lee's room is a little more pragmatic. At the end of the season, you hear a lot of people complain about having to undo their rooms. If they didn't put so much into them, they wouldn't have so much to do. However, try explaining that to whiners. Lee went with a classic theme that a lot of people do - queen size bed tied together with a cargo strap and a couch probably commandeered from a lounge. It's good stuff. Simple.

Shawn and Shandra's living room. (Their bed room is their second room).

Shawn and Shandra's kitchen area.

Shawn and Shandra have a ridiculous room. I've never seen a couch as nice as theirs on base. The other chairs in their room are nice too and I've never seem the like of them either, but the couch is better than them. Simply amazing. They have two fridges in their kitchen and probably more glassware than I have in my old place in Colorado.

Bethany's sitting area.

Bethany's sleeping area.

Bethany's room is pretty simply set up, but works really well with the great lighting she found. While looking at these pictures, keep in mind that all of these rooms are the same size. Couples might be able to setup in two rooms that share a bathroom so they have a sleeping area and living area, but I'm just amazed at the different possibilities for identical rooms. Its college dorms for kids with aesthetics and resources.

Tom's living room.

Kim's living room.

Those aren't real plants in Kim's room, but they look good enough at a glance. We miss greenery. So many people head back to the Christchurch botanical gardens and just lay in them for hours. I'm sure I'll do the same. I'm pretty sure we could fully stock a crafts store with fake plants and flowers if we pooled our resources.

What could they be watching in Antz' room?

Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith on the big screen in Antz' room.

Antz normally has two rooms to work with, but I guess he only has one these year and made it go far. It is a technological marvel that he crammed all that stuff in there. I've seen a few other projectors in rooms down here, but none that looked as good. I think he just has a few years more experience in the audio-visual arts. He is an incredible photographer ( ).

There were a couple other rooms on display, but I didn't get pictures. I think one of my favorite had a small dining room table with benches. I think they use it in the summer as well and never eat in the overcrowded galley. It must be nice to have a great spot like that to get away to in the summer. I was in a 4-pack so there was no getting away.

The rest of my monthly two day weekend was filled out with sleep, watching the Star Trek movie series, playing Settlers of Cattan, playing risk, Oregon Chai, homemade brunch, and Deadwood. Lots of being lazy is what it comes to, I think. Other people found themselves doing country line dancing in Gallagher's or going out skiing and snowboarding at the Kiwi ski hill. Great stuff all around. I can't wait for our next two day weekend because I'll be a little more mobile again and can get out and play. Oh yeah, how could I forget?!? We also had more auroras and while I still didn't get any pictures, I figured out why I wasn't. Next time they come out, I should be ready.