Friday, May 23, 2008

I love it when a plan comes together.

An Australian company sent down a computer to monitor how much power we actually use down here. They will use the data they collect to help them plan a wind turbine project that will make our base more ecofriendly. I believe the Kiwis are helping pay for this as a form of paying the National Science Foundation back for letting them use our runway. Others might suggest that letting the Kiwis use our runway should be our way of paying them back because we all live in the Ross Dependency, which is the piece of Antarctica claimed as New Zealand territory.

Our shop stock to fix or replace the 500 computers we have on base.

When this computer was setup, they used Linux, serial ATA, and a 235V power source. I guess that when it was installed down here it still had an 'Australian' plug. They used a converter and plugged it into a 110V outlet. The power supply blew out and, just like Pandora's box, once you let the smoke out you can't put it back in. I believe they needed to use a transformer to change the power passing through instead of just a converter which just changed the plugs. The even easier solution would have been to switch the power supply switch from 235V to 110V. This is a common problem for international travels. We had a number of people blow their laptops out on Semester at Sea for the same reason.

The Information Technology and Communications warehoure (4 unseen rows , one for the PC Shop).

As the resident PC Tech, it was my job to come up with a way to fix it. Otherwise, the project would be set back five months. We don't have any power supplies that had serial ATA, 24 pin, and 4 pin connectors. We have some of each, but not all three connections on one power supply. I tried dropping the hard drive into another machine we had that did have serial ATA connectors. It turned on just fine, but unfortunately it was a Linux OS and the kernel panicked because the OS didn't know what to do with all the unknown devices. I wasn't comfortable enough with Linux to rebuild the kernel with confidence, so I went to plan B.

Plan B was to fix or rewire the power supply. We tried to fix it, but that didn't work so we had to rewire it. There are only three to five types of wires coming out of a power supply. We would just need to cut the connectors off the bad power supply and splice or solder the individual wires to their matching voltage wires on the working one. The working one didn't have enough wires to replace all the connectors on the old one so we chose just the most important connections to move, the three I mentioned above. I'm not comfortable with electrical wiring so I let our power plant manager James take care of it.

The new power supply.

After James did a fabulous job fixing up the power supply, I had to rebuild the case because we were a wire short. Kind of a pain, but not a big deal since we had a spare chassis parts in the shop. It was just a matter of finding the right one. Once that was done, we fired it up and the computer worked fine. Work order closed.

The fixed computer.

On the trail again

The Antarctic Yeti? (Photo by T. Morrison)

At last, work is slowing down. At last, my ankle is healing up. At last, I am on the trail hiking again. At last, our search continues and we are on the trail of the great Antarctic Yeti again.

This past Sunday, I went on my first recreational outing in over two months, a short mile and a half hike to Hut Point. We were only out for an hour, but it did so much for my spirits. I wouldn't say I was down, but I'm definitely more up now. For the past couple months, I could have been living any where that was cold. I was just moving between buildings. Getting out for a hike reminded me where I am and how beautiful this place really is.

One scientist's documented search for the Yeti as shown at the 2008 McMurdo Film Festival (Video by B. Jirsa)

I've only been to Hut Point and around the Ob Hill loop so far, but I don't think it will be too long until I'm rounding Castle Rock again too. I'm so excited. On my short hike around Ob Hill, I was fortunate enough to see auroras again. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the memory card and battery (that I found in the jacket I was wearing) to take any pictures. I'll just try to use telepathy to show you what it looked like. A green arc that stretched from Hut Point over to the Kiwi base. It looked white at first so we thought it was just clouds, but it started to move and changed color as it intensified. Great stuff and there is more coming. -28F last I checked.

Hut Point at night (photo by W. Tinus)

Home and Good Energy.

My living room!

For some reason, I've had a real good energy coming my way the past two days while in or approaching my room. That might be because my room is fabulous, but I think it has to do more with outside factors. I suspect it is the amount of physical activity I'm doing combined with not feeling behind at work. I'm getting excited about Antarctica again (yes, that also means I'm hiking again).

My bedroom.

The first good vibrations I felt were unfortunately not from someone sending me love from home via my pager. They were felt while sitting in the farthest chair away in this picture. I had just wrapped up an hour of Ashtanga Yoga followed by a hour of bowling. I put up a not so dominant 156 and my team ended up losing, but someone said my technique was as smooth as Orel Hershiser's swing. That has to count for something. Anyway, I got home and cooked some Thai peanut noodles in a box that I think my sister sent down. I put on Adam Sandler's Click and ate 'to go' food out of a box. It felt just like a night back in Colorado where I'd played ultimate late or been out playing with friends and was just trying to scarf a quick dinner before bed. I really liked it. You could argue I'm not here to experience Colorado things and that is true, but it was still nice to feel a taste of home. It's a good place that I miss and look forward to returning to.

My kitchen and sink area.

The second time I felt good energy was while I was on my way home tonight. Talie, unfortunately, had to bail on me for a hike so I was just going home to kill some time until my old roommates birthday party. It is hard to describe, but a wave of joy came over me on the walk. Maybe I was feeling love, maybe I was just excited to be here again. It is hard to say, but it was a good pure feeling that I haven't felt enough since I sprained my ankle. I'm smiling just thinking about it, but that could also be the music from Pam's home music library that I'm enjoying while I write this. Pam, it does work in my stereo.

The home entertainment system (books and video).

Finally, I'd like to dedicate this post to my brother Tait and sister Jen. They sprung for a great tripod for me for Christmas. It was working great for some tasks, but I had been a little frustrated because I didn't think it was tall enough for outside work here (kneeling or laying down on the ground here makes you cold in a hurry). Tonight while using it to take pictures of my room, I found out the tripod goes twice as tall as I thought. I probably should have read the directions that are still stashed in my closet. I think I assumed that because it was so light weight, it didn't have hidden ways to make it taller. Yeah for surprises and yeah for Tait and Jen.

The view and Betty's well built box.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fire extinguisher training

Fire! (photo by Dave Br.)

Last week, I attended fire training. We spent about an hour in the classroom before heading outside to see my first fire close up in almost a year. It was weird to see a fire that wasn't coming out of a match, lighter, or stove down here up close. It put up a huge plumes of black smoke that you could see from pretty faraway.

P.A.S.S. - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep. (photo by Dave Br.)

The hands on training was pretty simple. Get bundled up in full bunker gear. Check your extinguisher and go PASS. We took on the fuel based fire in teams of two. I think was the first time I've ever used an extinguisher. I can't remember if I used one as a kid or not. We certainly could have used one for all the times my brother and I lit stuff on fire. The extinguisher might have been particularly useful when we let the gas can on fire, but for some reason throwing it across the lawn also seemed to do the trick. It also left some polka dot spots to remind of us the fun. It wasn't like the model rockets that just went in the garbage after they failed in flight and blew up. Perhaps, that was my early training to work at Lockheed Martin Space Systems where they still build rockets, but they don't blow nearly as many up anymore. Videos from the early years show them struggling to learn.

Tragedy averted. Fire smote. (photo by Dave Br.)

Putting the fire out definitely wasn't as much fun as making fire. Maybe, it was because we were destroying something instead of creating it. Who doesn't like building fire? Back in Colorado, we all love it, but some people love it so much they might push you out of the way to get first dibs (ahem, Allie). I can't wait to get back to camping and building a little fire. I'm tentatively looking to go camping in New Zealand before I head out for my next adventures, but everything is still up in the air.

William T in bunker gear. (photo by Dave Br.)